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This business coaching session is about why you must fire lousy people and how to go about firing them.

Results-Focused Training, Tools, and Workshops from Expert Business Coaches.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, the raising of a person's performance to a high standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations." - Peter Drucker
  • Lesson Nugget: The negative things your team does will continue happening as long as you let them happen.
  • Lesson Nugget: Remember, you are not running a life coaching camp, you are running a business.

human resources teaching like university of phoenix, management training

-My name is like Clay Clark, and today I'm joined with the successful venture capitalist, the successful entrepreneur, the successful optometrist Dr. Robert Zoellner, and he's going to be teaching us specifically how to manage our employees, and really how to fire employees that don't want to work there anymore in this management training. It's tough. Nobody, unless you're a real sick freak, enjoys firing people. It's hard.

People have families, people have kids, people have-- people have feelings. But Dr. Zoellner is going to be teaching us specifically how to fire people that are just not willing to get the job done. So pay attention, this episode might just save you thousands and thousands of dollars of wasted money on people that just are choosing not to perform.

At thrive15.com we believe that knowledge without application is meaningless, so as you're watching today'smanagement training episode, go ahead and take the time needed to ask yourself, what do you need to do to specifically apply these principles in your own life and business? Otherwise today's episode may just prove out to be more meaningless than putting your iPod on Shuffle, and then skipping to the song that you want. Dr. Z, thank you for letting me invade your house.

-You bet, Clay. Glad to have you here.

-I appreciate letting me sit on this massive chair. It's great.

-You look very kingly, I might add.

-This is David Robinson size chair right here.

-Yeah. Exactly.

-This is intended for Dave. Now, we're going to talk about firing employees, but before we do I want to give a little context to it. How many businesses do you actually own, my friend?

-I own five outright that I've started up from scratch, and then I'm involved in probably another five as a minority owner, or an adviser.

-Now, how many employees are actually working for you today? How many-- like 6, 7, 12?


-200. And so, you know, you make it look easy from the outside. People see you on the TV commercials sometimes, or the radio commercials, and they see you happy and successful, or they might come to a fundraiser and see your beautiful house, and they go oh, this guy, he has it made. He's got a beautiful wife.

-Smoke and mirrors. That's all it is.

-How many kids do you have?

-I have three.

-How long have you been married?

-30 years this year.

-30 years, three kids. That's awesome. So you've got a lot-- and you've got the big shark tank back here. This is incredible. So I think people are starting to think that you must just-- you must be on easy street.

-Uh, yeah. Aren't we all?

-So as you've attempted to grow these companies, undoubtedly you've probably had to deal with some underperforming employees.


-Because you started with nothing, right?


-So you started-- did you grow up in a family that was pretty wealthy, or how was your family growing up?

-No. Large and poor. Started working when I was 13 at a Mexican restaurant washing dishes, so--

-How many people are in your family?

-Well, I won't give you the-- We only have 15 minutes. I won't give you the long version, but I grew up with five brothers and one sister.

-OK. So you have a huge family, you grew up without a lot of financial resources. You're doing great now. But the thing is you haven't got stuck with bad employees. And I see a lot of entrepreneurs watching this all over the country, when I go out there and speak to their organizations and meet them, a lot of them have a bunch of bad employees, and for whatever reason they cannot fire them.

-There's a lot of great people, bad people, but we're going to get into how you specifically deal with this. So one, how do you know when it's time to potentially let somebody go? That's an excellent question, and what I always say to people that ask me that, that I'm mentoring, I say when you've had enough, you've had enough. And whatever, fill in the blank.

You know, you've had enough of them being late, you've had enough. You know, if you want to continue to put up with it, that's going to be up to you. If you've had enough of sloppy performance, if you've had enough of disrespect, or back talking, or being rude to customers, or fill in the blank, you're going to put up with that as long as you're going to put up with that.

-Now, Peter Drucker, he is one of the world's top management experts, and he says leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, the raising of a person's performance to a high standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. So do you think you can have somebody who maybe starts off working for you as an employee, and you can kind of build them up and mentor them, but then some people you just can't? Is that kind of the idea?

-Well, you know, if my business was life coaching, I probably would agree more with that statement you just read.


-You know? But I mean, I'm not about trying to figure-- I'm not about trying to find a square block and chisel it down to a round one. I'm going to go find a round one.

-So I want to repeat this. You said if your business was what, life coaching?


-Then you would agree--

-Yeah, exactly.


-You know, but the idea that you're going to take someone and you are going to change their personality, the idea that you're going to take someone and change them fundamentally is a stretch, because I have a saying-- people change seldom.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 2
  • "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off." - Colin Powell
  • Lesson Nugget: Give clear expectations for results of poor behavior.
  • Lesson Nugget: You have to understand that an employee will probably not be with you forever, they will move on at some point.
  • Lesson Nugget: You need to do what's best for your business; continually interview new candidates.
  • Lesson Nugget: If you are always looking for new hires, it will give you the flexibility to hold people accountable to the standards you set.


-Jack Welch is one of the top CEOs of all time and I think he shares your belief. And I've seen this in business, but if you and I were forming a basketball team, and I try out for the team and David Robinson tries out for the team, we're probably not going to have me be the center. Nothing personal, I'm just not over six feet.

DR. ROBERT ZOELLNER: I don't know, I've seen you dunk. With a little trampoline, I think, but you can.

CLAY CLARK: But I mean, it's nothing personal, it's just I'm not cut out for that job.

DR. ROBERT ZOELLNER: Right. To sit there and say I'm going to coach you up so you can be the center is not, maybe somebody can, but that's not my calling in life. I'd rather go out and find a David Robinson to be the center verses trying to coach you up to be the center.


-OK, well, I'm going to get into the details of how you fire people, because you've obviously had to do this. If you had to speculate, how many people have you had to fire over the years? With 200 employees you've been in business for how many years now, 20 years?

-20 plus. That's an excellent question. How many people have I had to fire or my business has had to fire? Hundreds.

CLAY CLARK: Hundreds.

-I would think.

-OK. I only mention this is because I literally met a guy on the West Coast about six months ago who told me, he's in his 50s, he's never had to fire anyone. And his business is like really struggling. And all of his issues were these bad employees.

And so you're saying that you've had to fire a hundred, so I'm gonna get into the details here. OK. So this is what Colin Powell says. Colin Powell, he was a former United States Secretary of State. He says, "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off." Basically, he said, as a leader, you're gonna have to piss some people off sometimes. You've got to hold people accountable. Do you agree with this statement?


-OK. So when an employee does something terrible the first time, what do you do? If I worked for you back in the day when it was just you and two employees, because you started with just you and one employee, right?


-OK. So it's kind of weird meeting, but it's just you and me. We are the whole company. You're the boss.

-Something went wrong, and I know I didn't do it, so obviously you had to have done it, right?

-Walking me through as close as you can, what would you say to me if you knew specifically that I was late by 20 minutes to work and it really through offer your day. What would you say to me?

-I would say, do it again and I'm gonna fire you. I would say, here are the reasons why you can't be late. And I would talk to them about that. And then I would give them a realistic-- I mean, I may not say next time you whacked. It depends on how good a worker they are on top of that.

-When you first started, what would you say? Maybe you can go back to your old school mind when you first started, you'd be the same way though. You've always been pretty much direct. Like, hey, if you continue to be late, I'm going to have to let you go.



-And the other key is when I just one employee, I would've never let them go until I had somebody else hired.

-Now, so here's a real good thing you just brought up here. Now for my companies, the video guys here who are videoing, they know we are always doing interviews. We are always interviewing. And it's not because the guys who are videoing today, I have an issue with them, but it's because if we had to have an issue with somebody, I'm not going to get stuck.


-It's a constant. Every week we do interviews.


-Do you believe in that philosophy?


-Just keep the interviews going?

-Absolutely, because you need to do what's best for you and your business. Because I'll promise you this, the people that work for you, they're going to always put themselves number one, and they're going to do what's best for them. So if it means not giving you a two week notice, because it's best for them to start a new job that they really want, they're not going to give you the two week notice. If it means that they're going to be late, because it's best for them that day, then they're going to do what's best for them. And that's human nature. And understand that going into it. And very, very seldom, and almost never, is an employee that you have going to be with you the rest of their life. It's a season and understand that those seasons come and go.

-That's huge aha moment.


-So very rarely will an employee be with you for their entire life.

-Of course.

-Now second time, so let's just say I worked for you again, now I am late the second time. Let's say you don't have a backup yet. You're interviewing, but you don't have a-- I said, hey, I will not be late again. And then, lo and behold, 20 minutes late I come in again on a Wednesday, and you're already with a patient, and now we have a problem. Talk to me about what you say when you have that moment.

-Well, since I'm already looking for your replacement, I would say, man, I'm glad you're here, thanks. Jump in, here's the things we need to do today, and I wouldn't address it. I wouldn't yell at you, and I wouldn't make you feel bad about it. Why? Because I'm finding your replacement. I want to keep you happy, I want to keep you motivated, and I want to keep you working hard.

One time I had a doctor of mine came in and said, "Listen, my husband got a job in another community and so I'm going to leave. I'm going to give you a good long, our deal was 30 days, so I'm gonna give you the 30 days, but we're moving. I'm not a unhappy, I just, my husband got a good deal and I'm going to move on." I said, "Well, that's understandable. Thank you for it." And started hustling to find a new doctor.

Couple days later, one of my other doctors came into my office and said, "Hey, I know this is bad timing, but gee whiz, I know Doctor so and so's going to leave in a month, and I just wanted you to know that I know you're looking for another doctor right now, but if I don't get a raise I'm going to leave, too." And I looked at that doctor and I said, "You know what? You deserve a raise, absolutely. And how much did you want? Your bet. What else can I do for you? All right, let's go down there and see a bunch of patients." She skipped off happy as can be.

In a month, I had two new doctors. I brought the one up into my room that extorted the raise out of me. And I said, "Listen, 30 days ago when you came in and said what you said, you were fired that day. I just couldn't do it that day. But today your fired."

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 3
  • Word Of The Day: Consternation: Feelings of anxiety or dismay, typically at something unexpected.
  • Lesson Nugget: Don't argue with employees you are terminating, just tell them, "It is just not working out."
  • Lesson Nugget: If you don't have replacements lined up for bad employees, you will have to "grin and bear it" to keep morale high, until you can replace them.
  • At-Will Employment Explained: At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.


-Now, the reason why I'm bringing this up is because with my business, we did wedding entertainment. So every weekend I had to, sort of, negotiate with 80 people-- 80 grown men, trying to convince them to DJ and to hold themselves accountable to commit to somebody's wedding. So I'd have to call a guy, you know, and say, hey in six months we're going to DJ a wedding for a girl named April and a guy named Joe. Can you commit to being there? Absolutely. And every weekend I see broken commitments, and guys not showing up, and I had to just make sure the customers had a great experience. And I use to have to do that-- where I would know I'd have to fire a guy, but I was waiting on it.

-Absolutely. You need to do what's best for you and the timing of you. So when you said when that employee comes in late again-- it may have been habitually late, and you don't have the replacements yet-- you have to grin and bear it.

CLAY CLARK: Grin and bear it.

-Grin and bear it, put up with it, keep them motivated, keep them on the team, keep them rowing the boat, because you need them. And then, whenever you get the replacement, then you sit down with them and say, see ya.

-Now, third time, here we go-- a third time. You now have a replacement for me, OK? I am late again, 20 minutes late. It's again. It's a Wednesday. For some reason, Wednesday I am always late by 20 minutes. And I am late, and you say--

-I'm going to give you guys the thing to say that will save you hours, days, months, of your life. It will save your heartache. It will save you consternation. It will save you worry. It'll save you arguments. It'll save you so much. And this is the key. When I sit down with that employee and I'm getting ready to let them go, I say one simple line-- it's just not working out. You're fired. Now, every single time that happens, they are going to ask you, they are going to beg you, they are going to plead with you to know why they were fired. Save yourself a lot of aggravation. Look back at them and simply say, it's just not working out. You're fired.

-I love that. I love that.

-I promise you--

-This is a move. I'm going to have to do this move.

-It will save you much heartache, because what ever you say, they will have an argument to counter it.

-I know there's a pastor of a mega church that's a big church. And one of things that he's famous for is when an employee does something that's unethical is he warns them. He warns them. And if it happens-- as soon as he can make the move, he puts everything in a box, has it all in the box for them. And when they get to work, he has to give them the box.

And he basically says the same thing. The person who he hands them the box, says hey, it's just not working out. And there's no like, reasoning because he's like, hey we've already documented this. It's already on your file. We've already done all that, but we're just not going to have that discussion.

-Well, here's the other thing you've got to understand is that these are employees they don't have written contracts. And I live in Oklahoma. And Oklahoma's an at-will to work state.


-And so, I don't have to sit there and go through three documentations. I don't have to jump through any hoops. If the worst thing that could happen is that I may be willing to pay unemployment benefits. But those are the rules that govern Oklahoma. So some of you may be watching this in certain states, and you may have a little bit set different guidelines.



-The Great state of California.


-But the bottom line is that you're not there at this point to coax them up. You're not there to try to help them in their next job. You're not there to say the same things you've been saying over, and over, and over. Don't be late. Don't be stupid. Don't keep making the same mistakes you're making. You've done that. You've spent your time with that. Now, you know it's a broken deal, and you want to just get rid of it. So keep it simple. It's just not working out. There going to say-- because if you say well, it's because your late. Then they're going to tell you about every other employee that's ever been late that's worked for you.

-And it doesn't matter.

-It just wears you out. It's like a monkey fist in the back of your neck. You're sitting there going, ugh, why did I do that? Well, you know, you wore green. I told you not to wear green. Then they tell you about everybody else that wore green. It just wears out. So you just keep it simple.

-Just not working out.

-It's just not working out.

-And you're fired. OK, I love it. I'm going to take that line. I will use that. I will use that line, this is great. I'm learning some stuff here. Now, when you actually do fire somebody-- I just want to get into the specifics of this here-- when do you typically want to do it? Do you want to do it right away, first in the morning?

-It depends whether you need them that day to work. Sometimes, I mean, here again, you do what's best for your business. In other words-- the auto auction, just the other day, one of the employees had been taking things that did not belong to them. And our auction is on Friday. We found this out, approximately, Wednesday-ish-- got it confirmed.

And so it was no question about whether we were going to let this employee go or not. But we talked about it. And we said well, let's wait until after the auction on Friday, because it's going to be a very busy day. And we don't have anybody else trained and planned to put into that spot. So we waited until the end of the auction. We waited to the end of that day. And we did it's just not working out. Gather your stuff and, have a nice life.

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