In a recent coaching session a CEO asked for advice about a tough, yet necessary conversation; it was time for a person in a leadership role to leave the business. The role had been important during a period of transition and the executive had contributed a great deal to the team and the business over the previous four years. At times the executive had been challenging and had been prepared to disrupt the status quo to create new awareness for the rapidly growing business. The CEO wanted to ensure that she and the organisation acknowledged the contribution this executive had made to the business, and that their season of working together was now at an end.
We discussed the idea of creating a ‘Good Ending’, which aligns with systemic principles that enhance flow within an organisation. A ‘Good Ending’ would be important for everyone – the CEO, the executive, the other leaders in the business and the staff – everyone would have an opinion and perspective on how well or how poorly it was managed. In preparation, the CEO mapped out some things she thought were important, and together we arrived at some principles to hold during the conversation and ensuing process. It would be important to be able to keep these principles top of mind while navigating what could have been a challenging conversation.
So what are the three principles for a Good Ending?
Setting up well
- Be aware of your tone and attitude going into the meeting; choose your language and tone carefully.
- Be prepared to listen: people often need to express their disappointment up front. Give them some space to do that but hold clear and firm with your decision.
- Even if they get a bit upset, don’t behave reactively and defend the decision
- Be generous: everyone will be watching what happens and they will feel your generosity or lack of it.
Recognition / Acknowledgement
- Ensure the person knows their contribution has been part of the organisation’s success.
- Recognise what you have personally learnt in your time working together.
- Acknowledge 2-3 specific things that have made a difference to the organisation and to you.
- Organise a social event with the team and others in the organisation at a time when most can attend.
- Send an email to invite others to attend which includes some praise for the person’s contribution .
- At the event, publicly acknowledge their contribution to the team and the organisation .
- Give a meaningful gift as an expression of gratitude.
Why does it matter?
Every action is either creating or eroding brand value; the way someone leaves an organisation communicates a lot to everyone else. When others see that you have managed the process with grace and equanimity, they feel safe and assured that people are valued here – that this brand cares about each individual and is prepared to acknowledge and celebrate that contribution.
Since the exit, I’ve had the chance to speak with the CEO and the executive – they tell a similar story of how well the exit went, how respectful and honouring it was, and that it was a positive experience all around.
WRITTEN BY: FIONA PEARMAN & HEIDI TODD