Lisagor: Breaking up is hard to do

Good managers find ways to let go of poor employees and bad habits

Letting go of attachments to things that no longer have value is difficult. In the personal realm, this includes dysfunctional relationships, unhealthy habits and, in my case, the compulsive need to make bad puns. As a manager, letting go takes on an even broader context because it affects not only your feelings but also your organization's success and co-workers' performance.

An effective manager realizes that allowing someone to remain in a job that doesn't fit harms that person and the business.

Many leaders are averse to conflict and prefer to maintain a negative status quo rather than confront a performance issue directly.

But problems rarely go away without some intervention. You sometimes need to let go of staff members so they can find other job opportunities better suited to their skills.

Managers who were promoted from technical positions sometimes get mired in the details of a project, preferring to hide in the comfort zone of their previous responsibilities.

Managers who won't delegate tasks can cripple an organization. If you can't delegate, you will demoralize your employees and stall your career.

While you remain buried in minutiae, important management decisions go unattended. Letting go of less important technical details takes courage but is a sign of a mature manager.

People also get emotionally invested in certain design approaches, management solutions, technology projects and, in the case of industry, specific government business opportunities.

It can be difficult to separate enthusiasm, a positive trait, from an inability or unwillingness to objectively evaluate alternatives. If you're not careful, you can waste money on a losing proposition because you are unwilling to recognize a flawed plan.

When deciding whether to proceed with a plan or not, I like to use a decision matrix that requires the major stakeholders to assess the viability of an idea or project by scoring each critical success factor. If used properly, this approach can remove the raw emotions from the equation.

What is left is an objective view of whether the return on investment justifies the costs of workforce, IT infrastructure and financial resources.

People often avoid letting go because they fear uncertainty. But the act of moving on creates possibilities for something better. On the other side of uncertainty lies tremendous business and personal potential.

Enlightened managers are not afraid to take calculated risks. They accept that the status quo is not a friend to be trusted for too long. As the song goes, "breaking up is hard to do." But if you do, a new world of opportunities awaits you.

Lisagor founded Celerity Works in 1999, which helps executives boost and manage business growth. He is the author of "The Business Development Guide for Selling to the Government," which is available at He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at

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