Know When to ‘Call It Quits’
We’ve all known or heard of leaders who have refused to call it quits when they should have. Clinging to some problematic idea, business direction, strategy or “solution,” they started making sacrifices that compromised the wellbeing of their organization and/or its people. Not knowing when to quit can be dangerous in terms of how they do business. When leaders struggle with this, they put their employees, their company, their own reputation and even their professional livelihood at risk. Yet it happens to even the smartest of executives and managers all the time. And when the consequences of their actions, or failure to call it quits, plays out, they’re often in so much disbelief or denial, they sometimes cannot recover. Disciplined Leaders learn how to let go of what’s not working before they compromise the very people and things that support them. When faced with big decisions or possibilities for their business, they create strategies to ensure they know when to continue on a given course versus take some major corrective action, like pulling out of whatever they’re pursuing. The best leaders know that quitting isn’t about losing. It’s about having the courage to do what’s really right.
At MAP, our consultants have coached clients around this leadership challenge. Often, leaders struggle with “calling it quits” for one or more of the following reasons:
They fall in love with an idea. In “The Disciplined Leader,” we discuss how a client ignored the warnings by our consultant about the dangers of a particular acquisition. Consumed by and sure of the idea, he went ahead with his decision and started draining resources to support it. He appeared unfazed in spite of a devastating turnover of talent until a call from the bank snapped him back into reality: “Liquidate now or get a call from the law.” Finally, he got out of the situation and took corrective action. But he left serious damage in his wake. How can you recognize if you’re in love with a bad idea? Respect and listen to your people’s differing points of view—take them seriously. Get feedback about the true risks of a big decision. And pay attention to warning signs, having a point at which you promise others to call it quits before it’s too late.
They can’t see their blind spots. Some leaders struggle to call it quits because they don’t know what they don’t know. Just like a driver who has blind spots, they think their approach or idea is a good one because they can’t fully see what’s going on around them. As a result, they make decision after decision based on their limited perception alone. Limit the possibility of this happening to you by getting and supporting strategies that create truth around whatever decision you’re choosing. Considering every leader has blind spots, working to identify and overcome yours will help you to see if the decision you’re sponsoring or leading is really good—or one you should quit.
They feel too afraid to let go. In protecting their ego or fearing what “could” happen, some leaders hold on for dear life to a boat that’s inevitably sinking. Going down is never the solution. It’s better to let go—and the sooner, the better. Be brave and have faith, knowing that in doing what’s right, you will be strong enough to eventually rescue yourself or that it’s even OK if someone may have to help you in the process. Disciplined Leaders courageously face such tough situations. They get that strength comes in knowing and admitting failures, taking their lessons learned forward, and not repeating ego-driven or fear-based mistakes.
What are some signs that a chosen direction or strategy is one that you may need to quit?