Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Great Leaders Know How to Say Goodbye

Photo by Sadie Hernandez

Not everyone is meant to be a part of every team.

On the surface, this may seem self-evident and yet, most of us have probably been a part of organizations or teams that suffered because those with the responsibility to ensure fit and mission alignment did not do their job. It has been many years since I came across the results of a survey that asked, "If you were in charge for just one day, what would you do?"

The most common answer: "I would deal with poor performers and trouble makers."

In part, that answer results from the frustration and poor morale produced by leaders and managers that have not learned to say goodbye.

There are times for every leader and manager where they realize a team member is no longer committed to the mission or is not, or never was, a good fit for the organization. In these situations we need to make sure that we have made reasonable efforts to help (see It's Not About You for more), that the employee has received due process, and that they are very clear regarding the needed behaviors. But if these actions have been taken and it is clear the person needs to move on, the most important thing we can do for our teams, for our own credibility, and for the employee is to help them go.

This is a vital part of knowing how to say goodbye - to realize that we do an employee no favors by tolerating poor performance, mission misalignment, or abuse of coworkers. In the case of mission misalignment, we are preventing the individual from learning more about their own strengths. In the instance of negligence or abuse, we enable poor behavior and prevent the individual from learning how to succeed in the real world.

In either case, while saying goodbye to employees is usually not pleasant or something we would look forward to, it can definitely be an act of caring if our motivations are concerned with what is best for the individual.

Great leaders know when and how to say goodbye because they recognize that in doing so they express value for their team, for the mission, and even for the exiting staff member.

Sometimes it's good to say goodbye.

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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