Set Your Ego Aside to Admit a Bad Hire

Have you ever hired an employee who behaves badly soon after starting work and found yourself flummoxed with disappointment, disbelief, and maybe even shame? When one of your recent hires displays inappropriate conduct, creates dissension, or proves to be a poor performer, don’t wait for things to get better or try to “save face”.

Here are 3 tips for getting over it and admitting the mistake:

1. Don’t ignore the problem.

You teach people how to treat you. So, if you ignore the poor conduct or performance, you’ll send the message that you’re OK with it even if you’re not. It will not stop on its own. Additionally, you run the risk of losing the respect of the rest of your team. The problem will not correct itself. Bring the problem to the employee’s attention.

2. Take Responsibility.

If after talking to the employee about the issue(s), things don’t improve satisfactorily, chalk it up to the imprecision of your selection process then cut bait if warranted. Most hiring processes are no better than the flip of coin, and even applying all the best hiring practices, it’s still not a perfect science. There is no nobility in trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. Take responsibility for hiring someone who wasn’t a fit.

3. Get Advice and Assistance.

When it’s evident that the new hire isn’t going to work out, don’t think you have to go it alone. Work with HR or your company attorney to ensure you’ve been fair and followed your company’s policies and applicable law.

The reality is that most people at least attempt to put their best feet forward in the first months on the job. If someone is a jerk or a poor performer within the first 6 months, that is a red flag. Things are not likely to improve. Hiring people is time-consuming, and it’s frustrating when your selection doesn’t work out. Admit the mistake and take appropriate action, so you can find a better fit sooner rather than later.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at:

5 Timeless Leadership Principles from the Ancient World

“Veni. Vidi. Vinci.”
Julius Caesar

While most examples of leadership throughout history reflect the military prowess of masculine-dominant, patriarchal cultures, here are a few timeless principles of leadership from the Ancient World that are still valued in business in the 21st century.

Alexander the Great
After leading the Macedonians to a long-fought victory over Darius III and his Persians, Alexander drove his army to exhaustion. Contrary to wiser counsel, Alexander continued his ambitious attempt to expand his conquests to the east and died attempting to enter the city of Babylon. (It’s theorized that he died of malaria, which he may have contracted trying to enter Babylon via swamp land on the west side of the city.)

Alexander teaches us that great leaders inspire others with vision and strategic execution of that vision without making about themselves (ego).

Augustus Caesar (Octavian)
Especially in the early days of his reign, Augustus was not one to allow his enemies to get the better of him. He was ruthless in getting rid of those who didn’t fully support him after his uncle Julius Caesar’s demise, including Marc Antony. But as things settled in, Augustus understood the importance of keeping Rome running efficiently and effectively without the need for the drama of constant conquest. Thus began the Pax Romana.

Augustus teaches us that responsible administration is as important as flashy achievements.

Cleopatra leadershipCleopatra
Strategic, intelligent and worldly, Cleopatra kept her focus on Egypt and what would be best for the Egyptian people, even if that meant creating an alliance with Rome, Egypt’s nemesis and the superpower of its day. In fact, Cleopatra was the first Ptolemy to learn the Egyptian language, which shows the importance of identifying with her people. She worked hard to maintain Egypt’s independence from Rome by creating strategic relationships with Eastern countries from Arabia to India.

Cleopatra teaches us to focus on what’s best strategically and out of responsibility for the entity or people you lead.

Leonidas led a force of about 1500 Greeks (300 of whom were Leonidas’ own Spartans) who stayed behind to guard the rest of the retreating Greek army from the Persian advance at Thermopylae. Most of this remaining Greek force was killed, including Leonidas and his 300 Spartans.

Leonidas teaches us that a leader must be willing to sacrifice short-term gain to achieve the long-term objective.

Hannibal ate, slept, and fought with his men and embodied the strength and stamina he expected his troops to maintain even while they were camped in the Alps during the harsh winter without adequate shelter and provisions.

Hannibal teaches us that leaders “go first”. Whatever you expect of your employees and company as a whole, you must be the leading example and role model for it.

Boudicca sought revenge against the Romans after they disregarded her deceased husband’s will and usurped his kingdom, disinheriting his wife and daughters. After 3 decisive victories against the Romans with her Celtic rebel forces, she pressed on, despite the fact her army was worn out and hungry. Although she had superior numbers, the Romans strategically chose a battleground that worked to their advantage. Driven by revenge, Boudicca attacked anyway and lost.

Boudicca teaches us to temper single-minded passion or heightened emotion with a measured, rational assessment of a situation.

While the context of life thousands of years ago was vastly different from that of the 21st century, ancient leaders exhibited timeless principles that still serve leaders today:
1. Have a compelling vision and execute it effectively without a focus on your own ego.
2. Build trust with employees and customers through consistent day-to-day administration.
3. Serve the greater good and know that strategically you may need to sacrifice in the short-term for long-term gain.
4. Leaders go first.
5. Balance heightened emotion like revenge or unbridled passion with reasoned judgment to avoid unnecessary risks.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman challenges leaders to lead change in their companies and to inspire everyone around them to be as invested as they are. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at:

Unwrap the Gifts of Leadership

The workplace is like a playground where we get to play with ideas and try out new roles and identities every day. If you approach work with an attitude of having fun and are open to learning new things about yourself and others, you will receive many valuable gifts of leadership. Each leadership gift presents a conundrum, which only you can “unwrap” for yourself. To do so, consider your unique values, strengths, tolerances, and circumstances.

Below are a few leadership gifts that are waiting to be unwrapped by you. Use the questions provided to tear away the gift wrap, revealing a gift that is chosen uniquely for you:

Ego Equilibrium
Definition: The ability to balance service to others and the group while honoring your own vision and values.

How do you lead without being the focus of attention?
How do you move an agenda forward without thinking you must do the work yourself or your way?
How can you be authentic while playing the multiple roles required of a leader?
How do you commit to your organization without compromising core personal beliefs?
How can you maintain leader status without losing accessibility?

Definition: The ability to modify, yield, or adapt plans to relevant changes in circumstances.

How do you position your employees and your company to pivot when circumstances change?
How do you regularly challenge your own assumptions about what is true?
When is it more important to forego adapting in favor or stability?
When is it more important to forego stability in favor or adaptation or change?
What are your non-negotiables in any given situation?

Definition: The ability to maintain a modest perception of one’s own importance

How can you remain confident in your decisions and abilities and legitimately seek feedback from others?
How do you accept and incorporate personal feedback and remain confident?
How do you seek input from others and remain decisive?
Admit mistakes and misjudgments while inspiring confidence?
How do you ensure others understand your vision without dictating the details for how it should be carried out?

Definition: The ability to recover or bounce back from adverse circumstances

How do you remain optimistic and realistic at the same time?
How do you reframe specific setbacks as opportunities?

Definition: Seeking or introducing new or different ideas and methodologies

How do you maintain solid operational processes or corporate identity while encouraging “no limits” creativity and innovation?
How do you accept both success and failure?
How do you avoid “throwing the baby out with the bath water”?
How do you avoid compromising for mediocrity?

Throughout this winter season, unwrap at least one leadership gift for yourself and enjoy.

The Bumpy Road of Managing People

So. You went for that management job or started your own business, eh? Guess what? You are no longer the focus of your work life — other people are. Are you sure you wanna do this?

You probably didn’t plan your career this way – at least not consciously so. After all, if you had wanted to “work with people” and make THEM the focus of your career, you would have chosen a “helping” profession like social worker, teacher, or nurse or doctor.

But you weren’t necessarily people-focused to begin with.

Instead, you started out in engineering, business operations, marketing, carpentry, accounting, forestry, horticulture, engine repair, the culinary arts . . . . something focused on an interest, talent, or skill that was easy for or of interest to you. While it’s true that people use the products and services provided by these occupations, these jobs aren’t really known as “people-oriented”, are they?

Now, you find yourself in a position to manage people, not because you necessarily enjoy dealing with the challenge of getting the best out of those you now supervise, but because of various other reasons, like greater status, money, prestige, recognition, or because there isn’t any other way for your career to progress as it is “supposed” to.

So, take a deep breath and read on for navigation tips:

First, learn to check your ego at the door. When supervising others, you must consciously shift your focus from yourself to those you supervise. Up to this point, your career has been focused on you – what YOU think, what YOU can do, who YOU know. That ends right now. Your thoughts, your needs, your concerns, your technical ability . . . they are no longer your number one concerns anymore. Instead, your world now centers on the thoughts, needs, concerns and technical ability of your employees. Your management brilliance will be measured by how well you elicit the best work from these people, who may be nothing like you, and to do that you have to focus on what makes THEM tick.

Second, learn to listen . . . a lot. Before your ascendance into management, you simply had to understand the task, and then carry it out to the best of your ability. Now, you must engage your employees in what needs to be done to improve in the department or the company. They will have much to say whether they tell you out right or not. When in doubt, close your mouth and listen. Your employees may come to you with complaints about the company, about you, and each other . . . and with excuses for why the work is not done or not done well, and your initial reaction will most likely be defensive — to shield yourself from blame and to justify your competencee.

Instead, listen for the emotion behind their words, and validate what they are experiencing. Then, redirect them by asking questions about what they have experienced. Eventually, you’ll get to the real reason they came to talk to you, and through that conversation you will prove to be someone whom they can trust because you kept the focus on them and listened.

And third, learn to manage your negative emotions. You’re human, so there will be times where you lose your cool. But as much as possible, stay as cool, calm and collected as you can.

The biological reason for doing so is that when your emotions kick in, you don’t think as clearly as you normally would because the body is taking energy from the logical prefrontal cortex and sending it to the emotional limbic system. The professional reason for staying collected is that blowing up in anger or being overly excitable signals your employees that you are not the steady leader they are looking to for guidance. Your employees need you to be a stabilizing presence, which in turn, increases your trustworthiness.

When you’re angered or irritated, take a deep breath while counting to 10 before responding to give your emotions time to pass, so your logical brain can have time to kick in again. Then realize, whatever happened is not the end of the world. Your response can then be focused on how to move forward to get things back on track.

Supervising a group of people who produce fantastic results is truly a rewarding experience. And the bumpy road to getting there will teach you more about yourself than almost any other life experience. Enjoy the trip.

You Versus Your Management Role

management roleI once worked with an elementary school principal had learned from credible sources that this long-term substitute was a fairly regular user of marijuana.

The principal pondered, “This isn’t a problem, is it?  I mean, I haven’t really seen her smoke pot. She’s a great employee – she’s here on time every day, the students like her, and she’s doing a good job.  I mean, there’s nothing I can do, right?  I would be violating her employment rights if I told her she couldn’t work here any longer, right?”

Heavy sigh.  Obviously, this school principal was trying to convince himself that he didn’t need to address the situation.  (I mean, really . . . how many of us know someone who smokes a little weed from time to time.)  I knew I had to offer this principal a quick lesson on the difference between his personal boundaries and those required of him as school principal.

When you accept a job in any organization, you are not paid simply to show up and be your sweet little ol’ self; rather, you are paid to step into a role that serves the organization.  Moreover, in a management or other leadership position, you are paid to represent the interests of the company.  I like to think of it as literally stepping into a suit of clothing that represents the position.  For example, this individual was required to step into the role of “manager” or “school principal”.  Sounds simple enough.

When stepping into a managerial role, it can be really easy to make the transition from yourself as “individual person” to “manager”. But  your personal values, beliefs and ways of operating must align to a great degree with those required in the work role.  The rub comes when your personal values, beliefs, and ways of operating are either more expansive or restrictive than those required of your company and/or role.

This is where this school principal was having a hard time:  He saw this substitute teacher as a “good employee”, so why would the school district care about whether or not she smoked pot at home.  After all, weren’t dependable employees hard to come by?  Why would he need to do anything as long as the substitute wasn’t bringing pot into the workplace?

In short, he was looking at the situation using his more “open” personal values and beliefs, instead of viewing the situation through the lens required of his position as school principal (which dictated that he enforce the school district’s drug policy along with the public policy consideration of holding those working with students to a higher standard than the average Joe).

How easy is it for you to accept and live by the values and beliefs of your company?  As a manager or leader in your company, are you aware of your responsibility to represent the company’s interests even if you don’t fully agree with them?  When you hire new employees (management or otherwise), how do you determine whether or not there is alignment between their personal values and beliefs and those of the company?  And how does your company convey its expectations to managers about carrying out the role as company representative?


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they are meant to become. Learn more about her at:

Leadership: Celebrity Versus Character

With the Hollywood awards season upon us, the idea of “celebrity” gives me pause regarding my work with organizational leaders.  “You get fame. You create celebrity. There’s a difference,” notes Dr. Chris Bell author of American Idolatry: Celebrity, Commodity and Reality Television.  What is celebrity?  Celebrity is the conscious promotion of oneself.  And in American society we increasingly reward those who strive to be noticed and on display with media coverage and multi-million dollar deals.   It’s enough to make me stop watching “Entertainment Tonight” – well, almost.  But I have to admit that we consumers of celebrity gossip are creating this appetite for all things superficially juicy.

You most likely have met the “celebrity” leader in an organization at some point in your work career.  Well-liked . . . friendly . . . attractive . . . can make you believe that she agrees with everything you say . . .  that she is on your side on every issue.  Until you learn she makes everyone else feel that way, too.  How can she be all things to all people and agree with everyone on everything?  Easy.  She doesn’t have a sense of the value of her true self and seeks to feel worthwhile and accepted by creating an attractive image and/or convincing the world that she is something other than what she truly is.  A true chameleon, she is a master at adaptation . . . a true embodiment of Darwin’s notion of survival of the fittest.  There is definitely talent here, and we call it politics.  But those who survive in politics typically are those who have a talent for promoting and preserving only themselves.

Think of Jefferson and Adams.  To me Thomas Jefferson, while a brilliant man, tended towards the “celebrity” side of the leadership spectrum.  Quite charming and affable, Jefferson pretended that he had nothing to do with scurrilous rumors about Adams, a man he counted as a friend, which he paid to have printed during the election of 1800.  But Jefferson’s quest for the Presidency was more important to him than his friendship with Adams, and they went for 10 years without speaking to one another due to Jefferson’s self-interest in defeating his friend.

In contrast, John Adams existed more toward the “character” side of the continuum (perhaps to an extreme).  When the British soldiers, accused of killing Bostonians in what became known as the Boston Massacre, needed a lawyer, John Adams took the case.  Not because he was a Loyalist and certainly not because he stood to personally profit (he lost business because of it), but because he believed that everyone was entitled to legal defense.  He put his own interests aside to stand for a deeply held principle, defended the soldiers, and won the case.  Perhaps to a fault, Adams routinely put principle before his own self-interest and even lost the election of 1800 in part because he truly believed the unpopular Alien and Sedition Acts were in the best interest of the American people even if they were not in his personal interest of getting re-elected.

While politics is a part of every group, how prevalent should it be in an organization?  Not that prevalent, I say, because most organizations purport to have a mission about something other than individual self-promotion and self-preservation.  Self-preservation and self-promotion become distracters and, ultimately, attributes of individuals you can’t trust.  To me, trustworthiness is the very foundation of leadership.

So, those with what Iacocca describes as “character” are the leaders I admire and are those I try to emulate.  To me “character” is having an alignment of values and purpose that is apparent to others on a consistent basis.  You can predict what an individual with character will do next because their actions are in tune with what they claim to stand for.   An individual with “character” is focused on the greater good, and not simply on what is in it for herself.