How Great Leaders Handle the Inevitable
I grew up in an era wherein you left school, went to work and stayed in the same place for many years. I have friends that are still at their first employer. Today, that simply isn’t the case. As a great leader you’ve done an excellent job of recruiting talent that fits with your culture. You know that creating a team of interdependent staff enables magical team performance. After all of that effort however, they will eventually leave. Today, the average employee stays at a job for only twenty-two months. Some leaders view employees leaving as a betrayal. Consequently they adopt the mindset, that if there is going to be a high turnover then why even bother trying to create a culture of trust.
When key employees leave it can be very difficult not to take it personally. Great leaders have the maturity to handle the inevitable when talented employees leave. Adopting the mindset that taking it personally, is self-sabotaging and in many ways, self -centered thinking. Great leaders realign their purpose in the challenging situation.
Quick note: There are industries like financial, governmental or that are highly competitive in nature, that don’t allow for leaders to engage with employees that have given notice. For those organizational types, some of the ideas will need to be carefully considered or modified before adopting.
Mindset and Behavior When Key Staff Members Leave
1. Prepare for the inevitable
Great leaders have prepared ahead of time in bringing up new leaders in key areas of their organization. They have a positive attitude that everything will work itself out. These leaders have cross- trained their staff and know that at least temporarily someone can step into a vacant position.
2. Schedule time to talk
Set a meeting with the valued employee. Ask them if they were bored in their current position. Are they restless? Do they know how much you care about them and that you don’t want them to leave? Ask them- If you were me what would you do differently as a leader? You might also ask the team member to contemplate how they would feel if the new opportunity called them and said that the position was no longer available. Would they be relieved or disappointed? Sometimes when someone knows how much you care it can be enough to change their mind.
3. Exit Interview
This is certainly not a new concept. I want to relay the sentiment however, that giving the valued team member a feeling that the door is open if the position is available, can go a long way in their decision- making process.
I have been on both sides of the table having been an employee and an employer. As an employee I went back to a job even though my old boss had left the company. The organization did such a great job of creating a culture of interdependence that I wanted to go back. Later in life when I became an employer, I did my best to create a similar culture and did have valuable employees return.
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