What’s the biggest mistake you can make when a valuable employee gets another career opportunity?
Almost 20 years ago, I made a career switch. I had been selling copy machines for years coming out of college, and in 2004, I had an opportunity to work for a company that provided a leadership development course.
Two partners, great guys, ran the copier company where I worked. I considered them friends, and I wanted to tell them that I was leaving individually, face to face. They had two completely different responses.
One of them said, “Eric, congratulations, I know you’re going to do a killer job, go and kick some ass.”
The other guy said, “You know Eric, I’m not sure it’s a fit for you. I think you might be better suited in the position that you’re in, continuing to contribute to the organization”. I had a sense that he was coming from a selfish place. If I left, I wouldn’t be generating sales for that organization, negatively impacting them. It’s a natural perspective for a business owner to have, but it’s wrong.
Talented people don’t always stick around.
Think about it when a project manager or executive gets an opportunity in a different geography or with another company or maybe in a different part of the construction industry.
It’s easy to react with frustration when they tell you they’re leaving. You might be mad because you’re losing a talented individual. You’ve got a project they’re working on or clients they’re dealing with, and now you’ve got to go through the hassle of replacing them.
Give them plenty of reasons to stick around, pay them well, and make sure the culture that you have is one where they’ll want to stay, but if they do leave and they leave for the right reasons, shake hands, part friends, and don’t make that mistake of discouraging people from pursuing their career goals.
A life-changing decision
I gladly accepted the first partner’s encouragement, ignored the second partner’s reservations, and took the new opportunity.
That decision to leave the copier industry and start working in leadership development led directly to where I am today. If I hadn’t made that decision, I never would have started my own business, and you would not be reading this post.
How should you act when talented people leave?
When talented people leave your organization, and they’re leaving for the right reasons, don’t be like the partner who told me to stay. Shake hands and part friends. Encourage them to excel and don’t burn bridges. You never know how your paths may cross in the future.
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