Coaching Minute
Issue #15: Managing Out with Grace

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Managing Out with Grace


Loved this podcast by Andy Stanley titled “One for All” ->


As a change agent, I’ve learned that one of the most difficult situations managers get to deal with is the downsizing, rightsizing or redeployment of staff. Whether such changes are due to the economy or poor performance, these skills are essential for leaders to ensure their organisation remains healthy. This applies to both profit and not-for-profit organisations.


Exceptional leaders recognise that making and carrying out such decisions, whilst never easy, is often critical for the ongoing growth and vitality for organisations. Whilst such changes are inevitable, the manner in which the change is implemented can retain, grow or diminish the integrity of your organisation. With such situations, the axiom “it’s not about what happens, it’s what you do with what happens that counts” is worth remembering.


When carrying out such changes, here some useful perspectives drawn from Stanley’s podcast and my personal experience that I hope will empower you to manage such situations with greater peace of mind, confidence and compassion.


“You always sacrifice one for the many; never the many of the one”


Retaining staff whose performance or attitude is detrimental to the organisation comes at a significant cost to those who stay. Firstly, holding back such staff can be a very frustrating experience, and mostly you’re frustrated about yourself. Secondly, “carrying” such staff means penalising your achievers. The longer you delay such decisions, the deeper the cuts often have to be. Whilst it is often rationalised as being sensitive or compassionate, the reality is that when you are sensitive or compassionate to the one, you are not being so for the many.


“The only way to deliver to the people who are achieving is not to burden them with the people who are not achieving” – Jim Collins


“The staff who start with you aren’t necessarily the people who will finish with you” - John Maxwell


Some people are starters whilst others who are finishers by nature. In order to evolve, we often need to think, feel and act differently, at each stage of an organisation’s growth. Starters can stifle the growth of an organisation that requires finishers at a particular juncture of its growth. Whilst my experience as a coach informs me that everyone is ultimately adaptable if he or she finds enough reasons to do so, it is generally difficult, possibly unfair and from a practical standpoint, could take too long for a “leopard to change its spots”


“You are freeing the person’s future”


Often, when a person is performing poorly in a role despite every attempt to empower and support him or her, a common reason is poor job fit and a subsequent lack of passion and commitment. In such situations, letting the person move on frees him or her up to do what they really ought to be doing, moving on to roles that are more suited to their passions and interests. I have had colleagues who, post-retrenchment, actually went on to bigger and better things – starting that restaurant they always dreamed of, or that consultancy, boutique, etc.


Carrying this out never easy, and that’s the way it ought to be


Compassion is an incredibly important trait to have and that means dealing with such situations with tremendous sensitivity. As much as possible, every opportunity to rehabilitate and help grow the individual should be expended. Consider always the most honouring thing you can do for the individual. I love this question posed by Stanley – “if this person were to choose to resign, would you be secretly relieved?” If your answer to this is the affirmative, this is a good sign letting the person move on is the honourable thing to do. Imagine being in the shoes of the individual with a boss who secretly wishes he or she would leave.


Communicate openly and clearly


You want them and those who stay to look back and say “they handled that as honourably and as well as they possibly could have”. Which means as soon as you know, you owe it to them to let them know as soon as possible and as openly and honestly as you can.


Get the right people on the bus


Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great” tells us that one of the characteristics of the exceptional organisations that made the transition from good to great was their perspective on hiring staff. Rather than focusing solely on competence, they looked for people who met four stringent criteria:


  • Character – attributes like integrity, ability to deal with adversity, being a team player
  • Competence – the necessary skills and experience
  • Chemistry – the ability to gel cohesively and importantly bring an added dimension of personality that was lacking into the organisation
  • Culture – strong alignment of personal values with that of the organisation


The average companies on the other hand tend to place a myopic focus on competence alone when hiring, ignoring the other key attributes.


Significantly, the Good to Great companies were proactive in bringing the right people on the bus even if they did not have an opening.


By bringing such “right” people on the bus, it simply means that such staff will tend to have greater intrinsic motivation to create results and adapt more easily with changes in the organisation.



“It’s not about the firing, it’s about how you handle the firing”


Keep in mind you are ending a professional and not necessarily the personal relationship. Quite apart from serving the many who stay, be authentic about your care and compassion for the individual who moves on. Do not bad-mouth them in their absence and if possible, follow up after they have left to see if you can offer them assistance. This is a powerful message also to your team who stay.


If you find this article useful, please do send this along to your contacts who could benefit from it and post us your comments!


P/S Know someone who could benefit from tips and strategies on mastering change? Download our $1 four-page article on “5 Steps to Mastering Change”!


Wishing you continued success and fulfilment,


Dominic Siow






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