Monday, June 20, 2016

Why do people leave when a new manager joins and what can you do about it

Case 1: He was hired to take over from the outgoing CIO who had spent fair amount of time building the technology foundation for business efficiency. The outgoing person was moving to greener pastures globally so no one grudged him his departure nor there was a question of holding him back. The new CIO was happy to join a growing IT savvy business which offered an easy journey with a team that had created success. Settling down within a month he found himself facing the exit of a key direct report.

The exit interview revealed nothing that would give him an inkling of the cause for departure; digging with the team who had started trusting him, the CIO realized that the outgoing person wanted his position badly for which he had lobbied hard with the CEO and the promoters leaving no stone unturned. Finally when the new CIO had joined, it was evident that he will have to go elsewhere to fulfil his aspirations. As soon as he got an opportunity, he decided to leave salvaging some pride in the process.

Unfulfilled aspirations do trigger such behavior; people leave organizations feeling jilted when they are unable to make the grade. Few are able to recognize that they may not have the requisite experience and soft skills or leadership qualities required for the role. Technical competency and/or domain expert does not necessarily make the ideal candidate for the head role. You need to be a team player and have the ability to manage a team among other skills that almost every self-help book will advise you on.

Case 2: The incumbent had exited unceremoniously; few knew what caused the departure and they were not going to talk. While in position he had taken bold steps towards progress, also stepping on a few toes with his brazen high professional expertise attitude. Most initiatives floundered later, the team unable to deliver to promise which appeared untenable now. The position lay vacant for a while; after a prolonged search the replacement came on board to face a resignation handed to him on day 1 !

Taking it in his stride, he wondered if he was the cause; the person was a key resource who had not spent too long in the company. The profile did not match the role he had taken on so it was not a case of the person being ignored for the role. The plans for organization transformation outlined to him during the interview process made it imperative that he retain existing talent while he also needed to hire from the outside. He reached out to his mentor who knew the organization well, for help.

It was partially coincidence though triggered by undue pressure had precipitated the resignation. The role was demanding and she was in a leadership position of that magnitude for the first time; the team was challenged and unable to rise to the occasion resulting in uncomfortable review meetings for her. After the last all hands meeting which had caused some embarrassing moments, she had decided to seek career building opportunities elsewhere; the timing went against the new leadership hire.

In both cases it was up to the new leader to accept the event and demonstrate skills on how to manage the situation. Even though decades apart their approach was quite similar; their agendas well set on future direction, both were capable of execution. Go getters with divergent personal styles, they rose to the challenge and hit the ground running. A year later they had their respective organizations on path to glory, benefits accrued from projects undertaken, their credibility high internally and externally.

He spent a couple of days with the team understanding current status and impact of the resignation; reworking the team and tactically supplementing with outsourced resources, he reached out to the network seeking past colleagues and industry acquaintances to join his journey. His received an overwhelming response from the ecosystem and hired quickly to fill the gap. Industry reputation being largely positive, people were attracted to the Talent Magnet willing to be part of success that they knew will eventually come.

Personally I have always been against retracting a resignation or offering a sweetened deal to anyone who has shown inclination to leave; it sets a precedent for others to test waters and impacts morale of others who feel trapped if they do not have the same level of criticality for their roles. I have observed many companies suffer such employees, unwilling to take the step that is eventual until a new leader does it. Organizations are resilient and they recover loss of founders, high performers and charismatic leaders.

Someone taught me a long time ago “If there is a critical resource in your team, fire him” !

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