Things don’t always go according to plan – that is what makes being in charge a constant challenge. Changing, adapting, planning and re-planning, organizing and re-organizing.
One of the most devastating things that can happen in an organization is your talent deciding to leave – it’s a little more painful when they leave for the competition. When you get that resignation letter, a lot of things happen inside your head – especially if you didn’t see it coming. All your best laid plans are undone, your ego is a little hurt, you are mad, maybe even feel betrayed. So, what’s a leader to do?
THIS IS A LEADERSHIP MOMENT
As I mentioned in a previous blog, everyone is watching how you handle this. Not only is it an opportunity to shine as a leader it’s an opportunity to grow. The first question you should ask yourself is “why does this person want to leave?” It usually isn’t about money, but most employers immediately jump to that conclusion – they must have been lured away by the competition with money. Most of the time that is not the case – most of the time the person is unhappy with their work situation in more than one way. Happy, satisfied employees decline offers from head hunters or the other guys.
ASK THE QUESTION AND LISTEN TO THE ANSWER. THEN ASK MORE QUESTIONS
Put all of your concerns about what this is going to do to you aside and ask them what the reasons are they want to leave. Make sure you really listen to their answers, and ask follow up questions. It does not matter if you agree with anything they are saying – it only matters that it is the situation from their perspective. Your agreement is not required. Don’t let emotions get a hold of you – it may be difficult but it is necessary. An open environment where you get the real deal is vitally important for a leadership learning experience. This is not the time for blame or hard feelings. Chances are, they have either told you about these concerns before, or at least tried to have the discussion.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR
The mirror is the first place you should look when assessing why this has happened. It does not mean that you personally are to blame, it just means that this was probably preventable. What can you (either as an individual or as an organization) have done to prevent this from happening? What can you do to prevent more people from leaving?
Ideally, you should never be surprised when someone decides to leave. If you are paying attention to your people, setting aside individual time for them to discuss their concerns openly with you, then you can either prevent it or you will see it coming.
The most common reasons for changing jobs are:
* Feeling insecure -not sure if your doors will be open next week or not sure if they have a future at your company
* Feeling unappreciated
* Feeling overworked
* Feeling invisible – upper management doesn’t even know my name
* Feeling they do not have value – can be easily replaced
* Feeling untrusted – too much micromanagement, too many meaningless rules.
A couple things to notice here – money is not on this list, and the word feeling is all over it.
What matters is how people FEEL. When someone says “I don’t feel appreciated here” the correct response is “what would make you feel appreciated?”, not “we appreciate you!” Saying it does not make it so – showing it is what makes it real ( I flash to my first speech contest as a kid – “actions speak louder than words” – as it turns out it is true!
Asking questions and really taking the responses to heart is how we learn to improve as leaders.
Change takes time, dedication, and work. Employee turnover is one of the biggest cost impacts a business will face. The time and energy invested in creating an environment that will keep the talent coming back into your door every morning is well worth the investment. After a while, it’s not work anymore – it’s a company culture that will pay dividends for decades to come.