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Sticking to your Plan: How a single good deed created a nightmare

No matter how many times you do it, it’s never easy to fire someone. Especially when you actually like the person you’re about to send packing. But sometimes, extraordinary circumstances arise that change your decision mid-stream.


That’s precisely the position that turnaround specialist Zach Selch of Global Sales Mentor found himself back in 2009.


Zach had been mentoring a likable young salesperson in Greece who, even after a lot of coaching, just wasn’t meeting his performance targets. Zach didn’t want to fire him, but it was clear that he had to. So, he boarded his flight to Greece and prepared to deliver the news face-to-face.


That’s when everything went sideways.


By the time Zach’s plane landed, the entire Greek economy was in a freefall. It was day 1 of the government debt crisis. There were mass riots. Banks were being set ablaze. And millions were instantly unemployed and facing severe uncertainty. In short, it was utter chaos. To make matters worse, during the meeting, the salesperson (who had no idea he was about to be fired) announced that his wife just lost her job in the banking industry and was expecting their first child in a matter of months.


Hit with so many unexpected “whammies”, Zach made the split-second decision to show some compassion and abandon his original plan and offered to let him stay on until he found a new job. 


It was a decision that would become one of his biggest regrets.


With no sense of urgency, the employee simply rode out his employment for as long as he could. With no real hope of staying on, yet no deadline for being fired, his performance declined steeply.


As the employee’s anger grew, he got more emboldened, lashing out abusively at others, and at one point, even hurled expletives at them during a team meeting. With the employee’s behavior becoming more and more erratic, Zach finally fired him.


But the damage had been done.


Zach’s story isn’t just a great lesson in HR; it’s a great lesson in strategic planning.


While Zach had a great plan going into the meeting, he made a pivot based on new environmental factors. That’s something that all good leaders do. They plan, they adapt, they move forward. Knowing when to stay the course and when to pivot is always a tough call.


But whether you get it right or get it wrong, it’s always a learning opportunity.


To hear the full 20-minute episode “I should have stuck to the plan”, listen wherever you get your podcasts or online HERE.

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