I am currently reading Jack: Straight From The Gut which is the autobiography of Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric.
When he became CEO, Jack had a philosophy that if any of their 40+ businesses were not #1 or #2 in that industry then they must either be “fixed, sold, or closed”.
The first two businesses that he divested were relatively easy to do but when he was faced with selling the housewares operations that was a different story.
He did not take into account at first the emotional connection those employees would have to the business.
It was not as much about losing their jobs or working for the acquiring firm but more the feeling that GE was known for housewares, especially major appliances, so how dare he sell that business?
This got me thinking about all the things and people we hold onto for mostly nonrational reasons.
I have a family member who does this. She has several pairs of shoes that she can no longer wear due to arthritis in her feet.
When I ask her why she keeps them, she says “because of sentimental reasons”.
When I point out that she probably hasn’t opened these shoe boxes in several years, she knows I am correct but still gets defensive.
I try to persuade her by saying that if she donates them, she could help someone else. It is still a no go!
This is the same with relationships.
Some people in your life you rely on to be there for you every day. Others you send holiday cards to and catch up a few times a year.
This probably works for most people.
The issue is the people you thought were there for you are not doing that anymore. The relationship has drifted and you realize that you both have moved on and are following different paths.
You may have also tolerated certain behaviors of theirs in the past but now you realize that it just not worth the effort.
For leaders it is important to recognize when things are not working anymore as well.
This runs the gamut from policies and procedures, equipment, and of course employees. The latter is the hardest.
When a leader hires an employee, the hope is they will be able to retain them for a long time but what also should be added is “and the employee is functioning at peak performance”.
The problem is we know way too often that does not always happen. Once an employee gets complacent, it is difficult to change their behaviors.
If we compare it to Jack’s philosophy, we either need to “fix” the employee by offering trainings, coaching, and/or mentoring; we “sell” them to another department in the company if that is feasible; or we “close” them down by firing them.
For the employee, they may feel bored or not as valued as they once were.
They may have issues going on in their private life that make it that much harder to get up in the morning and be the best they can be at work.
They may also have the retirement app on their cell phone and are counting down the days till they can leave their job and can sip margaritas on the beach.
Whatever the reason, the leader needs to be proactive and determine when it is time to let an employee go.
Keep in mind that it not only affects the one employee but others on their team as well; it may feel like a divorce to them because their work family is losing a member.
Letting go is challenging so doing a pros and cons list or a SWOT analysis may help in determining which course of action to take.
Once the decision is made, it is time to think of the song in Frozen and “Let It Go!” and try not to have regrets.
This may not be easy but in the long run, it is the best course of action.