Ever struggled with firing someone? I was teaching media professionals in Santiago, Chile a few years ago, and found this post I had written shortly after the visit. One morning before class, I was reading in the last section of Acts 15 and the beginning of the next chapter from the New Testament. It was about a division that arose over a potential partner in ministry:
“Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
It’s interesting that Paul and Barnabas were a team up to that point, but for their next journey, Barnabas wanted to include someone named John (called Mark). But Paul knew that John had left them once before – in other words, (and for whatever reason), he just couldn’t cut it at the level they were working.
I’m sure Barnabas wanted to be sensitive an give him more chances. He probably said something like “But he has a good heart, he loves God, and should go with us.” But Paul absolutely stood his ground – not willing to take someone who had quit on them or not produced in the past. So they decided to go two different ways. Paul chose Silas – someone with a proven past – and Barnabas took John called Mark with him.
Then I did a search, and discovered that that’s the last time you hear anything at all about Barnabas and his work with John (called Mark.) It may have been successful, but considering how much the Bible had mentioned him earlier, if it was successful, I tend to think it would have been recorded in some way. On the other hand, Paul went on to another 12 chapters of journeys, exploits, and success for the Kingdom of God, and yet the trip Barnabas and John called Mark took is never mentioned again.
That’s when I was struck by the gravity of hiring employees, shaping the members of our team, and building departments in the hope of becoming more effective. In the book “Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap, and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins, he uses the analogy of a school bus. He believes the key to a successful organization is:
1) Getting the right people on the bus
2) Getting them in the right seats
3) And getting the wrong people off the bus
Chances are, what you’re doing in hiring, firing, and developing the team around you is probably more critical and important than even you might realize. I don’t know your particular situation, but as leadership expert John Maxwell would put it, developing the leaders around you is the most important aspect of your job.
My point? In the Christian community, we all tend to be excessively compassionate when it comes to firing people, and as a result, our churches, ministries, and religious media organizations are filled with people who are unqualified, unenthusiastic, and costing us money, time, and momentum. If you encounter an employee who is detrimental to achieving your vision – for whatever reason – by all means help him or her, but first – get them “off the bus” so they stop becoming an obstacle to the forward movement of the organization.
Believe me – all the other employees know that person is a problem, and it’s most likely causing great anxiety and resentment. So by all means, get them help if they want it, but first, get them off the team and replace them with someone who values your vision, and is committed to seeing that vision accomplished.
I’d like to hear from anyone who’s experienced anxiety over firing anyone, but who discovered that once it was done, it was the right thing for the organization…