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5 Principles of Purposeful Leadership

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Growing up, I thought successful leaders were supposed to figure out all the answers on their own. Being smart — and making sure everyone else knew it — seemed to be their most striking attribute. The best schools were supposed to lead to the best jobs, which produced the best leaders. Power, fame, glory, and money were the measure of professional success. Early in my career, prominent business leaders like GE’s Jack Welch were revered for their intellect, strategic sense, and hard-charging style. They were considered infallible geniuses, inspiring a quasi-cult following.

This traditional model of the leader-hero who saves the day, knows it all, is the smartest person in the room, and is too often driven by power, fame, glory, or money is not appropriate in today’s environment. This is true for several reasons:

  • Today’s fast-changing, complex, and unpredictable environment necessitates a different kind of leadership. Nobody can claim to have all the answers to solve the complex crises we’re facing, and the most adaptable organizations are those in which decisions are being decentralized.
  • With the idea that a company’s purpose is about far more than making money gaining ground, the hard-charging, profit-optimizing hero-leader model has lost much of its appeal.
  • An increasing number of employees now value authenticity and connection over a facade of strength and infallibility.
  • The nature of work has changed from the more mechanical, repetitive type to jobs that require ingenuity and creativity.
  • Successful hero-leaders can easily start believing that they’re untouchable and, ultimately, indispensable. It’s easy to be seduced by power, fame, glory, and money. It’s easy to become disconnected from reality and from colleagues, surrounded by sycophants and yay-sayers.

Unsurprisingly, people today expect a different kind of leader. While each company needs to define its own leadership point of view, here’s the philosophy we deployed at Best Buy as part of our surprising turnaround and resurgence. It’s based on five attributes — five “Be’s” — of what I believe characterizes leaders who are able to unleash the kind of human magic you see at work at some of the most high-performing companies. This philosophy underpins the leadership principles that I believe are at The Heart of Business today.

Be clear about your purpose.

That is, your purpose, the purpose of those around you, and how that connects to your company’s purpose.

The staggering number of employees leaving their jobs or seriously thinking about it over the last several months has shed renewed light on the pre-Covid realization that purpose, both individual and collective, is at the heart of business. I’ve written about several aspects of corporate purpose, from how to define it and make it come to life to why it’s an essential element of motivation. For corporate purpose to be successful, leaders themselves must first be clear about what drives them and the people around them.

Corie Barry, my successor as CEO of Best Buy, once shared with me that her personal purpose is to leave something a little better than when she found it, which she connects to the company’s mission to enrich lives through technology. Every day, she maintains her connection with that purpose by asking herself how things at Best Buy were a little better that day because she was there.

Just as crucial for leaders is understanding what drives people around them. Recently, a CEO I coach felt members of his team worked primarily to advance their own functional areas rather than the organization as a whole. Together, we realized that, although he was clear on his own purpose and his organization’s, he didn’t know much about what drove the people around him. Without that knowledge, he was unable to help connect their purposes with the organization’s and to provide a common, overarching pull for all team members.

Be clear about your role.

A leader’s key role is to create energy and momentum — especially when circumstances are dire. It’s to help others see possibilities and potential, creating energy, inspiration, and hope. I would have dismissed this idea 30 years ago, but it’s essential to the role of a purposeful leader. As Dolly Parton is thought to have said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

The late Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s video message to employees during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic powerfully illustrates this “Be.” He first offered support to employees directly affected by the virus. He then explained that the pandemic was severely battering Marriott’s hospitality business and what the company was doing to mitigate the crisis. There was no sugarcoating, but no panic either. Finally, he focused on signs of recovery in China before concluding on a hopeful note, projecting to the day when people would start traveling again. His message was honest, heartfelt, and moving, while at the same time uplifting and inspiring.

You cannot choose circumstances, but you can control your mindset. Your mindset determines whether you generate hope, inspiration, and energy around you — or bring everyone down. So, choose well. I was reminded of this every morning when I worked at Carlson. A statue of Curt Carlson, the company founder, stood in the lobby of the company’s headquarters, engraved with the words Illegitimi non carborundum — mock Latin best translated as “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

More generally, your role as a leader is to create the right environment for others to flourish in support of the company’s purpose. For example, under Reed Hastings, Netflix, a company whose purpose is to “entertain the world,” has created a culture of “freedom with responsibility” that values people over process and innovation over efficiency, resulting in growth and reinvention that have defied all expectations.

Be clear about whom you serve.

Hint: It’s not yourself.

A fundamental element of purposeful leadership is to be clear about who you serve in your position, both during good and challenging times. As a leader, you must serve the people on the front lines, driving the business. You serve your colleagues. You serve your board of directors. You serve the people around you, by first understanding what they need to give their best so you can do your best to support them.

In fact, view everyone as a customer. The way you treat airline employees or waitstaff, for example, will greatly influence the service you receive. This is a lesson that a top executive in one of the companies where I used to work learned the hard way. He was once stuck in an airport after his flight had been canceled. While standing in line at the service desk, waiting to get rerouted, he lost his patience and marched to the front of the queue. “Do you know who I am?” he hissed to the person behind the desk. “Ladies and gentlemen, I need your help,” said the airline employee, addressing travelers in the queue. “We have a case of forgotten identity. This man here does not know who he is!”

It takes vigilance and a healthy dose of self-awareness to avoid sliding into the trap set by power, fame, glory, and money. Before speaking or acting, be clear about your motivation and whom you’re trying to serve. “If you believe you’re serving yourself, your boss, or me as the CEO of the company, it’s okay — it’s your choice,” I once said to the officers of Best Buy. “But then you should not work here. You should be promoted to customer.” I meant that there was no room at Best Buy for people whose main purpose was to advance their own interests. Some leaders think that having sharp elbows and listening to their ego will serve their career. But as my friend Jim Citrin, who leads Spencer Stuart’s CEO practice, wisely remarked: “The best leaders don’t climb their way to the top over the backs of others, they are carried to the top.” And serving others is how it happens.

Be driven by values.

When I worked for McKinsey early in my career, I sought some leadership advice from one of my partners. “Tell the truth and do what’s right,” he said.

For the most part, we all agree on what is right: honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, and compassion. On paper, every company has great values. But values are no good if they remain on paper. Being driven by values is doing right, not just knowing or saying what’s right. A leader’s role is to live by these values, explicitly promote them, and make sure they’re part of the fabric of the business.

Johnson & Johnson, for example, is famous for its credo, first written in 1943 by the company founder’s son. Its opening sentence reads: “We believe our first responsibility is to the patients, doctors and nurses, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.”

The company’s decision in 1982 to quickly stop its production of Tylenol, one of its bestselling products, and voluntarily recall all 31 million bottles that had already been distributed throughout the country, illustrates how the company leaders lived by its credo. The decision was made after several people in the Chicago area had died after ingesting tablets that were found to have been contaminated with cyanide. While the recall was costly in the short term, it is widely remembered as a model of good leadership and crisis management.

Doing what is right is not always simple, of course, particularly during crises, when overwhelming stress and pressure can obscure our sense of values. Harry Kraemer, professor of leadership at Kellogg and an executive partner with the private equity firm Madison Dearborn, points out that one of the main principles for leaders to embrace is to firmly believe that they are going to do the right thing and do the best they can. If you surround yourself with people you trust and whose values align with yours and the organization’s, you don’t have to figure out on your own what’s right in these situations. You will determine the right thing together, and then act on it the best you can.

Being driven by values also means knowing when to leave when you’re not aligned with your environment, be it your colleagues, your boss, your board, or your company’s values and purpose. Have the wisdom to know the difference between what you can and cannot change, as the saying goes.

Be authentic.

When I stepped down from Best Buy in 2020, I sent an email to our senior leaders and board members and a farewell video to all company employees. “I love you!” was the title of the email. I concluded the video to employees with similar feelings. Laying bare my heart and my soul in this way would have been unthinkable a few years before. Like many leaders of my generation, I long believed that emotions were not meant to be shared in a business context. I have been told that the longest journey you’ll ever take is the 18 inches between your head and your heart.

It’s a long and arduous journey indeed, and it took me a lifetime to embrace the fifth (and for me by far the hardest) “Be”: Be yourself, your true self, your whole self, the best version of yourself. Be vulnerable. Be authentic. Being vulnerable and authentic does not mean offloading everything to your colleagues. For leaders, it means sharing emotions and struggles when appropriate and helpful to others.

As many of us were forced to work from home over video over the past two years, we revealed more of our whole selves — children, dogs, cats, wifi problems, etc. This was not always comfortable or easy. But we all had to see each other in a new light, as full human beings. Employees expect leaders too to be human. This starts with making ourselves vulnerable, including by acknowledging what we do not know. Brené Brown points out that vulnerability is at the heart of social connection. And social connection, in turn, is at the heart of business.

. . .

The way we lead has profound implications on people around us and how we do business. We cannot transform companies, and more generally capitalism, unless we reflect on who we are as leaders, and particularly on the following questions:

  • Have you decided what kind of leader you want to be?
  • How would you describe your purpose?
  • How would you describe your role?
  • What are you doing to create an environment in which others can thrive and flourish?
  • Who are you serving?
  • What values define you?
  • Are you doing your best to be authentic, approachable, and vulnerable?

So, start with yourself. Be the leader you’re meant to be. Be the change you want to see.

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Distributed work is here to stay — how your business can adapt

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Close the gap

It’s no secret that the business world and working environments have changed drastically since 2020. With fierce competition in recruiting for skilled labor becoming a critical issue for businesses, having employees in varied locations around the U.S. or even internationally has become an increasingly common solution. It looks like this distributed work model is here for the long haul, so it’s time to get your business on board.

What is distributed work?

Distributed work is defined as a business that has one or more employees who work in different physical locations. This can range from having different in-person office locations, remote work or a blend of the two — often termed “hybrid work.” Large companies having a distributed workforce is nothing new, as having multiple locations allows companies to meet more of their customers’ needs.

The difference now, though, is the massive increase in remote work triggered in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, ramped-up competition for skilled workers, and how those factors have combined to impact smaller businesses.

If you’re struggling to keep up with today’s workforce demands, take heart. Distributed work can provide some solutions.

Millennial and Gen Z workers strongly prefer flexible working environments and a distributed work policy fits into that preference nicely. Additionally, distributed work structures have the benefits of increased access to international talent, more productive employees and higher job satisfaction.

How to adapt your small business for distributed work

Making the leap to a distributed workforce can feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Software solutions tailored specifically for supporting a distributed work environment can help ease the transition and make your business run efficiently.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at important adaptations needed to bring your small business up to speed for distributed work and how to accomplish them.

  • Get your business security up to date.
  • Tap into global talent pools.
  • Maintain quality communication between employees.

Let’s take a closer look at each point below.

Get your business security up to date

When remote work exploded in early 2020 due to COVID-19 office closures, it quickly became obvious that improvements to business security protocols were necessary. Now with many businesses planning how their company will operate going forward, security continues to be a crucial consideration.

What are some security considerations important for businesses with distributed work environments? Here are a handful of important security features you’ll want to think about:

1. Avoid losing business documents with automatic saves

The stress from losing hard work or entire documents altogether is something most people have dealt with at some point. Having to backtrack and redo lost work is tedious and unproductive.

The best way to avoid that ordeal? Automated saves.

With Microsoft 365, your Office documents are automatically saved for you. Whether it’s a document in the company Sharepoint or in your own OneDrive account, your hard work won’t go to waste.

Additionally, Sharepoint allows your company to collaborate on documentation without having to worry about whether the current document is the correct version. An average of 83% of the current workforce loses time daily due to document versioning issues. Microsoft 365 makes it easy to avoid lost time and frustration, with the added benefit of simplifying collaboration.

2. Maintain business security across all user devices

In the United States, 68% of organizations reported being hit by a public cloud security incident when polled in 2020. Attacks like these can cripple your business’ productivity and lower public perception of your company as a whole.

Both Sharepoint and OneDrive offer multiple layers of security to keep your business documentation safe on the cloud servers themselves, including:

  • Virus scanning for documents
  • Suspicious activity monitoring
  • Password protected sharing links
  • Real-time security monitoring with dedicated intrusion specialists
  • Ransomware detection and recovery

With these built-in protections, you can keep your company safe no matter where your company’s distributed work happens.

3. Adopt company-wide security policies

Effective company security policies protect your organization’s data by clearly outlining employee responsibilities with regard to what information needs to be safeguarded and why.

Having clear guidelines set ensures that both your company information and your employees are safe from security threats.

Items to include in your security policy might include:

  • Remote work policies
  • Password update policies
  • Data retention policies
  • Employee training guidelines
  • Disaster recovery policies

This list obviously isn’t exhaustive, so we’d recommend using a security risk assessment tool to pinpoint specific areas your business should address.

Note: Social engineering and phishing are major security threats for businesses of all sizes. To avoid becoming a target, your company must implement strong security practices for your users. For example, using a secure two-factor authentication setup can help prevent unauthorized users from accessing company documents.

4. Ensure communications are secured

Having a distributed work environment tends to mean that most (if not all) communications occur digitally. As such, keeping digital communications secure should be a top consideration.

Using Microsoft 365, you can ensure that your communication remains encrypted.

If video calls are a major part of your business needs, Microsoft Teams offers robust encryption for your calls. Additionally, email through Microsoft 365 offers top-tier anti-phishing protection for your business.

To learn more about available tools for secure business communication, refer to the Microsoft documentation here.

Tap into global talent pools

world map on a computer

The pandemic triggered a drastic reshuffling of how workers view their jobs, leading to what has been dubbed the Great Resignation. In the United States, more than 11 million jobs were sitting unfilled as of January 2022. With jobless claims on the decline, the domestic labor pool is small and competitive.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed as a small company attempting to attract talent in the current labor market. You’ll want to ensure that you’re offering competitive wages and benefits, but it can be difficult to go toe-to-toe with large corporations.

However, this is another instance where distributed work can help. One solution? International talent.

The distributed work model makes employing remote workers worldwide more seamless than ever before.

A few considerations here to keep in mind, though.

  • You’ll need to apply for certification from the U.S. Department of Labor to hire outside the country.
  • Be aware of additional taxes that might result.

For more information, review the official documentation for this process.

Note: The same standards do not apply to international contractors, but there are special considerations for contractors as well. Read this guide for more details.

Maintain quality communication between employees

Successful businesses rely on open communication for everything from keeping employees up to date on company information to maintaining morale. Let’s go over a few ways to implement quality communication in a distributed work environment.

1. Cultivate a healthy work environment

Company culture can feel like an afterthought when your teams work separately from each other. However, cultivating a strong company culture is vital, especially for distributed work environments.

The first step here is to clearly define the company culture that you want. By setting the company standards early, your employees will be able to benefit from a solid starting point.

Second, reinforce the culture that you’d like to create. Setting goals, establishing performance metrics, fostering accountability, building trust with employees, and being open to feedback from workers all help reinforce a healthy company culture.

And third, it’s important to prioritize the mental and physical health of your employees. Encourage vacation time, allow for flexible working arrangements, and make mental health support a priority.

2. Foster open communication

Digital communication is key for distributed work environments, so keeping open and transparent channels for communication is imperative.

Email and chat tools are communication fundamentals, but fostering communication itself can feel a bit daunting.

Here are a few suggestions on building healthy communication for your distributed work teams:

  • Make empathy a priority.
  • Greet employees every day.
  • Create a virtual water cooler to encourage socialization.
  • Announce company updates directly.
  • Give recognition and feedback regularly.

By encouraging clear, focused — but also fun — communication, your teams will grow to trust each other and interteam collaboration can flourish.

Distributed work is the ‘new normal’

Building your business toward a distributed work model is a solid investment in growing your company in the future. Tools like Microsoft 365 offer an all-in-one solution to take the pain out of transitioning your business, so take charge of your business’ future today.



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To Get Results, the Best Leaders Both Push and Pull Their Teams

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Over the past year, there has been a call for leaders to be less demanding and more empathetic toward individual employees. To get results, managers needed to rely on “pull” — giving employees a say in how they carry a task out and using inspiration and motivation to get them going. But an analysis of thousands of 360-degree assessments showed that the most effective leaders also know how to “push” — drive for results by telling people what to do and holding them accountable. The takeaway? Your efforts to increase empathy shouldn’t diminish your ability to, on occasion, push when needed. The data shows that it can be a strong force that builds confidence among employees. The key is to know when to use which approach, depending on the task, the timing, and the people.

When you see a task that needs to be accomplished by your team, do you “push” them to get it done or do you “pull” them in, giving them a say in how they carry it out and using inspiration and motivation to get them going? These are two very different approaches to reach a goal, and the latter is often the best one, but knowing how to combine these two paths is an important skill for managers and leaders.

Take this example from a client of ours. There had been an ongoing discussion about the company’s policies around the environment and sustainability. The CEO had allowed debate and encouraged everyone to weigh in. The CEO strongly supported the need for change but allowed time for ample discussion (using the pull approach). However, two members of the executive team were naysayers and dragged their feet on enacting any of the proposed initiatives. After two months of inaction, the CEO announced to the team that the company was going to implement two initiatives and stated that everyone needed to get on board (moving to the push approach). One of the executives balked at this and made clear he wouldn’t support the initiatives. The CEO terminated him by the end of the week (using the ultimate push approach).

Leaders who are willing to try hard with pulling but ultimately resort to a strong push provide a good example of the power of the combination of these two approaches. Pushing too hard can erode satisfaction but, at times, is needed, especially when pulling just doesn’t work.

In our research, my colleague Jack Zenger and I identified two leadership behaviors directed at the same end goal but utilizing opposite approaches. We call one behavior “driving for results” (push), and the other “inspiring and motivating others” (pull). Let me define what I mean.

Defining Pushing and Pulling

When a leader identifies a goal that they want to accomplish, there are two distinct paths to get there.

Pushing involves giving direction, telling people what to do, establishing a deadline, and generally holding others accountable. It is on the “authoritarian” end of the leadership style spectrum.

Pulling, on the other hand, involves describing to a direct report a needed task, explaining the underlying reason for it, seeing what ideas they might have on how to best accomplish it, and asking if they are willing to take it on. The leader can further enhance the pull by describing what this project might do for the employee’s development. Ideally, the leader’s energy and enthusiasm for the goal are contagious.

Gathering data from over 100,000 leaders through our 360-degree assessments, we measured both push and pull and found that 76% of the leaders were rated by their peers as more competent at pushing than pulling. Only 22% of the leaders were rated as better at pulling, and a mere 2% were rated as equal on both skills.

We also asked the people rating those leaders (over 1.6 million people) which skill was more important for a leader to do well to be successful in their current job. Pulling (inspiring others) was rated as the most important, while pushing (driving for results) was rated as fifth most important.

Understanding What People Want and Need

While our data is clear that most leaders could benefit from improving their ability to pull or inspire others, our research revealed that leaders who were effective at both pushing and pulling were ultimately the most effective.

We gathered 360-degree assessment data on 3,875 leaders in the pandemic. In this analysis, we did the following:

  • The direct reports rated the leader’s effectiveness on both pushing (driving for results) and pulling (inspiring and motivating others).
  • The direct reports were also asked to rate their confidence that the organization would achieve its strategic goals and their satisfaction with their organization as a place to work.
  • We ranked leaders’ data on pushing and pulling into quartiles and identified those who were low (bottom quartile) and high (top quartile).

The results are captured in the chart below. When both push and pull are in the bottom quartile, both confidence and satisfaction of direct reports are low. When push is high and pull is low, both confidence and satisfaction increase. When pull is high, satisfaction increases to a level substantially above confidence. When both are high, then you see the most significant increase. (Note: High confidence and satisfaction were measured by the percentage of people who marked 5 on a 5-point scale. This is a very high bar for satisfaction.)

Bringing Push and Pull Together

As many leaders across the globe grapple with retention and how to prevent their employees from joining the Great Resignation, they’re asking themselves hard questions. How do you motivate people to stay? How do you encourage them to increase their efforts? What is it they really want and need from their work environments?

Over the past few years, there has been a call for leaders to be less demanding and more empathetic toward individual employees. More pull, less push seemed to be what’s needed to retain talented employees. While I agree with this sentiment, this data also offers a clear warning. Your efforts to increase empathy shouldn’t diminish your ability to, on occasion, push when needed. As our data shows that it can be a strong force that builds confidence.

In fact, your influence as a leader comes from your ability to know when to use which approach, depending on the task, the timing, and the people. So next time you’re trying to accomplish a significant goal, consider whether your team really needs a good push, a big pull, or perhaps both.

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How to Respond When an Employee Quits

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Someone giving notice doesn’t have to be the end of the world or the end of a relationship. In this article, the author offers advice for how to respond in a constructive and professional way when someone says they’re quitting. First, take a moment to digest the news. It’s okay to show you’re surprised or to say something like, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.” The last thing you want to do is react impulsively and say something you might regret that would leave the individual with a negative impression of you and the organization. Notice and manage any in-the-moment reactions and depersonalize the news. It’s also important to show your support and genuine interest in why they’re leaving and what they’re going to do next. And make sure to get alignment on what they need and what you need from them before they leave to ensure a smooth transition. It may involve some give and take and could include finishing a specific project or set of tasks, training others to take over these responsibilities to minimize disruption, or even hiring their replacement. Using these strategies can help all parties move on in a positive way.

With over four million people quitting their jobs each month during the first quarter of 2022 and 44% of workers currently looking for new jobs, it’s entirely possible that someone on your team could leave in the near term. And it may not be the person you thought it would be — or hoped it would be. It could come as a total surprise to you and be a key contributor on your team, someone with whom you really enjoy working and who has great potential in your organization. So, how do you respond when this person gives their notice?

While there are several things you should not do — like take it personally, belittle their new opportunity, or give them a guilt trip (among others) — there are six key elements to ensuring that you respond in a constructive and professional manner while processing the surprising news.

Take a beat

First, take a moment to digest the news. It’s okay to show you’re surprised or to say something like, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.” The last thing you want to do is react impulsively and say something you might regret that would leave the individual with a negative impression of you and the organization.

Notice and manage any in-the-moment reactions

During this momentary pause, take a breath and try to discern precisely what it is that you’re feeling. Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, shares that naming our emotions is the first step in dealing with them. Try to be as specific as possible. In addition to being surprised, you may feel frustrated, discouraged, hurt, deflated, betrayed, angry, miffed, irked, or deeply disappointed or just plain sad. There are many subtle flavors of negative emotions, and parsing out the specific emotion you’re feeling will help you create greater self-awareness and enable you to process your feelings more effectively and respond more constructively.

It’s when we’re not conscious of these negative emotions that they can unexpectedly emerge from below the surface, triggering unconstructive, reflexive comments or behaviors that you may later regret, such as lashing out or making a sarcastic jab or snide remark. It’s ill advised to share that you feel betrayed or angry, even if that’s the case — here, discretion is the better part of valor. However, if you’re sad or disappointed, it’s okay to say, “I’m so sad you’re leaving, but it sounds like a great opportunity. We’re going to miss you.”

Depersonalize the news

When we feel hurt or betrayed by such departures, it’s because we take the news personally. Even if you could stand to improve as a manager (let’s face it, we can all find ways in which we can do better), their departure is not a statement about your personal worth or how good you are as a person, so it’s best to put your ego to the side and rise above any strong or harsh feelings you may have. The individual might be leaving for a better opportunity, better compensation, personal reasons, or all of the above. The best career development path for them may be to leave the organization and get experience elsewhere. It is their career, so respect that they made the best choice for themselves, their career, and/or their family, which is the same anyone would expect you to do for yourself. They are showing loyalty to themselves — not disloyalty to you.

Be curious and show a growth mindset

Show genuine interest and curiosity to learn why they’re leaving and what they’re going to do next. What can you learn that would benefit you, the organization, and other employees for the future? You might ask, “What could we do to entice you to stay?” At that point in time, the answer may be nothing since they’ve likely accepted another position. But one client of mine let her boss know, when giving her notice, that a competitor was willing to bring her on at a more senior level with much higher compensation — something her organization had been dragging their feet on and had been noncommittal about for quite some time. Unexpectedly, within a few days, they came back with an even better offer that ultimately did convince her to stay.

While this scenario might be the exception, it’s still important to ask the question above, which might also be phrased as, “What else could we have done to keep you?” or “What appeals to you or excites you most about this new job?” Their response may be related to better work/life balance, the ability to work remotely, a more inclusive culture, a new and exciting challenge with more responsibility, or being more empowered to make decisions. This is all useful feedback for you and the organization so that these areas can be addressed for remaining and future employees, even if it’s too late to do anything about it for this individual.

Show your support

Maintaining positive working relationships with departing employees is important, well beyond the time that you actually work together, so show your support for their decision and enable them to leave on a good note. After all, you may need a positive reference from them one day.

Further, as a former employee, they are still a brand ambassador for the company and may be a future customer, client, or referral source for business and other employees. And by showing support and enthusiasm for their new opportunity, as disappointed as you may be, you are more likely to keep the door open for them to potentially return to the organization one day. So, celebrate their contributions and next endeavor, and ask them how you can be helpful to them as they start their new role.

Ask for what you need

When an individual gives notice, they likely have a desired end date in mind. After all, they will want to take a break before diving into a new job. Get alignment on what they need and what you need from them before they leave to ensure a smooth transition. It may involve some give and take and could include finishing a specific project or set of tasks, training others to take over these responsibilities to minimize disruption, or even hiring their replacement.

. . .

Someone giving notice doesn’t have to be the end of the world or the end of a relationship. As surprised as you may be, using the six strategies above can help you respond in a constructive way that builds the relationship and helps all parties move on in a positive way.

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