Nearly every country music fan is familiar with these lyrics from “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers: “You got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.” The principle expressed in these lines is offered as advice for life by a gambler to a fellow traveler who seems to be down on his luck, and in fact it is an essential doctrine to exercise for success in various aspects of life. In the business world, it may be the difference between failure, survival, and prosperity. Knowing when to walk away can be vital to one’s organization in a number of ways.

Be Willing to Leave Negotiations

Sometimes people are simply too eager to make a deal. The potential to grow a business or to secure a quick infusion of capital can make it difficult to turn an offer down, but occasionally that is exactly the right thing for a company to do. Begin performing due diligence long before negotiations actually commence, and clearly establish your goals and limits with your team. Understand what all parties seek from the deal, and be wary of changes or inconsistencies from the other side. If negotiations take a turn that creates a poor match with your organization or drives the cost of closing the deal beyond your expectations, it may be best to gracefully conclude discussions and walk away without a deal. In such situations, it is always best to be up-front about your reasons for backing out and end things amicably if at all possible. This may leave the door open for revisiting the deal later, and it will help prevent unnecessarily damaging relationships that may prove useful in the future.

Don’t Persist in Mistakes

To err is human, which means that we will all do it every now and then. When strategic gaffes are made or personnel decisions don’t pan out the way we expect them to, it is important to avoid becoming a victim of the sunk-cost fallacy. It is usually difficult to admit to ourselves that we have made a mistake, but investing more time or energy into it often doesn’t do anything to correct the mistake or alleviate feelings of self-consciousness. On the contrary, it frequently only ends up compounding the damage of the initial mistake, at times with disastrous results. When something goes wrong or a change of direction is needed, perhaps it is best to acknowledge this sooner rather than later and make the necessary adjustments before more money and resources are needlessly squandered trying to justify the error.

Learn When to Back Off

As a business leader, knowing when and how to delegate is a useful skill. Some people will be more naturally gifted in certain areas than you are, which would make utilizing their talents more advantageous to the company. As a leader, you also need to keep your focus on the bigger picture, so dispensing responsibilities among your capable employees may be the most prudent course of action for organizational success. Don’t feel compelled to personally oversee everything if you have competent associates who can help carry the load or if it would be more beneficial to outsource work. Learning when to back off and give up control can be extremely valuable to you and your enterprise.

Knowing when to walk away can be an invaluable asset in life. Presidents Trump and Reagan both demonstrated this in their respective nuclear nonproliferation negotiations with North Korea and the Soviet Union. Automobile manufacturers demonstrate this when they decide to discontinue a line of vehicles. Sports teams demonstrate this when they release a player before the consummation of his contract. Learn how to make walking (or running) away work for you, too.


To learn more about how to be a great leader within your organization, your family, or your community, contact us or check out our leadership development programs for Cleveland, Medina, and surrounding areas.