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  • Jonno White

[True Story] She was about to get FIRED...

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

So, recently I worked with the CEO of a company in the US...

They're in tech, and although I've never worked in tech, I know people who have... and it's not for everyone.

It's a fast-paced and HIGH INTENSITY industry.

The CEO (Natalie) brought me in to help with an underperforming employee (Lisa).

Straight away I KNEW something wasn't right.

So, Natalie tells me (in confidence... and I've changed the details of this story so don't worry!) how fed up the exec team is with Lisa's performance.

They're frustrated with her slow pace, she's not displaying the attention to detail needed for key projects and she has a 'sit back and relax' attitude when what they need from someone in her position is an 'above and beyond' attitude.

I'm told they're ready to let her go. Or maybe put her on a performance management plan. It's that serious.

Effectively, she's about to get FIRED.

Before they pull the trigger, Natalie wants my opinion on the situation. After listening to a detailed explanation of all the moving parts, I asked some questions:

- How clear is Natalie about HER OWN expectations for Lisa?

- How clear is Lisa on NATALIE'S expectations for her in this role?

- What small battles have taken place so far where Natalie or others have held Lisa accountable for her poor performance?

I had a fourth question ready, "When you had these small battles, was Lisa 'surprised' by the news you weren't happy with her performance?"

But I couldn't ask it...

Because they hadn't had ANY small battles with Lisa.

Not one.

She hadn't even had the CHANCE to be surprised by any small battles!

Her poor performance had built up over time and the exec team had watched getting more and more frustrated but no one had gone there and had a crucial conversation with her.

So I explained to Natalie the main reason it wasn't working out for them with Lisa.

I told her about the importance of expectations as a foundation for any accountability and performance management.

I explained why any 'surprise' from an employee's perspective is a massive red flag and can mean legal issues and, more importantly, a defensive employee who then can't hear any constructive feedback!