Any leader who cares about the people on his team will not be excited about having to transition someone off it, especially when if its not a voluntary action. The reality is most leaders will chose to avoid that confrontation and endure the struggles that come with keeping an unhealthy and un-productive member on the team. Patrick Lencioni speaks to this choice when he says “Courage is willingly suffering for the people you lead, so they suffer less.” When we decide not to have a tough conversation, it not only costs the team as a whole but also contributes to the stunting of leadership growth in the unhealthy person. And, like it or not, that reflects poorly on us and our leadership.
It is not only that many leaders do not like conflict, it is also that leaders have accepted the false perspective that “terminating” someone can only be punitive in nature. They view it only as the last step of severing a relationship with someone with whom you have been trying to work. In most environments, the transitioning of a person off a team (or out of an organization) usually involves signing of HR documents and then being escorted out of a building by security. And while too often there are behavior and attitude choices that make those steps necessary, one wonders if those instances could have been avoided if the leader had not waited so long to have transition conversations.
These conversations should always be safe, open, honest and saturated in grace.
In a recent video for our Red Chair Leader Network (Click here to find out how to join this network of leaders) we talked about “How to Identify an Unhealthy Team Member.” Once that has been done, and after what should be numerous one-on-one conversations about helping them gain health, it may become necessary to shift the conversation to one of transitioning them out well. Those conversation should alway be “safe, open & honest conversations that are saturated in grace.” If that is done well and the right reasons are communicated, your team will probably thank you for leading this way—maybe even the outgoing team member.
Here are three reasons why someone should be transitioned off a team:
1. The individual’s leadership is being underused or misapplied.
In many instances when a team member is struggling to contribute leadership to the team it is because there is a gap between the leadership they have to offer and what the team is needing. This can be a result of a shifting in the team’s scope of responsibility, or the team has evolved into different leadership needs. In any case, when a team member can no longer see a value or place where their contribution fits frustration will undoubtedly set in, resulting in them pulling back from the team or attempting to steer efforts in a direction where they can be more involved. In this case a transition conversation should focus less on their exit from the team and more on discovering where they can naturally contribute more… even if that is outside of the organization as a whole.
2. The individual’s personal life is distracting or suffering.
There are many ways in which life outside the team can effect the dynamics inside the team. It can be that the efforts of the team's vision have become so consuming that the individual’s relationships outside the team start to suffer. Or an unexpected development, change or crisis elsewhere in their life can make it hard for someone to contribute to the team in an healthy, unified and equal way. If, again after several discussions on how the team can support them, it remains best for them to transition out of their role and off the team, their personal and relational health should be the top motivation for this action . No one ever like hearing “I think it’s ultimately best for you to step away from this team…” But it always easier to receive that when it is followed by “… so that you can have the room and energy to take care of this issue and be full present for the people that need you right now.”
3. The team’s mission is too important to be slowed down or stalled completely.
This might sound harsh at first read, but everyone wants to be a part of something important, to see their efforts as part of a larger collective that is changing something for the better. When leaders allow a continued lack of health around the leadership table to slow down or stall the team's efforts, they are communicating to everyone that "what we are doing isn’t really that important.” However, when we can remind the outgoing unhealthy member of how important the team’s work really is, and help them see that they are not in a position to contribute to it like they should or probably want, you are giving them a chance to make a significant and healthy investment in the team and it’s mission. And you are also sending a message to the rest of the team, about the importance of the work they are doing, and how they can expected to be lead should they experience a need to transition as well.
Check out www.redchairleader.com for more information on becoming a better leader and elevating more leadership from within your team.