Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Simon Sinek, I’m not your dad – Firing people is sometimes necessary

Open letter to Simon Sinek about your Mother’s Day Video.

Dear Simon,

You’re seriously awesome and one of my team’s favorite people to learn from.

Your Ted Talk on How Leaders Inspire Action is required viewing for my entire team and we’ve spent dozens of hours and discussions reviewing just about every video of yours we could find. Many of them I’ve watched several times.

You are clearly brilliant.

As to my credentials for giving you an honest critique:

  • Since Optimized Marketing‘s founding in 2011, my team’s primary Core Value is Love and Service.
  • In 2015, based on anonymous surveys my team was the Happiest Company in the World out of over 760 organizations and in 2016 the happiest in our industry.
  • The average tenure for a digital marketer is about 18 months. My team has 12 team members and no one has ever quit.

So when I offer my feedback it’s a sincere appeal from a huge fan of yours who has implemented and benefited from much of your message.

In other words, I’m not an armchair quarterback.
I live the values of Love and Service as does my team so I’m speaking from experience.

Your Mother’s Day video on your LinkedIn profile is a bit creepy.

In particular your statement that, “mom’s don’t get to choose their kids. They just get what they get and offer unconditional love. Great leaders do the same.”

Then when you go on to explain mom’s goal is to build up skills and let their children fail, the implication is, as I learned from Boss Baby (sorry, it’s my toddler’s favorite movie), you can’t be fired from your family and so shouldn’t be from your job. This seems to be taking your praise of Next Jump’s no firing policy in your TedTalk, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”, even further.

If I’m your Team Leader, it’s just weird to use the analogy, “I’m your dad and you are my children.”

The idea that a leader should treat her people like her children (maybe Marissa Mayer took that a bit too literally when she read a children’s book to everyone at Yahoo) is absurd.

But let’s get more practical.

Why is it unhealthy for a leader to treat his team members with unconditional love like they are his children?

  1. They’re not. If you hire someone who has a serious mental or emotional issue, it’s not the responsibility of the new boss to be his therapist and counselor and provide unconditional love like his mother would. And suggesting it is the new boss’ responsibility is extremely dangerous.
  2. Even your children have limits. Jordan Peterson likes to say, “Never let your children do anything that would make you hate them because a lot of parents hate their children.” Tough love is a real thing and spoiling your child, not holding them accountable, or enabling their addictions or laziness, is not healthy.
  3. Sometimes children are flat out wrong. If your child is accused of rape, you are probably going to hire him the best lawyer and help defend him. But if he actually committed the crime, then only a sociopathic parent would argue he doesn’t deserve full punishment for his actions.
  4. Your children love you. If you raised your children properly, they will also love you, as their parent, unconditionally. So are you suggesting the team member should also unconditionally love their leader? In other words, if you should never fire someone, should an employee also sign a contract saying they will never quit. (Have you read Atlas Shrugged? That style of employment doesn’t work out.)
  5. The data just doesn’t support a no-firing policy. Check out First, Break All the Rules, and everything else written by Marcus Buckingham. To summarize, if you, as a leader, are providing the environment in which your team can excel (based on their own feedback), don’t waste your time on the under-performers. You’ll get much more benefit in helping the top performers get even better. Moreover, an under-performer on one team can likely be a top performer on another. Not everyone excels in the same culture and environment so it’s important to let those people go so they can find the best environment in which to excel.

As another example, at some point, likely because the parents screwed up raising their child, it may be necessary to kick a child out of the house as an adult.

You can’t take advantage of and abuse your parents and expect them to enable that behavior.
It’s not healthy or loving.

The same is true in business.

If you are not a good fit for my business and we unfortunately didn’t catch that during our half-dozen interviews and tests during recruitment, then after considerable coaching and guidance, the best thing to do for both parties is to part ways.

Even the most well-funded, well-researched, data-driven organizations in the world get it wrong such as when Tom Brady was the 7th quarterback drafted and pick #199 overall in 2000.

No hiring team is perfect.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to all of your stakeholders – your entire team, your shareholders, your clients – and if one team member is putting them all at risk, the unconditional love of a mother is not the answer.

As a child whose parents are kicking you out so you’ll go get a job and grow up, it’s not always immediately apparent to the child that this is an act of love.

And to the team member who is let go because her culture, values, goals, or talents are misaligned with the company’s, it’s not immediately apparent that separation is the best for all parties.

But, in both instances, it doesn’t make it any less true.

So please clarify your video indicating leaders should unconditionally love their employees so we can go back to agreeing with basically everything else you’ve ever said. 🙂

To great, loving leaders,
Bryan

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