I once wrote at FOT about a horrible job of mine. It was so bad that my commute was filled with “Take this job and shove it” fantasies: I would barge in, slam down a resignation and just unload. I envisioned myself storming out of the place, a la George Castanza, yelling some memorable line like “Jerk Store” on the way out.
I didn’t. I was grateful for the opportunity and wished them well. It was important to me that whatever positive mojo I had was intact when I left.
I thought about that experience this week when I saw how two people’s public mojo changed overnight after people saw how they left a challenging situation.
First, Andrew Mason, Groupon CEO, went from Ernst & Young’s National Entrepreneur of 2010 (+mojo) to being portrayed in the financial papers in 2012 as an immature schmuck (-mojo). Finally, last week, he got fired. He owned his exit, however, writing what some think is the best resignation letter ever. Here are some nuggets:
I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention…. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness…
Just like that, he took steps to reverse his story. He went from insufferable, immature and inexperienced to genuine, accountable and real, and he got some mojo back.
For the opposite result, check Rory McIroy, professional golfer. He’s a young Irish guy, dates a pro tennis player and is ranked #1 in the world of golf (and #1 heartthrob of Mrs. Morris). Dude was overflowing with mojo.
Friday, though, he had a rough day, and he decided to clock out early. Halfway through a horrible round, he hit another ball in the water, shook hands with his playing partners, walked off the course and got in his car, apparently still wearing his golf cleats, without finishing the round.
The world’s No. 1-ranked player did not appear to be physically injured, telling reporters briefly in the parking lot that “I’m not in a great place mentally. I can’t really say much, guys. I’m just in a bad place mentally…”
McIroy is setting himself up to get some bad press here. In golf, most sports and in life, one of the worst things people can call you is a quitter. In one day, he went from international young stud to someone fans will always question. Check this take from Jason Sobel:
…Rory, you do not, ever, under any circumstances, pack up and go home simply because things aren’t going your way. This is beyond poor form. This is quitting. This is John Daly territory. This is the absolute opposite of what we expect and demand from our superstars…If he stuck around, he could choose his own ending for this story, rather than leaving it in our hands to theorize about why he chose to leave.
How you exit from adversity matters, whether it is your choice or the company’s. Talent pros see this all the time. A top performer can throw away ten years of solid performance mojo if he reacts badly to his first coaching conversation. A high potential can alienate everyone who has sponsored her by appearing soft when finally facing tough times. Exits are important, from big ones like Mason’s to small ones like finishing out your work day.
Hit me in the comments with other examples of mojo killing or mojo saving exits.
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.