In a blog post entitled “Shoot the Dogs Early,” Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran lays out what is perhaps the most dreaded -- though necessary -- responsibility of any effective leader: letting underperformers go.
Not unlike a killing, Corcoran advocates swift execution: “to keep my company healthy,” she writes, “I had to fire the losers fast.”
She turned firing into a regular, company-wide practice by dismissing -- annually -- the bottom 25 percent of her sales force at The Corcoran Group, the New York real-estate firm she founded in 1973 with $1,000 and sold in 2001 for almost $70 million.
“I knew if the bottom quarter of the sales force wasn’t earning its keep, I wouldn’t be able to support the top salespeople who were making all the money.”
Though she speaks of these inevitabilities in matter-of-fact terms, Corcoran offers valuable tips on how to soften the blow. “Extending a last minute invitation,” preferably on a Friday, typically “works best and is never seen as the cloak and dagger approach it is,” she says.
And after the door shuts, she cuts immediately to the chase: “it’s bad enough being let go, but even worse sitting there through five minutes of small talk wondering why you’re in the boss’s office in the first place.”
Subsequently, Corcoran divides dismissed employees into two factions: those who were unfit but trying their best, and “chronic complainers.” With the first group, she commends the dismissed employee for his strengths and tries to think of other opportunities that might better match his gifts. With the latter, she “relishes” the firing.
“Nothing rots a business faster than a cluster of negative people,” she writes, “so I get them out fast -- usually the minute I spot them.”