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Here Or There? July 27, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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3 comments

I believe that a leader is responsible for the success of his or her people.  There are two simple rules to make sure that happens:

  1. Help everyone succeed.
  2. Hopefully, here.

Our job is to follow rule 1.  Through a combination of coaching, mentoring, challenging, prodding, wheedling, and cajoling, we want to make our people successful.

Ideally, we also want to achieve rule 2. We want our people to be successful while they are on our team.  Their individual success contributes to the team’s success, and that’s good for everyone. But the unfortunate reality is that most people will achieve rule 1 but break rule 2.  Why?

Sometimes, a member of your team is growing and succeeding faster than you can support them within your organization.  Particularly in these constrained times, there are few opportunities to create new positions to reward and challenge these high achievers.  In these cases, people may leave your organization to become even more successful somewhere else.  Ideally, you’ll help them find that new place, even if it means that you’ll lose a good person.

That’s a challenge to your leadership skills.  “A” leaders will help a high-flier move on, sad to lose a great person but happy to see them go on to bigger and better things.  “B” leaders hoard their best people, denying them the chance to excel by trapping them in their existing positions.  That’s a selfish way to run a business, and those good people will someday just quit anyway.

People need not leave your company to become successful.  They may need to leave your organization to grow and thrive in a different part of the company.  That’s a wonderful scenario for all concerned: the individual gets to succeed, the company retains a great employee, and you gain an ambassador for IT in a different part of the company.

This last benefit can be a huge one.  Very few people outside of IT understand how we really function.  This lack of understanding can lead to confusion, disappointment, and conflict.  By placing experienced IT people into other groups, you create an opportunity for others to learn more about IT, defusing those confrontations and gaining the trust of the business.

Even when good people must leave the company to move on, you should be happy to help them find success elsewhere.  While the future daily interaction with them will be far smaller, having good relationships with other companies always helps.  You never know when you might have to call on that person to assist with a problem, smooth a negotiation, or reach out to someone else.

I’ve had the privilege of being part of both of these scenarios.  It is rewarding to see IT people move on to successful roles elsewhere in the company, and to see how they bring positive benefits back to IT in their new position.  I’ve also mentored people who were struggling with a new opportunity, advising them to take it even when it meant they were leaving my company.  When I see them succeed in their new company, how could I have advised them any other way?  When they provided a beneficial connection to someone in their company, that’s just icing on the cake.

When all is said and done, all that matters is rule 1.  You must achieve rule 1, even at the expense of rule 2.  As a leader, are you ready to let your best people go to succeed somewhere else?

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