The key point missing here is your vision of what it means to be in a leadership position is short-sighted. That's okay, many people who aren't in leadership positions don't inherently understand them. And, while you're receiving criticism for your intentions, it does seem like you have a reasonable goal: You want to be the boss of a high performing team. You should stick with that goal. But you need to rethink your road map of getting there.
You're basically proposing to get rid of under-performers and replace them with competent staff. On the surface, that's not inherently a bad plan, sometimes you do need to do that. But it can't be your only plan. Think of it this way: If every manager in every employer operated with that as their only tool to achieve the goal of a high performing team, professional development would totally cease. No individual contributors would grow. The job market's focus would narrow and become ultra competitive on only a small number of employees, and no one would actually be able to staff a full team. Even if you lucked out and hired all the good people left, you'd be stagnant. This method may work in a shortsighted way, but it won't work permanently.
Instead, as a leader, you need to have other strategies. Importantly, you need to be able to help a poor performer grow into a better performer. Leadership isn't always about sitting on the throne of judgement. Sometimes, it's about getting in the trenches and solving people's problems.
Good leaders who see an underperforming employee don't immediately ask, should I fire this person and replace them with something better? Instead, good leaders consider the following:
- Why does this performance problem exist? What is the root cause? Often, performance problems exist because of bad process or other institutional root causes, not because an individual person lacks skills or makes mistakes. What can you do about the process to improve the person's work?
- Have I, as a leader, planned and assigned this work appropriately? Have I created a mismatch between task and resource? Could I solve this problem simply by changing who works on what in the future?
- Do my team members have the resources they need? Do they have the right technology? Do they have access to the right people in the business/client/end user/project team?
- Are the tasks themselves reasonable? Are they clearly defined? Are there actually clear success criteria against which is it actually fair to measure performance?
Many of those questions will lead to work for you, as a leader, rather than focusing on "bad" employees. Maybe you need to work on process improvement, or resources, or relationships with other departments or stakeholders. Maybe you can make your whole team more effective all at once by solving some organizational problems, rather than by focusing on what you think a person on your team did wrong.
Only after you've asked yourself those sorts of questions do you get to,
- Does this resource have the skills needed to do the job?
- Are they motivated to do their best work?
- Do they feel personally connected to their own outcomes?
And, even when you're asking these employee-directed questions, a bad answer is an opportunity to improve the employee before it is an opportunity to get rid of them. In other words, once you've ruled out all the non-employee factors, and you have decided it really is the person that's at fault, you can consider the following options:
- Can I coach this person?
- If I don't have the skills myself, can I have someone else on the team mentor them?
- Do they need training?
- Do they need reassignment to a different role?
- Is this person aware of the situation, and interested in improving?
- Could a conversation with this person lead to them coming up with some ideas on how they could improve?
This may all sound like a lot of work, but in many cases, it's less work (and expense) than turning over a position (costs of hiring, training, onboarding, and so on). Plus, since you mentioned that you are career oriented, consider that a leader who can actually solve organizational problems and help other staff grow is going to be more effective in senior leadership positions than one who simply fires people they don't like.