After releasing my post last week, I received some feedback, which I really appreciate. It seems easier to have a love-centred mindset when things go well. But, and here goes the issue, a leader must sometimes face difficult situations such as firing people or communicate tough decisions. How does love work in these moments? Is it possible for a leader to show true care when the going gets tough?
Great leadership might not be necessary when things go well. No doubt, great leadership is a must when challenges appear, and difficult situations come. And, as I said, love is at the core of this greatness.
In times of trouble or change is when true care should be more present
If you are in a leadership position, you must know that what you get from your organization is what you promote: how you behave or what you value the most will shape the culture, and therefore what is right or wrong in the company.
In the way to get the right culture, or just because of the circumstances, you might have to make some difficult decisions. Maybe you realize you have more people than you need, or maybe some of them, they don’t fit into the profile any more.
In 2001, the first internet bubble blew out, and many companies couldn’t find more funding to continue with their activities. Netflix was one of those companies. They needed to lay off a third of their 120 employees. When the CEO, Reed Hastings, and the HHRR director reviewed the profiles, they found there were not particularly low-performance employees. They chose to keep only outstanding employees, and the rest were fired. People probably working well so far but not fitting into the profile any more.
After this experience, top management at Netflix changed the culture, to improve what they called “talent density”. They only wanted to have the best employees, with no room for the average. In their words, if star players think it’s okay to perform adequately, they will start to perform average.
These hiring criteria bring along some issues to manage when you hire people who finally don’t fit. And here, I come to back to the true caring mindset. As part of their policy, Netflix did two things that, in my opinion, show true care for the people.
- Set the expectations. They are very honest when hiring someone in letting them know about the rules, the policies, and the expectations.
- Have a transparent process to make this type of decisions, so they can explain the result and engage with the person. Netflix also give them enough money to start over, and many times offer recommendations to help them with.
In 2020, Sngular, a Spanish tech company, announced that due to the conditions created by COVID-19, they needed to lay many people off to sustain business. Jose Luis Vallejo, its president, sent a letter to explain the reasons. In my opinion, he showed a true care for the employees.
He honestly described the situation and showed his feelings about what was going to happen. He also expressed his intentions for the future, even unknowing when the recovery will take place.
Almost two years after that letter, I know many people fired those days came back to work for Sngular. And the company is growing more and better.
Taking care of people and making tough decisions about them in difficult situations are not incompatible. You, leader, just need to be in the right mindset.