Building and Losing Leaders: Embrace It!

Building and Losing Leaders: Embrace It!


This post is the second of a mini-series dubbed myPerspective.

As a leader in the technology industry for the last 21 years, I have led many different teams, ranging in size from 2 to 300.  Yes, there are MANY factors to consider when leading teams. In fact, there are countless books written on this.  These factors include: the organization, industry, location, team size, leadership styles, culture, etc.  However, one particular leadership factor that is ‘near and dear to my heart’ is: Building, developing and maintaining a strong leadership team.  One of my top priorities has always been to:

  1. ensure that each of my direct reports are solid ‘A’ Players,
  2. build a mentoring and coaching relationship with each,
  3. provide direction, tools, and support so they can perform at the ‘top of their game’. Without this, a leader will not be successful in the long run.

From myPerspective, I keep two things in mind when developing ‘A’ players into leaders: company performance/success AND his/her personal career.  It’s amazing how this leads to great employee engagement and morale! How do you do this, though?  Well, if you mix the company purpose, strategy, goals, and initiatives (insert your favorite terminology here) with the ‘A’ player’s personal goals and development, then you have what I call a perfect ‘Gumbo’ (fabulous Louisiana dish with lots of ingredients mixed to perfection) or ‘win/win’ situation.  Earlier this year my company developed a new technology service/product that will require onsite client implementations.  As we were reviewing the resource requirements, one of my ‘A’ players noted he was interested in developing implementation and leadership skills.  I was about to look for an Implementation Lead outside of the organization, but instead I was able to align our company’s goals with this ‘A’ player’s personal career. Booyah!

However, what happens when one of your ‘A’ player leaders decides to leave? If you build, develop and maintain ‘A’ players this will absolutely happen to you. I recently experienced a relevant story.  Picture this…entrepreneurial company ($3M) building their technology services and products from scratch…hired a CIO to lead two help desk technicians…no money to recruit experienced IT talent…CIO had to mentor, coach and promote from within.  Thankfully, the existing staff was intelligent, ambitious, willing to listen and ‘go the extra mile’, and quick to learn. After 18 months, IT services grew 200% and the IT FTEs grew from 3 to 15.  In the process, the two original technicians had been trained and groomed to be Managers.  Wow!  From Help Desk Technician to Manager in 18 months!  That’s tremendous career development and advancement.  It was a ‘Win/Win’ for everyone.  BUT…Yes, there is a but…Unfortunately the IT recruiting market was hot, and one of the Managers ‘tested the waters’, getting an offer he could not refuse. He submitted his resignation to the CIO with a ‘Thanks for all your help, but I’ve found a better deal’.  The CIO had many initial thoughts…anger, frustration that he had spent so much time developing the Manager and now he will be using these skills to help another organization, quickly replace him, make sure others do not leave with him, transition his responsibilities to others before he leaves, etc.

In the midst of these thoughts, however, other thoughts surfaced…recognize the ‘A’ player that is leaving in both one-on-one and team settings (accomplishments, efforts, dedication, his career growth example, etc.), do not ‘burn the bridge’ but leave the future open to opportunities (maybe he comes back someday, maybe he refers someone to us, maybe his company becomes a client, etc.), offer continued mentorship (lunches, after hours discussions, etc.), and whatever you do…keep the relationship because ‘Relationships Matter’.  Wow!  That’s powerful from myPerspective.  The CIO epitomized these thoughts into a ‘going away’ poem from which I’ll share an excerpt below:

Ian is Leavin’ a Legacy

Yes, Ian is leavin’ Company I.

At first, I asked myself why?

But then I could see.

He’s got a great chance to provide more for his family.

While Ian is leaving physically,

We will always remember his legacy.

So here are a few lines of rhyme,

That will hopefully stand the test of time.

Ian is the originator of Group Flash, you see.

F starts the acronym, meaning Fast / Friendly.

L is the second letter, that we’ve all heard,

Which is the ‘Link to’ the rest of the word.

Attentive is for ‘A’, the middle letter,

What a great choice!  I can’t think of anything better.

Systematic and Secure, two words with an ‘S’,

Are critical technology adjectives that describe us best.

To round out the acronym, there is an H at the end.

Helpful Service which links to our IT vision.

What a great nickname (Group Flash) we have.

All thanks to Ian who now has a better half.

He hired a few, and fired a few that probably made him want to scream.

He also helped successfully start the Outsourced Support team.

He solved more than enough IT outages for us,

And helped design a more efficient help desk process.

So Ian is Leavin’ a Legacy.

We will really miss him, you see.

However, we are not burning bridges and sending him out to sea,

Because we will absolutely stay one big family.

Ian, use your God-given talents in your next position,

And be sure to stay true to your personal and now married vision.

Let’s stay in touch and collaborate often,

Until our path’s cross once again.

Building, developing, and maintaining a strong leadership team is critical to a leader’s and team’s success, yet the risk of losing ‘A’ players is inevitable. So, what is myPerspective? Follow the advice of this CIO and keep the relationships because ‘Relationships Matter’.

Thanks for reading. Please share your ideas, thoughts, and examples in the comments. Also check back in two weeks as we tackle another leadership topic in the next installment of myPerspective.

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