ATD Blog

Why a Manager Must Hire Right, Train, Prune, and Repeat

Thursday, November 19, 2015

During times of war, military commanders throughout history sent out scouts to locate the enemy. Why? There are two central reasons: First, knowledge of an enemy’s whereabouts is key to achieving the element of surprise, the single greatest advantage a commander can possess. Second, without knowledge of an enemy’s location, the commander is blind, and the unit is vulnerable to attack. 

This reconnaissance is extremely important because it enables commanders to know, at all times, exactly where they are in relation to the forces they face. The same principle applies to your management career and the situation you find yourself in every day.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins asks a critical question: “Do you have the right people on your bus?” He is talking to leaders about their employees and the members of their management team. Having the right people on your team is the difference between extraordinary success and utter failure. It’s the difference between being an average manager for your entire career and being one who becomes a district manager, regional manager, and beyond. 

Where do you stand as the “bus driver” of your business? Are the right people on your bus? You need to determine that immediately. 

Steps for Doing Your Recon 

First, think specifically about each member of your management team. Assess whether they should continue in that role or if they should be replaced. You management team is your foundation. They must be wholeheartedly supportive of your business goals. If they aren’t, you are guaranteed to fail. 

Next, sit down with each manager and assess every employee in their department. Should they continue with you? Should they be reassigned to another department or location within the company? Should they be fired altogether? Trust the input of your management team. It will help you make the most accurate decisions. 

After you’ve done your recon, identify any underperforming team members. Make every effort to help them improve. You should do your best to constantly train and improve your existing people to accomplish your organization’s goals. 


Despite your best efforts, some people will need to be replaced. There are no companies with perfect employees at every position. When you’ve reached this conclusion, it’s time to take action.

In the book Full Engagement!, Brian Tracy does a phenomenal job of explaining how to face employee performance. His strategy can be summarized as: “Knowing what I know now about this individual, if I could go back in time, would I hire this person again?” If the answer to Tracy’s question is even close to being “no,” then let that person go immediately. Delaying this decision will only waste more time, money, and energy on a situation that will never be fixed. 

Leaders Take Decisive Action 

There are far too many fantastic employees looking for a better job today (with you and your company!) for you to tolerate anyone on your team who you know should not be there. 

It may be difficult. Change is always hard. However, once you’ve taken that first step and see improvement, you’ll soon wonder why you kept those poor performers on your team as long as you did. In the future, replacing weaker performing employees will be much easier. 


It’s natural to wonder just how much of a difference it will really make to your success if you get the wrong people off your bus. By systematically replacing the weaker team members who are holding you back, whether intentionally or not, you greatly increase your chances of success. Likewise, the sooner you replace them, the faster your success will be realized. You, as the leader, are only as good as your people. 

Take It One Step Further 

Your people are a direct reflection of you as their manager. As a manager, you are judged by upper management on the composition of the team you have put together. They know that every business rises or falls on your leadership. You’re the leader, and you control who is on your bus. 

This foundation determines just how high you will go in your company and industry, more than any other factor. This is why it’s so important to do reconnaissance and respond in kind—you get rid of those not doing their jobs, and make sure you keep the ones who are. 

If you want to succeed as a manager, do your recon. Replace weak employees with those who will help make your dream a reality. Be greater than the average U.S. company, and set your sights on world-class status. 

About the Author

David Long is CEO of MyEmployees and author of the bestselling management leadership book Built to Lead: 7 Management REWARDS Principles for Becoming a Top 10% Manager.

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