Your Star Performer Decides To Leave – Now What?

8th February 2021,

Dear leaders,

This week I wanted to provide you with a quick scenario that some of you are facing currently that will help with the next few months. 

It is the first few weeks into the team’s stride, you have grand plans to execute, you survived the most testing year in our lives, and you get the dreaded “Do you have five minutes?” teams message sent to you. 
You make a guess of what it is but you are unsure. 

You arrange a quick teams call, your team member looks nervous and cuts straight to the chase, I’ve been offered another role and I wanted to let you know.

The team member is the “star performer of the team”, the best at their job and the one you tended to rely on.  

Your heart sinks, you look at your own face in the camera box and catch your face full of disappointment and regret. 

Your reaction says it all, you say “congrats” and “you’re happy for them” and you say the cliche, “is there anything I can do to change your mind”.

The response is a polite no. 

If you are unsure why you landed here, you won’t be the only manager or leader to in January or February. 

Your reaction and next actions will set you and your team up for the future, yes speak to the rest of the leadership team and HR to find out if you can replace, this will be the first question your team asks.

Ask for the formalities from your departing colleague but most importantly take this opportunity to step up and become the leader you need to be, the team need and lead from the front and be the leader you likely didn’t have.  

Your next actions are critical: 

  • Arrange an exit interview, ask for the factors that led to your colleague wanting to leave, ask for full transparency, it is important you understand the decisions they made and how you could have improved the team or the role for that person. Even if you don’t want to hear what they say, transparency is essential
  • Set up times with the rest of the team/department individually to understand how they are feeling and how they can operate
  • Understand the morale of the team and the department and address the concerns and arrange actions that will help to bring the team or department closer together 
  • Transparently call out any issues you may have uncovered, show your workings out and how you will address this and how you would like the team to assist.
    Bringing the team closer together is essential when the high performer leaves. Many will want to step up, they will want to be asked
  • Team Design: Being deliberate about how the new team will shape is often an important step many overlook, replacing like for like might not the best for the team. Show how you are looking to reshape and design the team moving forward, consider those who are on the team and how there could be someone internally who can step up or move across to bring in a different set of skills. 
  • Break down the team goals and how you can focus the team’s efforts on the goal – focusing the team around the collective goals helps everyone to focus as a team and become together  
  • Arrange a timeline of the next actions and when they will take place, who you will want to be part of the process and think of how you can bring together the hidden leader and secret weapon together to help ask for their feedback and help coach them. 
  • Make time to discuss this situation with other leaders: Make time with your leadership team and discuss the steps you took and why you made the decisions you did, you likely would have brought this up at your management meeting but these steps will help those around you to improve their leadership skills. As suggested in management pods there always ways to grow as a leadership team. This is one.

This seems a daunting list however these are the most important actions you will take when this happens. The team will rely upon you and your leadership skills will come into question.
Your Company Culture is often shaped by those who leave and when they leave as much who those are in the business. Owning this and co-owning the performance moving forward is paramount.

Many times when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, you will need to operationally improve and make time to the leader, prioritise and attack, this is not the time to be on defence.

Have a good week and formalise this as a plan when this happens in the next few weeks.

Thanks and have a good week.

Danny Denhard.

Recommended Read: If you might struggle to gain support from the managers around you, consider reshaping into Management Pods

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