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This week I hired one assistant, fired another programmer, and am testing out a second assistant. Ultimately, one thing really matters to me as an employer: Performance, after that I don't really care about anything else.
If I ask someone to solve a problem for me and they do it, I am impressed and I give them more work, responsibility, trust and pay. It's hard to find people like this. When they go out of their way to exceed my expectations or solve even more problems for me, I am even more impressed.
If I ask someone to solve a problem but instead do their own thing, come up with lame excuses, try to give me THEIR problems, tell me why they know better than I do what I want, give me lip, etc, they get three strikes and then I fire them.
A few weeks ago, I was very excited to hire what seemed like a very talented programmer. The first red flag was he wanted to change the contract- we worked this out at the time, but I knew it was a bad sign. From experience, I KNEW I should have dropped him right there, but I wanted to give the guy a chance. I gave him extremely clear instructions about what I wanted, and it seemed things were progressing, but the next time I saw him, he wanted to renegotiate his salary (this is after 2 weeks). Another HUGE bad sign and no he didn't get the raise.
I repeated my explicit instructions a second time about what I wanted (features). After another week, I learned that he hadn't been working on these features, but other design things he wanted to work on. When I asked him why he wasn't working on the features I wanted, I got this huge email of excuses why, it was like he didn't even listen to me. Thats fine too.
Send the guy a check for work done- kill the project. Find someone else- the right person. Programmers seem to be the most common with this issue. I cannot tell you how many programmers I have hired, paid and then immediately fired. They always seem a little surprised that I am willing to do this, and yes, while in the short run I am out some money, over the long run it is soooo worth it to be done with them and move on. I would rather pay them for what they think they earned and get on with my life instead of trying to "make it work". If they repeatedly don't want to get on the same page as you- be classy, do everything you promised you would, and immediately fire them. You should also know I use at least a half dozen other programmers continually, simply because "they get it". I am always more than happy to throw more work their way.
Something I will also point out that I have learned, is that sometimes people do not have all the skill sets necessary to complete the task. Thats ok too if they are honest about it and hustle to get those skill sets. When someone says "I will do or learn whatever it takes to make this work" I know they have a good shot, regardless of their current skill set.
As an employer, Skills and Talent don't seem to be as nearly as important to me as a person's ability to get it done the way I ask them to. Drive, ability to effectively communicate and follow directions. Seem to be much more important.
What good is a very talented employee who doesn't want to listen to you?