In a webinar last week, I was asked a very good question: What do you tell good people who want to leave your organization? How people leave your organization will have a big impact on the atmosphere in your workplace.
As a leader, it is very important to get ahead of this as soon as possible. If the person leaving plays a critical role, communication to the team about the plan moving forward is vital. Most leaders naturally react well to difficult situations, so getting in front of something like this should not prove too difficult. The challenge I pose here for leaders is how to not have this happen. That is right! If any key member of your team leaves and it’s a surprise to you, it’s time to reevaluate your relationships.
Recently, two key members of my leadership team left for other opportunities. In both cases, I was a reference call for their new places of employment. ‘What?’ you might say, ‘Really?’ Unfortunately, that is rare, but it really shouldn’t be. I’m not paranoid, but I understand that there is a demand in the marketplace for very talented professionals, so I pay close attention to changes in behavior and slight comments that may be made, and I follow up on all of them.
The foundation for this is great relationships. It is critical to the success of my team that I manage the relationships with my direct reports very carefully. We talk about family, goals, dreams, ambitions, and sometimes even work. When you get to know someone at this level, you understand what drives them, and more importantly, where they want to go. Hopefully where they want to go and what your organization offers as career opportunities merge, but sometimes they do not. In the case where they do not, are you really doing anyone, including your organization, any favors by not supporting that individuals desire to better themselves?
Those discussions are not always comfortable, and some look at talking about these things with a supervisor as risky. It is up to the leader to put the team member at ease and let them know you want to help them succeed — whether it’s within your organization, or not. When the team member senses this, they let their guard down a little bit and feel more free to not only talk about their goals, but also provide some feedback about what they might not like about the environment.
Managing relationships is one of the most important tasks a leader has. This is one of the key differences between managing and leading. Managers have to get a job done; leaders influence people and help drive toward a common goal. Having a good relationship with a staff member to the point where they are comfortable telling you about opportunities puts you in the best possible position to be as far ahead of the leaving curve as possible. To some this may be a mindset of defending against people leaving. To me, it is embracing a generation of connected people who receive multiple job opportunities a month just by opening their email or checking LinkedIn.