The Task Most Founding CEOs Hate To Do

One of the most gut-wrenching things to do as a Founder & CEO is to let go of an original team member.

Rami Essaid, Co-founder & CEO of Distil Networks, spoke about this in a recent episode of the “From Founder To CEO” podcast.

What made it even more difficult for Rami? This person was also a friend.

I know many of you can relate to Rami’s story. Many of the Founders I have interviewed have even spoken about tackling the difficult task of exiting a co-founder who is a friend.

Rami’s story reminded me of a line in John Maxwell’s book, “The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.”

John writes on page, 67, “If you need to remove somebody from the team, be discreet, be clear, be honest, and be brief.”

This sentence really resonated with me for several reasons.

One, to me, “be discreet” means treating the individual with the respect they deserve as a human being and also honoring the energies they gave helping to get your company off the ground. The entire world doesn’t need to know about the situation, just those that need to know.

Two, “be clear” means you have made a decision and there is really no opportunity for discussion. When you are clear, it helps you, the individual, and the team move on.

Three, when you combine honesty with “be discreet,” you won’t fall into the trap of making up stories. And, you can be honest with your remaining team members about why the person is leaving, without impugning the individual’s reputation.

Finally, “be brief” means helping your team turn an often awkward, challenging situation into a more forward looking situation.

All of this is even more difficult when you, the Founder & CEO, feel bad because the team member you are letting go is an original team member.

Take heart. Sometimes this is best for all involved. Just ask yourself these four questions.

  • Am I being discreet?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I being honest?
  • Am I being brief?

How have you handled exiting an original team member?

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