A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHORS
leaders fail to recognize the importance of a key person's
departure, it creates a leadership or communication
void — a void sure to be filled with resistance.
This month we discuss what happens when a leader defects.
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-Rob and Anne-
Along or Pulling the Plug?
in the Inner Circle
with a Bigmouth
month's serving of Dim Sum: External Crises Need Internal Alignment
LEADERSHIP DIM SUM,
PART XII: WHEN A LEADER DEFECTS
of the key team members defects. Goes over to the competition.
Others on the team feel betrayed at first, then individually
go through some reflections and self-doubt: Did he know something
I don’t know? Should I be as loyal (or as complacent)
as I have been?
to think about: How do you keep a team functioning when it
has sustained this kind of trauma? How does one explain the
situation to the company at large? What kind of “checking
in” should a leader do with individual members of the
inner circle after an event like this?
cover these issues in detail in Chapter 11, “When
People Leave.” For now, though, suffice it to say
that a defection at the top does have a greater impact on
the organization than does a defection from a lower rank,
so this is a big deal. And that even if people seem to be
taking things in stride, you should assume that underneath,
they are asking questions like “What did that person
know that I don’t know?” “Is the grass greener
where she’s going?” “Is our company in trouble?”
“Should I be looking too?”
those questions, even if no one voices them out loud. Talk
to people individually, and listen hard. There’s no
need to set up a formal series of meetings in this situation;
but be sure you do talk with every member of the inner circle
quickly. And when the group next meets, don’t be afraid
to talk about the situation in public.
refrain, if possible, from making blanket statements that
will come across as if you are defensive. “There’s
nothing wrong here. The deal he got can’t be better
than what he had here.” You can acknowledge that there
may be a difference of opinion, when it comes to what constitutes
a “better compensation package,” for example,
and at the same time reaffirm that you do try to tailor the
value proposition to individual needs.
that it is OK for people to leave the company. You can’t
be expected to be the right place for everyone all the time.
for the rest of the organization, pay close attention to the
direct reports of the person who is leaving. They’re
likely to be concerned as well. They’re also likely
to feel very vulnerable. With their boss gone, the spotlight
is on them. Reassure them of their employment “contract”
– what constitutes good performance at your company
– so that they can be comfortable that they are doing
their jobs, and that the defection won’t necessarily
cause them any direct discomfort. Meet with them in small
groups; ask for their input about the characteristics of success
in their area going forward. What will it take for this group
to be successful in the future? How much is that success a
function of the people in leadership roles? How much is related
to other things?
about you? Have you had any interesting experiences handling
the defection of a leader? Let
WITH THE AUTHORS OF THE TRUSTED LEADER
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