If you're like most companies, you have people leave all the time. They generally fall into one of three buckets:
-People in the middle. You don't want them to go, but your business won't collapse if they leave. It's hard to get fired up as a result.
-Key People. Losing people in this category really hurts. You probably were moved to make a counter offer, but they still left. It's going to be hard to replace them.
Now I could go on a rant and talk about how many people actually belong in the "key people" bucket and who's actually not replaceable - it's a smaller number than most of us think. But I'll spare you that rant today.
Instead, let's talk about communications. What do you do when a truly key person decides to take his/her talents elsewhere? Do you send them a public thank you, wish them well, etc? Or do you take it personally and subtlety let everyone in the organization know that they've made a mistake, and you're going to crush them"?
What? Too harsh? Hang with me for a second. Let's look at the example the Los Angeles Lakers (pro basketball) and their star Kobe Bryant set when fellow superstar Dwight Howard opted to sign with another team. More on celebrating departures from the Big Lead:
"Clevelanders reacted to LeBron James’ Decision by burning his jersey en masse. Kobe Bryant reacted to Dwight Howard’s Decision in a healthier and less demonstrative way. Not long after D12 announced his intentions to take his talents to Houston, Bryant posted this warm and fuzzy picture of himself and longtime teammate Pau Gasol to Instagram.
The caption translated means “we go together, Lakers heart, wine.” It’s throwing severe shade in any language.
Bryant also took the step of unfollowing Howard on Twitter, so his social media rebuttal is now complete."
It's easy to do what's expected when a key, talented person leaves your team and wish them well, etc. - which basically signals to all that you're OK with it and expect it. One unexpected cost of that is that everyone on your team sees that the cost of leaving - The professional relationship with you, the company, etc - is pretty low.
No bridges burned? Great? Let me start looking for another job! There's no cost!
Everyone does what's expected in this area. Look around - no one is really making it us vs them when key people decide to leave your company.
In fact, the celebratory emails when people leave have gone far enough that I'm going to zig why the world zags. I think you'll get more attention and loyalty if you figure out a way to channel a little Kobe Bryant the next time a key person decides to jump ship. So much so, I'm going to noodle on it and give you five ways to tell the team that remains it's "us vs them" the next time a key person leaves. I'll try to get that out next week.
Got a good strategy to help me build the list? Hit me in the comments. Until then, start thinking about what you do when key people (not just anyone) choose to leave your company.
Are you messaging that you expect key people to leave? Probably. Is that what you want to do? Probably not.