Leadership failure

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One of the worst things about running a small company is having to let people go.

When you hire someone, you’re entering into an exchange, where he gives you his best effort during the most productive hours of his day, for an indefinite period, and you give him money to support himself.

It’s awful for everyone if, after making that bargain, you realize the bargain isn’t working for your company.

Now, I don’t mean it’s equally awful for everyone involved. I’ve been fired before, and I viscerally recall the sense of desperation I felt. At the time, I did not have any savings, nor a strong network upon which I could fall back (I was living in the U.K., far from my family, etc.). It was horrible.

So I’m 100% aware that, when an employer lets an employee go, it’s the employee who gets the worst of it.

That said, it’s not great for the employer, and not just because it’s emotionally very difficult to inflict pain on another person (though, of course, that’s a huge part of it).

For me, a major, additional source of the pain is the realization that, as an employer, I have failed in one or both of the following tasks:

  1. After a search to which I devoted my time, skills, money, etc., and in spite of the fact that it’s my company about which I know more than anyone else, I chose the wrong person for the job; and/or
  2. After choosing the person I thought was the best fit for the position, I failed to bring that person successfully into his role in my organization (via training, etc.)

I do a lot of things at Adaptive: I find the capital and the deals, oversee the financials, oversee management, etc. But, as we have grown, I have learned that our organization is way stronger when we bring in and train highly energetic, smart, honest people, show them what we’re trying to accomplish, and then let them get on with making things happen.

In other words, probably the most important things I do here are hiring and training our team.

So, when we we realize we need to let someone go, it’s fair to say that I have failed, utterly, at one or both of the most important tasks in front of me.

Ouch.

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