learning to trust my own opinions and expertise
Earlier this year I had to fire a member of my team.
I’m no cut-throat corporate high flyer. I’m an ordinary, down-to-earth and caring person, who just happens to also manage a team during my day job. This was not an easy decision to make, but I am very sure it was the right one.
I made the final decision on a Thursday and scheduled a meeting for Friday afternoon. That left me with an evening to sweat on the details of how the conversation would play out. I rehearsed my lines and my attitude: I was the hard cop, the mean-manager, the teller of brutal truths. You weren’t doing this, you didn’t meet that objective, your attitude isn’t in the right place.
There was a reason for me taking this hard line – I was scared of what the staff member might say back to me. Would they fight the points with me, trying to make me change my mind, would they come up with arguments to refute me that I couldn’t on the spot shut down? Would they attack me back?
The only way I could see to deal with these scenarios was to go in hard and mean business. The Navy taught me many things, and one that has proved it’s worth over the years is the idea of “playing the game”, that is, playing the part that is required of the situation. This kind of role playing is helpful in all sorts of situations where my natural tendencies and personality don’t fit the brief.
Before my meeting with the staff member I met with my manager, who was very aware of this being my first time delivering such news, and who was, as always, incredibly supportive of me. I took him through what I planned to say. And then right at the end I blurted out “or I could just say I’m sorry, but this isn’t working.”
And then my boss encouraged me to be myself. To trust my instincts, and to show respect for both my own position as manager and the vulnerabilities of the staff member by being genuine.
So I did. It was hard, infinitely more so for the staff member being let go I am sure, but for me, as a manager, I felt like I had dealt with it the right way. I was gentle but unwavering. And I was OK.