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  • Writer's pictureDan Squires

Deliberate Hiring and Swift Firing for Functional Leadership Teams


The elephant in the room
Hire Slow, Fire Fast. Repeat.

In the fast-paced world of business, companies, especially those in the lower middle market (up to $100M in revenue), face unique challenges in building and maintaining effective leadership teams. These organizations operate in highly competitive, dynamic environments, which necessitate a deliberate approach to hiring and (especially) a swift response to underperforming leaders. One of the most common challenges I encounter when working with lower middle market companies—many of which are transitioning to professionalized management for the first time—is that they do exactly the opposite; they hire too fast and fire too slow


It is imperative that all companies, and especially those in the lower middle market, prioritize the cultivation of functional leadership teams to build organizational health and readiness to better navigate the complexities of their specific market segment consistently over time. 


The Slow Hiring Process


Hiring is the first crucial step in building a functional leadership team. A "slow" hiring process does not imply lethargy but rather a methodical and rigorous approach to candidate selection. This approach involves carefully defining the qualifications and competencies required for the role and taking the time to thoroughly evaluate candidates against these criteria.


  1. Finding the Right Fit: Slow hiring allows organizations to find the perfect fit for their unique culture, goals, and challenges. In a lower middle market setting, where resources may be limited, a mismatch in leadership can have dire consequences. Ensuring that the candidate aligns with the company's vision and values is paramount.

  2. Comprehensive Assessments: Lower middle market companies need to assess not only technical skills but also leadership capabilities, adaptability, and potential. A slow hiring process provides ample time for a comprehensive evaluation that goes beyond just looking at a resume and conducting a standard interview.

  3. Reducing Turnover: By taking the time to make well-informed hiring decisions, companies can minimize the risk of having to replace leaders shortly after their appointment. This reduction in turnover not only saves time and resources but also maintains organizational stability.


The Fast Firing Approach


While slow hiring is vital, firing fast is equally important. When it becomes evident that a leader is not performing up to expectations, it is essential to take swift action to rectify the situation.


  1. Maintaining Accountability: Swift firings send a clear message to the rest of the team about accountability and performance expectations. It demonstrates that subpar performance will not be tolerated and underscores the importance of delivering results.

  2. Preventing Toxicity: Underperforming leaders can have a detrimental effect on the team and the organization's culture. They may breed discontent, reduce morale, and even poison the work environment. Swift action is necessary to prevent the spread of negativity.

  3. Saving Resources: In the lower middle market, where resources are often scarce, retaining an ineffective leader can be costly. Quick firings prevent the wastage of resources and ensure that they are directed towards more productive areas of the business.


Cultivating Functional Leadership Teams


The combination of slow hiring and fast firing serves to cultivate functional leadership teams in lower middle market companies. Such teams are well-equipped to navigate the unique challenges they face, which often include limited resources, intense competition, and the need for rapid decision-making.


  1. Enhanced Performance: Functional leadership teams are more likely to achieve their strategic objectives and improve the overall performance of the organization. They are better equipped to lead, inspire, and make decisions that positively impact the company.

  2. Adaptability: The ability to adapt to changing market conditions and seize opportunities is critical in the lower middle market. A functional leadership team, forged through a deliberate hiring process and swift response to issues, is more agile and better prepared for change.

  3. Long-Term Sustainability: By hiring slow and firing fast, companies can establish a culture of continuous improvement and performance. This approach ensures the long-term sustainability of the organization in a dynamic business environment.


In conclusion, companies must adopt a deliberate approach to hiring and firing in order to create functional leadership teams capable of addressing their unique challenges. The slow hiring process ensures that the right leaders are selected, while the fast firing approach addresses underperformance promptly. These strategies are instrumental in achieving enhanced performance, adaptability, and long-term sustainability for companies, and especially those operating in the lower middle market. By understanding the importance of hiring slow and firing fast, organizations can build leadership teams capable of creating both organizational health and success.

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