Be Approachable…

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I realized that most of the advice I’ve passed along through my experiences has come from the positive stories, for the most part. So today’s Simple Advice comes from a recent experience I may not have been able to change, but one where I could have done things differently as a leader in the past, for sure. So I hope you can learn from my mistake on this one.

As you grow in your leadership role, it won’t take long until you’re faced with someone putting in their notice to leave the company. This month, we lost two team members who had been with us for over 3 years. As a leader, you hate losing anyone, but it’s especially painful to lose someone who you’ve invested in for several years.

Multiply that by two for this story.

Today’s advice is this…

Do everything you can to ensure your followers know you are always approachable and will allow them to be honest with you about anything in their professional situation.

Back to the story…

These guys resigned to go into business for themselves and build a company. This fact alone brings a few different emotions. As a leader, I hope I had some impact on their development that will prepare them for success as business owners.

That’s the positive emotion.

But…

As I thought about it later the day they resigned, I asked myself what could I have done differently to make them feel they could have come to me earlier, without fear of consequence, and let me know this was in their plans.

Because the rough part of losing someone (much less two people) is the time it takes to hire and train a replacement. And a two week notice just doesn’t give you the time.

So what can you do day to day, to create this environment of trust?

First, that trust goes both ways so your team has to know you trust them. If you’ve demonstrated a lack of trust in any of them, you can forget about them being honest with you in a situation like this.

Second, tell them it’s OK.

Really.

Tell them you want them to come to you if they’re ever thinking about leaving.

If it’s to go into business for themselves, you have an opportunity to do what few leaders will do…help them transition for success. And they just might help you find and train their replacement.

If it’s that they’re unhappy in their current position, or that they don’t see a clear path to the next opportunity, the fact that they can come to you and be honest gives you the chance to help solve that problem for them. If you can help them be successful within the organization, everyone wins. They get a role that fits them better, and you don’t have to lose someone who has value in the organization.

Now, some more honesty. It’s a little naive to believe that everyone in your care will be willing to come to you and open up, even if you’ve done all this well. Some people will never be comfortable taking a risk and opening up about a possible career move.

But this Simple Advice isn’t for them, it’s for you. Whether or not everyone on your team will take you up on it, it’s still important for you to provide that environment. And to let them know it’s real. You can control that, even if they don’t take you up on it.

I hope you never have to experience losing a high quality team member, especially if there’s something you could have done differently to prevent it. But as you advance as a leader it will be likely to happen. So before you’re faced with that situation, extend trust to your team, and be trustworthy with the little things so they’ll know you can be trusted with something much bigger.

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