At the age of 22, I was hired by the owner of a small chain of truck stops. I had no business running a truck stop, but there I was, the man in charge.
Looking back, it was some of the best business education I had. It was a 24-hour business and that forced me to learn how to get results through others. You see, in most businesses, a weak manager can be controlling, make all the decisions and be there every hour it's open. But not in a 24-hour operation. It is imperative to learn how to get results through people and processes – or you fail.
There was another benefit to the truck stop. There were multiple businesses under one roof – a restaurant, fuel operation, gift shop, convenience store, and a truck repair operation. It was an unofficial MBA.
On my very first day at the truck stop, the owner told me, “Never be held hostage by the help.”
On my very first day at the truck stop, the owner told me, “Never be held hostage by the help.” It took me a while to understand this principle. However, I assure you that in the thirty years since, this principle has never failed me.
Every time I knew someone had to go and I terminated them immediately, I never looked back on the experience and thought that I should have waited longer. I never wished that I had waited.
On the flip side, every time I knew someone had to go and I waited for one reason or another, I never looked back and felt the wait was worth it. The reality is that everyone is replaceable and the team around the bad apple almost always knows that there's a problem – and they're waiting for you to solve it. The quicker you act, the stronger the team and the more trust they have in you as their leader.
The top talent on our teams will always spot the weak links. They typically do this before we recognize the bad hire. The talent doesn't care that we make a bad hire, but they will choose to leave the company if we do not take care of it.
The weak performers, though they will rarely admit it, know that they are underperforming. As leaders, it is our responsibility to help people move on so that they can find the right fit.
Tell me... When was the last time you fired someone and wished you had waited longer?