Ready, Aim, Fired.

I once had a job leading an in-house advertising department. I inherited a team of five people, each of whom applied for the job that I (the outsider) got.

To quote John McClane, completely out of context, “welcome to the party, pal!”

Did I mention that this was my first formal supervisory experience?

Among my team was a talented graphic artist who didn’t like deadlines or constraints.

His work was beautiful and compelling.

Our clients didn’t like it.

As stylish as his work might have looked, it was just wrong for the marketing objectives we had established.

My artist… who didn’t like deadlines or constraints, remember… would eventually redo the work, ignoring deadlines and moving further away from our agreed-upon objectives.

I didn’t know what to do.

So I would complain to my boss, frequently, too frequently, until he shared this pearl of wisdom with me:

“Fire him.”


“You keep coming here to whine about this guy. Fire him, or I’ll fire him… and then I’ll fire you.”


I had a strong relationship with my boss, whom I still admire greatly, but at that time I wasn’t sure how serious he was.

Well. I wouldn’t say I was emboldened but I didn’t want to get fired either. So I got up the nerve and fired the guy. The first time I’ve had to do something like that.

My now-former artist seemed indifferent. He knew was talented enough to find other work.

From this experience, I learned a few lessons that I’d like to share:

  • We all need help at times. It’s okay to ask. Don’t dress up your need for help as complaining.
  • Don’t expect other people to solve your problems for you. Share wisdom, yes. Offer insights, yes. But dragging your problems to others and expecting them to solve them for you shows you are not ready to handle them yourself.
  • Whether you’re the boss or a member of a team, there are going to be communication and work styles that just don’t mesh. It’s okay to reach out to others who might have more experience with different kinds of people and personalities.
  • You have the power to decide what to do next. Don’t give up that power.

Have you been in a situation like that?

What do you think?

See you tomorrow!