A number of years back, I was serving as a regional sales manager for a healthcare company.
I got an email from one of my peers, Jeret. The subject line read: “New opening: Regional Sales Manager – Dallas, TX.”
That was HIS job. My heart skipped a beat. I didn’t even read the email. I just called him right away.
I said, “Jeret, what is going on?”
He said, “Well, I’m fired.”
I was shocked. Jeret had blown his sales goals out of the water. If he was in trouble, I was toast. I ask him what happened.
He said, “Well, it’s become clear that my region is going to demand better sales performance, improved processes, and a better attitude.”
But then he explained — the company wasn’t firing him. He was firing himself.
He had figured out his liabilities, and he was letting himself know that wasn’t okay.
That moment opened up a leadership opportunity for me. Now, it’s a habit I practice every year. (I hire myself back, too, but more on that in a minute.)
When I told Donald about it, he thought it was weird, but interesting. So he invited me on the Building a Story Brand podcast to explain it more fully and describe how it can benefit us as leaders.
Why You Should Fire Yourself
1. It keeps you from resting on your laurels and getting complacent.
Whatever got you to your current level of success may not be what you need to get you to the next level. If you celebrate and dance around too long in the end zone, you may lose your focus for the rest of the game.
By firing yourself, you keep yourself from becoming complacent in your own success. In my experience, it helps me stay hungry and aware that I can’t move to the next level by staying where I’m at.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for celebrating success. Just don’t conflate that celebration with satisfaction. Don’t go into the next year telling yourself, “If I just do what I did last year, I’ll be fine.” That kind of thinking is dangerous, and firing yourself is the best way I’ve found to disrupt it.
2. You get fresh perspective.
If you look at the 500 largest companies in the U.S., the average tenure of an executive is just 4.9 years.
If you go to the NFL, a typical head coach won’t last more than 38 months. It’s even shorter in the English Premier League, where soccer managers coach a team for just 1.31 years on average.
What does all that matter?
First, remember that having your job shouldn’t be a given. At the highest levels, you don’t keep your job unless you have major success to show you deserve to.
Second, learn from the people who beat the average. Look at longstanding leaders like New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
What do they do? They study the competition tirelessly. They go look at other industries. They get outside of their usual framework. They talk to customers. They go solicit feedback from people that really aren’t as intimately tied to their business to say, “Here’s what you’re not seeing.”
If you think of yourself as dispensable, you’re going to be more motivated to make sure you’re bringing indispensable value to your company.
3. You give yourself permission to walk away.
When you fire yourself, you can honestly pause and ask, “Am I up for another year of this?”
We have a responsibility to ask ourselves this question. And it’s okay if the answer is no. Life happens. Circumstances change. New kid, new home experience, new values.
It’s okay to go into a year and say, “You know what? I don’t think I am the guy,” or “I don’t think I am the gal.” That is a gift to you and to the company. It allows you to go be successful somewhere else and for the company to get the right person in the right role.
If you’re like most people, though, that won’t happen. Instead, you’ll realize that you love your job deeply and believe you are absolutely the guy or gal for the job.
Most people get even more excited. It results in a level of energy and excitement about the upcoming year you never thought you would have. It’s a gift, that I promise you won’t regret.
How to Re-Hire Yourself
Okay, so you don’t have to stay fired. If you decide to stick around, it’s time to hire yourself back. How does that work? Well, it’s a lot like any other hire.
First, interview yourself. Ask yourself the standard interview questions. For example:
Do I have the experience to do this job well? In other words, did you actually get new experience last year? Do you really have five years’ worth of experience or do you have one year’s experience times five?
What would my customers say about my performance? Would they vouch for what I’ve done? Did we ship orders on time? Did I manage their frustration in a way that kept the business?
Do I contribute to a healthy culture? Would you hire yourself based on how you spend your time? Based on how you interact with others?
Second, rewrite your job description. Where are you the most effective with your time? Eliminate the things you were doing last year that aren’t going to get you where you need to be. Think about how you need to behave differently. How you need to respond differently in the upcoming year. What your new goals and expectations of yourself should be.
Third, accept the job. Say yes to the new challenge and pop that champagne. You’re not celebrating your past success. You’re celebrating the opportunity you’ve been given to go out and do something even greater.
Remember Jeret from my story earlier — the guy who gave me this idea? Well, he and I still do this every year. We keep each other accountable to stick with this ritual every year. In fact, I got this text from him last month.
It’s an unexpected process, but it has served me well. I get priceless perspective on myself and my performance each year, and I find new levels of excitement for the challenges ahead. I hope you’ll find the same when you try it.
Executive producer: Tim Schurrer
Additional production and editing: Chad Snavely