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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published August 25, 2006

The Two People You Need To Fire Today 

In completing the transition to Predictable Success® there a couple of Rites of Passage – tough decisions that will threaten to derail your progress – even to the extent of sending you back to Whitewater. The first, and most difficult rite of passage, is firing the 2 people who stand in your way. Note: You must take appropriate legal advice in any circumstance where you are going to fire someone. This article does not constitute such advice. At some point in your transition to Predictable Success® (usually in the back ‘third’ of Whitewater), you will be faced with two people (maybe more) who threaten the very existence of Predictable Success®, and who, left un-fired, will drag you back to Whitewater. One is pretty obvious, the other is more difficult to spot, but is equally dangerous.

Firing The Raptor

As you’ll recall, getting to Predictable Success® often means building a ‘dinosaur park’ – a safe place for those folks who, either by age or temperament, can’t adapt to the more process-driven, cross-functional working style that Predictable Success® requires, but who are (a) top operators, and (b) are co-operative enough to stay out of the way and allow you to progress with building Predictable Success® in the organization. Dinosaur candidates come from among the ‘big dogs’ that helped build the business through ‘Fun’ – they usually work in whatever your organization’s core function is – sales, R&D, engineering – whatever function is at the heart of your business. They’re hard-working, loyal and effective, but they make it clear that they need their freedom and autonomy, and don’t want to get involved in this new ‘fad’ (as it seems to them) of Predictable Success®. However, they are supportive enough that they’ll not actively fight against Predictable Success® Raptors (remember them from ‘Jurassic Park’?) are a different matter altogether. Like dinosaurs, they don’t like or want Predictable Success® for themselves – or for the organization. Like the dinosaurs, they also rankle at the process-driven, cross-functional approach that’s required. Unlike dinosaurs, raptors aren’t prepared to get out of the way and let you build Predictable Success®. Instead they cavil, whine, whinge, complain, undermine, and generally make life difficult for you and the people working with and around them. Raptors are usually mavericks who flourished previously in the ‘fun’ environment where they had high levels of autonomy and were left to ‘do their own thing’, but who are constitutionally incapable of ‘playing nice’ with others. They see meetings as inherently evil, and will do anything to avoid being ‘trapped’ into having to follow laid-down processes. Signs that you have a Raptor on your hands include hearing the following:
  • “We never get anything done around here anymore. All we do is talk, talk, talk.”
  • “What do you want me to do – sit in meetings or get this [important ask] done?”
  • “I’m doing my job right – everyone else is screwing up.”
  • “Things used to be different – now you’re never around. When I do see you, you’re always running from one meeting to the next”
  Raptors cause dissension, build ‘cults’, and force the organization into a ‘them and us’, and a ‘back in the day’ mindset. Raptors need to be fired. There are a lot of understandable reasons why it’s hard to fire a Raptor:
  • They’re effective operators;
  • They bailed you out many times during ‘Fun’;
  • They once had a close relationship with you – might still do so;
  • You can’t help liking their dedication and work ethic;
  • There’s an element of truth in their complaints;
  • You’re afraid to lose them to the competition.
You’ll be faced with some or all of these dilemmas while you ponder what to do with them – but there’s only one solution, if you’re going to get to Predictable Success®: Fire the Raptor(s).

Firing the ‘Ineffective Good Guy’

The IGG (‘Ineffective Good Guy’) is just as easy to spot as the Raptor, but it is much harder to see the damage they are causing. The IGG is that great guy (male or female!) who is dedicated, hard-working and liked by all. They’ll turn their hand to anything you ask with a smile and maybe even a hug. The IGG loves the idea of Predictable Success® and expresses complete commitment to the concept. They tell you that Predictable Success® is something that both they and the organization really need. There’s just one problem – they’re ineffective. They can’t cut it, no matter where you put them. This is almost always because of a lack of personal management skills (time management, task completion) and/or accountability. IGG’s often suffer from an inability to say ‘No’ to people, and so make compound their ineffectiveness over time; the IGG works hard, but drops balls everywhere. They take on more and more, but get less and less done. The reason the IGG is even more dangerous that the Raptor is that the look like they should (or could) be an asset to the organization, if only we could finds the right spot, the right place for them. So we end up twirling them around jobs and projects (always with their meek understanding and a commitment to do better in this new job). Here’s what this does to your path to Predictable Success®:
  • It undermines your organization chart as a machine for decision-making;
  • It promotes a belief in others that you are prepared to accept mediocrity, or worse, under-performance;
  • It looks like you’re playing favorites;
  • It stops the transition from ‘heads to hats’ (placing the best people for the job in that job, rather than finding jobs for people based on what they ‘might’ be good at);
  • It undermines the hiring process every time you place the IGG in a new job.
Harsh as it may seem, if you genuinely want to get to Predictable Success® there’s only one answer to what to do with the IGG – fire him.

Just Do It

I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times – an organization teeters on the brink of a final, transforming breakthrough to Predictable Success®, but the Founder/Owner won’t pull the trigger and fire the Raptors and IGGs. They think they can massage the individuals – coax and coach them through it, all the while progressing toward Predictable Success®. It doesn’t – and cannot – happen. Your Raptors and IGGs will, in their different ways, pull you back to Whitewater, and ultimately, back to their natural habitat – Fun. Fire them. You – and the whole organization – will be glad you did, believe me. Sure, you’ll feel guilty, distracted, concerned that you’ve done the right thing. You’ll also feel that you’ve crossed a Rubicon – made a final, purposeful, overt commitment to Predictable Success®. Your whole organization will feel it too, and your progress to Predictable Success® will take a leap forward.

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