“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.”

I don’t think Kenny Rogers was talking about leadership when he wrote The Gambler, but there’s a lot we can learn from his gambling approach.

A large part of leadership is knowing when to walk away, and knowing when to run. Knowing when to hold onto a project, or a team member, and knowing when to quit. Because too often, I hate to admit, we keep unproductive people and projects too long.

I have many coaching clients who, month after month, keep talking about the same person on their team – with disappointment and/or frustration. Invariably I ask, “Why is that person still on your team? Why are you still putting up with – tolerating – that behavior?” Too often they are caught speechless, with no answer and no justification other than they don’t want to deal with the situation, or don’t know how to.

Similarly, I’ve seen too many clients continue to work on a project that seems to be going nowhere…and nowhere…and nowhere. They’ve put so much time, effort, and energy into the endeavor that they can’t seem to pull the plug on it, even when it’s not working. In economic terms, this already spent time, effort, energy, and resources are referred to as “sunk costs.” Sunk costs are just that – sunk and irretrievable. And thus irrelevant to future decisions about a project. We have to be careful not to be swayed by our sunk costs and to keep going when it would be better to quit.

I have seen too many clients give up too soon on people, situations, and goals. It can be easy to quit when people, or things, get tough. But I’ve also seen clients hold on and keep going when quitting would be a smarter, more Thoughtful, option.

So how do we know when to quit? Here are a few warning signals:

  • You’re talking about the same situation, or same person, over and over again…and you’ve done all you can to make things right and nothing seems to have changed.
  • Your heart is no longer invested in the goal, the situation, or the person. You don’t care to make things better anymore. (And again, you’ve tried.)
  • The people around you whom you trust are questioning your “dedication” and suggesting you rethink your plan to move forward.
  • There really doesn’t seem to be a way to achieve your goal, or right the situation, or complete the project, and you (and your team) are getting understandably frustrated.
  • Your time and energy is being pulled toward this, and you feel drained.
  • You can’t get traction on your plan to save the person or project. Nothing seems to be working to make things right.

Quitting can be a escape, and quitting can be a Thoughtful leadership decision. It’s important to think through why you’re quitting…or why you’re not. With this Thoughtfulness you can make the best decision to move yourself, your team, your organization, and your life forward.

How do you know when it’s time to quit?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in quitting, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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