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How to Release Someone

How to Release Someone

Leaders, this may be one of the most important posts you will ever read. You may need this right now. If not, file it. You will need it one day soon. Read this entire post!

Over the years, while consulting with many leaders, they’ve often told me they felt like they were one HIRE away from explosive growth. However, after spending some time with them, I actually felt like they were one FIRE away! We are only as strong as our weakest link. We can’t pretend this problem is going to go away.

We must do the difficult thing. At the same time, we need to do the right thing, the right way. I tell leaders all the time: “Even if you do the right thing, the wrong way, you still get fired!” So what do we do when there’s no way out of it? Checkmate. We have no other choice.

What do we do when we need to release someone?

1. Don’t procrastinate.

Don’t pretend like this will get better on its own. Don’t put it off.  If it’s not right, we must do something about it. To recognize that something’s not right and NOT do anything about it is SINFUL!

2. Go to them privately.  

In the Gospels, Jesus never promises that as Christ followers we won’t have tough conversations with our brothers and sisters. He simply tells us how to do it. We don’t get a group together with torches and go to their house. We don’t email them. We Go. To. Them. Privately. Read Matthew 18 for a step by step plan.

3. Affirm them.

They haven’t done everything wrong. Talk about how they have contributed. Mention their strengths. Thank them for their service.

4. Be honest with them.  

Don’t glaze over the facts. Jesus was full of grace and truth. Tell the truth. Hopefully you’ve been painfully honest before today. Remind them WHY this is happening based on conversations you have had in the past. If they are surprised by this meeting, then we probably haven’t been honest with them up until this day.

5. Be generous to them.

If at all possible, be as generous as possible to them. Let them keep the pen and the paperclips, maybe even the laptop. Give them a severance and pace it out over weeks or months. They have a family they need to take care of so this balances truth with grace.

6. Acknowledge our pain to them.

Tell them how difficult it has been to get to this day. Let them know you have anguished or lost sleep over this. If this comes easy for you, you need counseling! These decisions are not made flippantly. Let them know this.

7. Establish high-road/low-road scenarios.

Say something like: “Hey, my prayer is that we can take the high road on this. As you exit, I can speak positively of you, even give you a good reference, where possible. My prayer would be that you also extend the same grace to me. On the other hand, if you decide to take the low road and run everyone in the ground and trash us on social media, then your severance will end immediately. Your exit agreement will stipulate this. Understand?” Problem averted.

8. Put everything in writing.

Good paper makes good friends. Enough said.

9. Develop a communication plan.

Who will tell whom? When? This should also be in writing. This is one of the most important aspects in managing the PR involving this change.

10. Don’t worry about how they’re going to respond.

Don’t get caught up on how they’re going to respond, If done this way, I’ve never seen one go “Jerry Springer” on me. Besides, their response is not my responsibility. I simply must do the right thing the right way and trust God with the test. Know what? He is able.

11. Choose to please the right Audience.

Sometimes we simply have to decide to be respected instead of liked. Sometimes we have to choose to do what’s right and live for the Audience of One. We are ultimately only responsible to Him. If we have pleased Him, we have been successful.

By the way, the most common questions we coach leaders through has to do with TEAM. Oftentimes, we either need PERMISSION to think and act a certain way; or we need PERSPECTIVE from an outside person to either VERIFY or challenge our thinking and assumptions. That’s what we do! Drop us a line and let’s talk about what coaching might look like for you.

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Shawn is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com. His heart beats for coaching leaders and helping them all conquer what keeps them up at night. Shawn previously served as Founding and Lead Pastor of Mountain Lake Church, and Directional Leader for churchplanters.com, and the annual Velocity Conference. Due to both demand and calling, Shawn has now devoted himself full-time to coaching leaders.