Innovation Junkies Podcast

When Your Team Loses Top Talent

The Jeffs address how to handle the departure of an “A” player from your team. They discuss prospecting for talent, how to ensure a smooth transition, & the importance of caring for the person, not their role.

Jeff Standridge:
If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategies, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

GrowthDX Plug:
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Jeff Standridge:
Hey guys, Jeff Standridge here and welcome to another bonus episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. How are we doing Jeff?

Jeff Amerine:
I’m glad to be back. What are we going to talk about?

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, good to have you. Today we’re talking about what happens when you lose an A player from your team, so why don’t you tell us about your perspective on that to start?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, it’s something that could be really daunting and it can be a gut punch at times for leaders at any level. It’s a reality, I think, of the market that we’re in, is that occasionally, you’re going to have highly talented people that might have been completely satisfied with their situation, they just see a new opportunity somewhere else. I think the key thing is to not panic and to not hold it against the person that’s leaving to go on to a new opportunity.
My sense is, one of the reactions that you have to that is, you certainly wish the person well because, ultimately, if you were looking out for their best interests and helping them develop a career and be a valuable person, then to some extent you can take some satisfaction in the fact that they’ve got the skills and the opportunity to go pursue something that they’re passionate about.
I think one is:  you embrace it, and then, in addition, if you’ve done a good job with repeatability and not having any individual that is irreplaceable, then you can react to that change, if you have a strong culture and take it all in stride, and just, next person up and you do a good job recruiting and there’s an ability to have a good transition.
I think those are all the things we’ve had to realize in the Startup Junkie business, that we’re kind of a launchpad for young emerging talent, and sometimes they go on to great positions in large and small companies after spending a few, or several years with us. And it’s something that we’ve embraced and building that strong alumni group out there, I think, it’s a healthy way to think about it.

Jeff Standridge:
No, I agree with you completely. There’s a saying out there that says people don’t leave companies, people leave leaders, and while I kind of agree with that, I also believe people leave companies because the opportunity there is limited and other opportunities present themselves. And I think that may, or may not, have anything to do with the leadership there, just maybe that there’s a cap on the opportunity in that particular organization.
I have three things that I think about as it relates to talent and the talent churn, so to speak. One is, and I tell everyone who works for me, I will always care more about them and their best interest as a person and as a human and as a colleague, than I will about them in the role that they’re in. So if they find an opportunity that’s better than I can afford them, a better opportunity than I can provide for them, then I’m not going to try to talk them out of that opportunity for an artificial one with me. If I think I can compete with that opportunity, I’ll tell them and hope that they stay, but if I can’t, I will not try to artificially keep them on board by inflating their salary or fabricating an opportunity that’s not real. I just won’t do that. I care more about them as a person, so I think that’s a philosophical thing that is important.
The second one, and I used to tell all of my leaders this, is they should be interviewing every week. It’s almost like sales prospecting, they should be prospecting for talent. Many times, it’s all about expectation-setting of saying, “Hey look, we’re a growing team. We don’t have an opportunity right now, but we’re always looking for good talent. What’s your timeline for making a change?” And just staying in touch with those people whom you think could be good additions to your team, because you never want to be more than about two weeks away from bringing someone on. If you have to start the recruitment and interviewing process once you get a two week notice, then you’re a minimum of a month away. So keeping a pipeline of your top two or three people, staying in touch with them, managing their expectations, helping them understand that opportunities could present themselves et cetera, is always, I think, an important thing to do.
Then finally, no matter whether they’re an A player or an A plus spectacular performer, my experience is, every time you lose someone, it’s an opportunity to reassess workload, to reassess the shuffling of responsibilities, to give people who have stayed on the team the opportunity to shine in new areas and to bring in new talent. It’s always an opportunity to bring in new talent. To your point, once you have built these repeatable processes and you recognize that talent is dynamic, it’s never stationary or static, that you constantly have to build your organization in order to bring in new talent, then you can do that in a way that gives other people opportunities as well.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. I mean, I think that’s great advice and it’s really true that with the current talent pool, they might change jobs 10 to 20 times during the course of a career, and that’s something as leaders we’ve got to be aware of. The thing that I’d have to say, I appreciate and I’ve recognized in good cultures is, if you’ve built a good culture, that talent is not going to be apprehensive about talking to you about their plans to try to take something else on. They’ll typically come to you while they’re even in that consideration mode, because they know there’s not going to be retribution, so to speak, or no acrimony around that and I have to say, as a leader, I appreciate that. When we’ve had key-

Jeff Standridge:
Absolutely.

Jeff Amerine:
… rockstar players that were contemplating leaving, or were considering some things, they’d typically talk to me fairly early in that process. And I think it’s because they realized that that wasn’t something I was going to hold against them or get angry about or whatever else. But I think as a leader, on the losing side of that so to speak, if you look at it that way, if you have confidence in the brand that you built and the culture that you created, that’s just part of the deal and it doesn’t upset you, or really put you in a frame of mind where you think, “we’re going to lose a step.” If you’re executing well, there’ll be other people that will be attracted to the brand that you have and the organization that you’ve built.

Jeff Standridge:
I think that’s great feedback and great advice there as well. Today, we’re talking about what happens when you lose an A player. Let’s summarize it for them Jeff. Make sure you care more about the person than you do the role, build repeatable processes so that when someone comes in, you have other opportunities to shuffle the work and give other people the opportunity to shine. Then create a culture where people can come to you and talk to you about those opportunities when they’re considering them, so that you don’t get surprised, and if there is an opportunity to retain them, you’re afforded that opportunity because you know on the front end that they’re considering pursuing other things. Anything else?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, that’s exactly right and a final thought on that is, there’s a lot of value in building an alumni network of former team members, because they might end up being customers or partners or other kinds of opportunities for collaboration in the future. So keeping that open heart and open mind towards that, a lot of merit and good things can come downstream. No doubt about it.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. That’s a great addition, one we didn’t want to forget for sure. So this has been another bonus episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. Thanks for joining.

Jeff Amerine:
See you next time.

Jeff Amerine (Outro):
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