Know When to Fold Em before it's too late!

Know When to Fold Em before it’s too late!

Fold ‘em!

In a session with a CEO coaching client we discussed some concerns about a team member who was under performing. He painted a very clear picture of EVERYTHING that had been done to assess her ability to succeed in her role, provided opportunities for growth as well as provided opportunities that might be a better fit in the organization.

This person failed at every “test”; they lacked initiative, time management, following critical instruction and basic social interaction skills. I listened intently at my client’s frustration.  His solution was to reassign her yet AGAIN.  This time, the reassignment was for a critical project that we both knew would not yield favorable. This CEO had done more than I would have expected anyone to do and was now headed down the path of trying again for the 5th time.

After asking poignant questions and getting the answers that I didn’t like.  I wondered why did this wise, forward thinking, CEO feel the need to invest more time and energy into a person who had proven them self ineffective for the environment. I was reminded of the 1980’s Kenny Roger’s hit, The Gambler, “Know When to hold them, Know when to fold them, know when to walk away and when to run”!

Being involved in the growth of others is very important but how far is too far? When is it time to release the under-performer back into the universe?  More likely than not, leaders are very impatient when it comes to mentoring and shaping others in an organization.  Although developing growth opportunities is important, it is often the last thought during many annual performance reviews.  Some leaders even choose to fire and hire until they find the right fit. This is not always the best solution because it costs more money to hire and retrain than it does to retain.  Nevertheless, mentoring, guiding and shaping others, is a vital component for leaders and their managers.   Seasoned leaders understand that it takes time to develop skills in others as well as patience. However, just like on Wall Street, leaders must also recognize when they have made a bad investment and pull the plug before the market crashes.

Leaders must remember the rest of the flock. When we are slow to make decisions about those who are under performing it affects the morale of those who are performing. Cutting losses sooner than later is paramount to the culture of the organization. Protect the culture of your organization by making the tough decisions and not allowing the ship to go down like the titanic.  In the end, you will not look like the martyr who tried to salvage a staff; you will be the leader who didn’t make the best decision for the organization because you minimized the efforts of many for one or two.

In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell talks about the Law of Intuition.  He states, “Leaders who want to succeed utilize their resources and they are continually aware of what and who they have at their disposal.” How knowledgeable are you of the true skill-set of your team?

Here are 5 questions to consider when determining when to fold ‘em.

  1. Have I assessed skills appropriately?
  2. Have I matched skills with the best job in the organization?
  3. Have I provided training and mentoring?
  4. What is the impact of the ineffectiveness on the culture of the organization?
  5. Have I seen the level of change or growth required for the task, position?


Dr. Taunya A. Lowe is the CEO of The Resurgent Group of Metro Atlanta, LLC and The Impact Experience, LLC, a human services and leadership development consulting firm located outside Atlanta, GA. Dr. Lowe is a speaker, trainer, coach, professor and entrepreneur. She is a skilled change agent with a focus on developing people and organizations. She enjoys combining her photography and writing to motivate, inspire and lead people toward growth and change.  To learn more, visit our website