“I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
Steve Jobs

There is a wacky author and speaker named Bob Goff that my wife and I have seen several times in person.  His joy and enthusiasm are a little hard to reconcile at first.  I kept reaching for the non-existent remote to turn him down a bit when he first started speaking.  

I mean, seriously, is it really possible to love life that much?  

That initial reaction turns to disruption and eventually results in an attraction to living the sort of life he lives.  He simply makes simple and deliberate choices that result in a very fulfilling and impactful life.  And he makes that sort of life seem approachable for all of us.

He tells lots of crazy stories, but one of the more interesting involves the staff he employs at his law firm.  Every December 31, he fires everyone on his staff and then immediately offers them their same job back for the coming year.  He tells them that he is thankful their contribution, but says that they are free to go if they like.  He then reviews the open position, requirements/expectations, and offers them their job back.

His thought is that no one should work in a job they don’t love and should be given the freedom to comfortably leave if they aren’t.  What first sounded like a ridiculous and crazy idea has really grown on me.  To actually end and restart employment with them in an annual rhythm and recalibrate that relationship and expectations on both sides is a really powerful idea.

Getting fired is one of those dreaded things that they say changes a person forever.

I heard a recent podcast where an executive says he fires himself every year.  If someone were to walk in his office at the end of the year and fire him, what are the reasons they would likely point to for his dismissal.  Someone who isn’t very self aware will really struggle with this, but most of us could likely come up with a list of a few things.  For the leader in the podcast, this list becomes the things he wants to work on in the coming year.

He then creates a plan to improve in each of those areas!

One of the tools we employ with our clients is called a “Position Agreement.”  It is part of our organizational design process and one of my partners calls it a “job description on steroids."  Even that audacious moniker might not fully capture the power of these incredible documents.

Each is designed to represent the cumulative expectation of every employee to precisely fulfill their portion of the company’s future vision.  They include:

  • Results statement - what is the ultimate deliverable of each job.
  • Work listing - what are the two lists of both strategic and tactical things expected of this person.
  • Position Specific Standards - what is the list of ways we will measure the success of this position.
  • Company Standards - what is the list of ways we universally measure all employees performance (against core values, purpose, etc.).
  • Signature page - both employee and the person they report to sign and commit to these things.  This becomes the document they annually (but hopefully quarterly) reference.

Everyone deserves to know (with this level of specificity) what is expected of them.  I have had business owners tell me that everyone’s job description is “doing whatever it takes to get the job done”.  There is a part of me that loves that sentiment, but in our experience, the likely outcome of that is the same levels of low engagement we see from the majority of people in this country.  The results from employees knowing what is really expected of them can be staggering.

See my post on employee engagement, Drag.

  • Do you need to fire yourself this year?  What are the reasons you would?
  • Which of those reasons to you need to most go to work on improving?
  • Do your direct reports really know what is expected of them?  Do you think this is the year do something about it?