When to Pull the Plug as a Leader


As leaders, we are constantly casting vision to spur our teams forward. Some ideas work and take off like wild-fire while others slowly produce results.

Other ideas never really fly.

You cast the vision, attempting to create buy in, but the concept never takes root or begins to grow. The vision languishes and people start to seem indifferent.

When do you cut your losses and pull the plug?

I’ve been faced with this question several times, even recently in one of our endeavors. While never simple, here are a few warnings signs it might be time to take the program off life support.

By: Chris Chan

No Buy In – We’ve heard the old adage that ideas are not taught, they are caught. If after some time, the idea still seems to only be pushed by you or a select few, you have to consider the team has not caught it.

No Momentum – You promoted the event or tactic, and no matter what you try; it feels like you are spinning your wheels. A good idea will gain speed and multiply; involving other giftings and talents making it more well-rounded.

Lagging Results – Perhaps the idea is actually in effect, but the results are not there. While there is always a case for being faithful and plowing the ground, wisdom and evaluation must always be a part of our journey. If the results are not there after some time, it may be time to cut the losses.

No Buzz– Is anyone besides you or the inner circle talking about the idea? One way to take the pulse is not to bring up the issue for some time. Does anyone notice? If you have not had a certain meeting or gathering recently, is it missed? When a successful program goes out of the spotlight or the “to update list”, your team will let you know about it.

The “founders” are driving it, but the “populace” is not – Success of an idea is measured down the flowchart. If the founders or inner circle are for it, but the employees are not, it might be time to cease and desist.

How long do you wait before pulling the plug?  This varies. The skill in being a leader is not acting rashly, nor being too slow. Having said this, a leader should always be one step ahead. You need to realize something is dead before they do.

What if others don’t see it? As a leader we have two options once we know a decision needs to be made.

1. Make it and lead the way.
2. Bring others along on the journey helping them reach the same conclusion.

Remind yourself of the times when this has not happened. We all can remember programs or initiatives that ran well past their prime and actually became painful. Pull the plug before it gets painful!

Different decisions require different methods, but as a leader you ultimately need to know when to pull the plug.

What else would you add to this discussion?