How Do You Know When It’s Over?

How do you know when it’s time to move on?


“They never reach out when they’re giving up.” – Better than Ezra, A Lifetime

I once observed a poor manager become keenly and demonstrably irritated at the thought that one of his charges didn’t come to him for advice.

“[He has] turned away, and I’ve offered advice over and over again.”

It was brilliant theater with fantastic words, but the truth of the matter was this:

The manager’s charge had given up on him long ago.  After months of watching the manager make silly decision after silly decision, the direct report was done.

How do you know when it’s time to go?

How do you know when it’s time to find a new boss, or a new employee, or, bluntly, a new CEO for your company?

It’s when your interactions with your boss or employee shift from a dialogue of active discovery and discussion to a dance of passive avoidance.

Colin Powell once said the following:

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them.  They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care.  Either case is a failure of leadership.”

The same can be said of followers…  Once your boss stops coming to you with problems to solve, you’ve probably lost her confidence and failed at the task of being a productive team member–or you’ve shown you don’t care.  I’m not quite that categorical…after all, I’m not suited to solve all my people’s problems and they aren’t suited to solve all of mine. But, I am bought into the core notion.

And, you know what? Unlike my original example where the leader failed (frankly, was a failure), it’s actually not always the leader’s “fault.”

It can be nobody’s fault.

It can just be time to move on.

Taking the time to realize when things aren’t clicking is integral to any leader’s thought process. Sometimes, when you no longer seek discovery and discussion, it’s better to seek greener pastures.

Sometimes, when your direct reports no longer engage with you, you need to self-reflect on whether they and you belong together.

Because they never reach out when they are giving up.

What do you think?

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