7 Things You Must Do When A Member of Your Team Leaves (And Does Not Leave Well)

Yesterday, I wrote about losing the star member of your team. You can read about that here.

Today, I want to focus on the issue of a member of your team leaving… and not leaving well.

It will happen. You will be rolling along and everything will be fine. Well, kind of fine. (I have found that 100 percent of the time, when a member of your team does not leave well, things were never fine.) But you get the idea. The team will be rolling along.

Then, Bam. One of your team members walks away giving no notice. Or you have to fire someone and it does not go well. Even worse, a member of your team leaves and raises hell on the way out, spreading all kinds of rumors about you and speaking horrible of your leadership.

If you have ever had this happen before, you know everything within the team becomes upended. For a season, you and your team will experience disruption in team culture, effectiveness and output.

What do you do?

  1. Get back to the purpose and vision…personally and privately. Whenever you have come through a season of upheaval or disruption on your team, get alone and remind yourself of the purpose and vision for your team. Where are you going? What is the end result? Keep focused on that. Often, in the hard times it is easy to get focused on the immediate concerns and issues as opposed to the broader vision and mission. Never let any circumstance – or any person – take your eyes off of the purpose and vision of the team.
  2. Assess your leadership…personally and privately. You will hear me say over and often, everything rises and falls on leadership. I say it because it is true. Which means everything that happens in your team/organization is a direct/indirect result of your leadership. If there is disruption/drama in your team/organization, you must accept some responsibility for this disruption/drama. I know this is hard to hear. It is even harder to internalize. Another person caused problems and it’s your fault? Not fully. But to some degree, yes. Maybe the fault you play is the fact that you hired the person in the first place. He/she was not a culture fit but you hired them anyways. Whatever the issue, you must take time to process what you must own this disruption and work to fix it. Do not process with anyone, especially your team, until you have taken the time to process it privately and personally. Be honest in your assessment of the employee, the situation and your role on this person’s not leaving well.
  3. Communicate vision with your team. When you are able to get with your team, get back to the basics. Communicate the purpose, vision and mission. Why do we exist? Where are we going? How will we reach our destination? Those are leadership questions your team will want to know and they will expect you to have the answers for this question. Always keep the vision in front of your team.
  4. Ask for feedback from your team. If a member of your team left poorly and was disenfranchised with you or the team, more than likely they are not the only one. They may have been the only one who voiced their frustration or quit out of frustration, but the disenfranchised employee is simply a symptom of other issues happening within your team. Be transparent with your team and allow them to be transparent with you. Let me repeat this: Allow them to be transparent with you. Ask your team what happened, from their perspective. Ask your team what you could have done better. Ask your team to be candid about any leadership deficits you may have. Listen. Really listen. Don’t make any quick decisions. Don’t defend your actions. Try to not say anything. Just listen. Thank your team for their honesty and let them know you need some time to process the feedback you heard. This kind of listening will be good for you and will model humility for your team.
  5. Reassess your leadership…personally and privately. Get alone, again, and reassess your leadership based on the feedback you received from the team. Dive in and be honest with yourself. This is the work of a truly great leader. More than likely you are doing the absolute best you can with the tools you have. However, every leader has blind spots. If you are witnessing frustration in your team, there is something within the team – and within your leadership – you are missing. This frustration is a symptom of one of your blind spots. Don’t be frustrated with your team and their frustration. Work to get to the root cause of the frustration and see what you can do to allege the frustration within the team. This takes absolute humility on your part. Reflection is never easy. Taking feedback from your team is never easy. Yet, this is how to develop yourself and your team.
  6. Make new commitments with yourself and the team. Once you have reflected on the feedback you have received from your team, make new commitments with yourself and with the team. Share these commitments openly with your team. Nothing will grow your team’s trust in you more than you letting your team know you heard them and you are willing to make the necessary changes to create a more empowering environment for them. You do not need to change everything about you. Many of your traits got you to where you are today. Yet, I am reminded on the Marshall Goldsmith quote: “What got you here won’t get you there.” While you should not change everything about you, you must be open to changing those things about you that are hindering your team’s effectiveness.
  7. Move forward with class. Now that you have processed everything personally and with your team, move forward with dignity and courage. Make the necessary adjustments. Keep reflecting. Be humble enough to allow your team to hold you accountable to the new commitments you made. Don’t beat yourself up for any mistakes you may have made. Just don’t make them again. A great leader learns from his mistakes and never repeats them again. As the saying goes, a mistake made twice is a choice. Be humble and move forward.

Admitting mistakes is hard. Leadership is hard. Being a leader and having to admit you made a mistake is even harder.

Use the separation of any team member as an opportunity for growth and development for and your team.

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