Shoot the hostage

One of my favourite TV moments is when a hostage situation is defused by the good guys shooting the hostage (not really, they typically shoot the hostage in the shoulder or leg and miraculously they walk away).
‘Shooting the hostage’ has become a synonym for problem solving in the teams I work with. Often we all get hung up about ‘what if’, ‘yes, but’ or other hypothetical situations. Recently we needed to let go of a dysfunctional team member. This is never an easy decision, but the evidence was stacked against him. There were, however, two big projects that this team member was working on.
What would happen with these projects if we said goodbye to this team member ? The answer was clear when we took the (brave) step to assess the situation as if there were no projects . Suddenly the answer was obvious. Get rid of him, now! We were not prepared to let the hostage (in this case the potential projects) dictate what was clearly in the best interest of the team. We could not let the situation get in the way of the bigger picture. This team member was disrupting the balance in the team (and with our clients) and was affecting everyone else negatively. Without the projects, (the hostage) we had an easy decision.
It meant a lot of hard work for everyone, but by taking the two projects out of the equation we could see very clearly what we had to do. ‘Shooting the hostage’, is the best way to create clarity. Even if you don’t really shoot the hostage, you can pretend. You assess a situation as if the hostage (the problem, the lack of funds, the control over a project or a client) isn’t actually there. Doing so brings enormous clarity for your decision making.
Shoot the hostage is a powerful tool to solve problems. Not for any individual but for you, together, as a team.

PS : If you can shoot the hostage taker (ie resolve the problem, get the cash, nail the project, …) then of course you should do so!