The #1 Undisclosed Key To Leadership

Most of your team is engaged and they are achieving their goals, growing their sales and doing their job, but not everyone is succeeding. Your team has one outlier who is less engaged and not performing up to expectations. After all of your best coaching, begging, cajoling, manipulation, and leverage – you are still the one losing sleep, and yet this one outlier is still getting paid. So, maybe it’s time for them to leave or maybe not. Ask yourself a couple of simple questions:

1. Am I getting emotional about this person / issue / performance?
2. Could one of my peers manage this employee more successfully than I can?

If, after all the effort, I still believe this person is not engaged, working, or “getting it,” and my peers would see the same thing then, unfortunately this employee needs to leave.

How we help someone exit our organization defines our leadership. A key indicator of leadership is sometimes less about our coaching ability, our participation at meetings, hiring great talent, or our knowledge. A rarely acknowledged defining key of leadership is how we lead our employees through leaving our organization.

Understand Their Mindset

They (our low performer) know they are not successful or happy long before we do. This employee is losing sleep, grinding his teeth, and feeling frustrated to the point of work sabotage and victim thinking. Our teams know their teammate is struggling in even more detailed ways than we understand. So, our struggling employee is already mentally and emotionally dis-engaging. We are the last to know. We need to simply further the conversation they are having in their mind and at home.

Change Your Mindset

We need to shift our thinking from “they have to go” to “they will be wildly successful somewhere else.” Now we are beginning to condition our thinking, emotions, and body language to assist them, not to hurt them. You may begin to feel better about this whole situation. It is our emotional strength that has gained us so much success with customers, coaching, perception, and adaptability, but accessing these emotions in dismissing employees can be fatal to our leadership.

Simply, be the Mirror not the Jury

We need to take the emotion out and put the dignity in. When we review our low performer’s activities and priorities with them, we ask them to “describe for me…” “share with me…” “help me understand…” The reason we ask these questions is so they begin to realize the same things we know – they are not gaining in their current role for either emotional or intellectual reasons. It is a good realization for them to have as they understand and recognize that they aren’t happy. We also can help them understand that the struggles they have today are nothing compared to the frustration they will have in the next few months, as pressures and expectations will accelerate and their performance will not meet those expectations. Being unable to meet expectations is not good for anyone. In a job or role since we all apply so much time, effort, and money to succeed, to not be progressing is maddening. When we see growth and progression in others and not in ourselves, it can be a downward spiral leading us to a bad place.

Shaping the exit conversation and focusing on areas that employee does enjoy and excel in makes it look like an interview, and that becomes an excellent opportunity for good coaching. Building trust, learning motivations, and clarifying expectations for the employee, is critical to their learning. Your job as a leader is to help your people grow and become the best person they can be. They need to believe their greater success is in another role and in a new pond. We have a leaders’ responsibility to help them grow – it just might not be in our organization.

What if they don’t get it?

Sometimes they will still not be able to take this newfound knowledge and learn something about their own skills. They need to know that “decisions for your career plans are in your control today but soon I may need to have some control as to your career decisions in this organization.” These conversations are nearly impossible if they don’t trust us. If the content of our message regarding their performance is not aligned with our intent for them to be successful, all our words and effort mean nothing. It is often amazing their response to low performance when they understand our intent is to help them – perhaps even if it is out of the organization. In every way this becomes an exercise for their career benefit, and happiness at a new work environment and at home.

Leading in helping an employee find a better career path and exiting your organization is one of the hardest times to lead, and one of the most critical. Good luck!


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