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Yes, you can quit

“Yes- you can quit.”

But if you do the work you might not want to.


It’s fascinating to me how opening up your options actually results in [re] commitment to a role or an organization.


When I coach leaders who are burnt out or underperforming, the first thing I do is offer the option to make a change. We put leaving a role or a company on the table. We don’t judge it, we don’t immediately take action, we just put it out there as a viable option.


This is how I meet my client where they are.


All good communication protocols require that you first engage by acknowledging someone’s emotions and beliefs.


It’s a good old fashioned “I hear you.”


It’s not uncommon for a 1st session to include a lot of venting and maybe even some crying. I expect this. It’s totally normal.


Then I say this to my client: “Sometimes leaving is the right choice. And I will respect you if you make that decision. But would you be willing to work with me to make that transition in the most graceful, healthy and professional manner possible? This may take some time, can you commit to this process?”


If they say yes (and they usually do) we systematically coach into 3 areas over several weeks:


1.     Self  - Deeply understanding what is important to you

2.     Others- Interrogating how you engage with other and the leadership style you deploy

3.     Results- Investigating how these behaviors are driving results today


The goal of this process is get to the root cause of underperformance and unhappiness.


When we do this, behaviors tend to change. Relationships improve. Results shift in a positive direction.

"I went away and did the work and when I came back everyone else was better" 

Almost every time, we fix the problem and the employee recommits to the company. They also have clearer vision for the future and a stronger sense of personal accountability.


I am 100% certain that if I met the employee with the primary intent of preventing resignation, they would resign and coaching would fail. The employee and the company would learn nothing.


This process went poorly with a client about a year ago. I was coaching in an organization that was experiencing a massive amount of change, terminations and resignations, and the culture was suffering.


I met with the new CEO to explain how I approached coaching in this environment. My goal was not to talk people into staying. I believe with the appropriate process, we could  show people how much power they have in righting a tough situation. This is how I frame up accountability.


I also explained that sometimes, leaving a role really is the best path for the employee and for the business. Resignations only suck when they are hasty and emotional.  Resignations that result from 8 weeks of deep introspection, self-awareness and a genuine effort to improve are the result of a healthy culture and leave positive lasting impact.


Nevertheless, I think the CEO heard that I was helping people quit. He assigned a new coachee to me who was struggling in their leadership role.


This leader came to the first session with very strong emotions. He hated the CEO. He thought the business was a wreck. He shared many concerning experiences with me. He said he was actively planning his exit and he did not want to coach with me. He was paying lip service to the ‘incompetent’ CEO.


Whew. That was a lot.


So I applied my model. I asked him if his decision was final. He said yes.


This leader was a 30 year seasoned executive VP. So I trust that he is capable of making decisions for himself.


I asked him if he would be willing to spend some time with me to exit in the healthiest and most responsible way possible. I said that we would look at: 1. His leadership style and personal needs 2. His relationships with others 3. Results and data. We would use this time to make sure he was successful in picking a new opportunity that would have a happier ending. It would also be a healthy way to leave the current role. This may take a little while.


He said sure.


Before we held a second session, I received an email from the CEO saying I was fired.


I was heartbroken that a long term coaching relationship was severed.


But I did not change my coaching model.


I doubled down because I truly believe that this is the most effective way to work with someone who isn’t doing well. This is modern, progressive leadership at its finest.


Meeting people exactly where they are is the only way to move forward together. I’ve yet to see any other way that works sustainably.



If you would like to learn more about how coaching and leadership development programs may fit into your business model, please visit the website or reach out to me directly.

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