How to recover when your right-hand person resigns

iquitEvery leader dreads the day when their beloved, right-hand employee walks into their office, avoids eye contact and hands them a resignation letter, right?

Let me start by saying if you’re going through this right now, my condolences!

I know what it feels like to finally reach a place where your feng shui is just right and your team is finally “getting it”.

I know because I recently lost my own ride-or-die — my “man Friday” for the past seven years — my Jason.

Jason knows me. He knows when to have a Dr. Pepper waiting for me after a meeting. He knows the questions I’m going to ask and already has the answers ready. He’s a HE, so he doesn’t bring a lot of workplace drama. (Not to say that women bring a lot of drama..but you know what I mean!) He made my life as an executive and later as a business owner, easier!

To say that his leaving hurt a little would be the understatement of the century.

But as painful as these changes can be, the wise consultant in me knows that team member resignations, yes, even the ones that are hard to let go of, are almost always a gift to the organization.

Yep, I said it. Resignations are a gift.

Much like daylight savings time reminds us to change the batteries in our smoke alarms, resignations create a unique opportunity to evaluate your current needs, and if necessary, to redesign the position based on the needs of the team and organization today, not 2, 5, or 10 years ago.

Within every resignation is a hidden opportunity for massive growth, but only if we pause long enough to seize the opportunity.

Here are 5 questions to turn a resignation into a powerful transformation:

1. How is the marketplace today different than when your right-hand was hired?

Who you hired years ago was based on the organization’s needs and goals then. There have likely been many changes in the marketplace that have (or should have) had a big effect on what you need now.

Are there new trends? Policy changes? Industry norms? Reassess and reevaluate how the marketplace has shaped the current needs of your organization. What are the best practices in your field? Where are your opportunities to innovate? What new skills do you need to add to the organization in order to successfully compete?

2. Where are YOU in your career/your trajectory?

Are you relatively new in your journey? Upwardly mobile? At the tail end?

Keep that in mind as you think about backfilling the position. You need a new team member who can help you based on where you are TODAY…not where you were years ago.

3. What does the organization need as its next stretch?

You want someone who’s going to stretch you and the organization and take you to the next level.

Your new hire should help you grow, not keep you stagnant. Develop a profile for what you need next in terms of skills and competencies to elevate your organization.

4. Should you reallocate funds to meet a different need?

Someone leaving creates a budget opportunity.  I’m not saying you don’t need a right-hand person. But ask yourself: do you need a right-hand at that same level? Or is there a greater need somewhere else where you can redistribute funds?

For example, could you have a lower-level assistant, and use the funds you freed up to hire a new accountant for your CFO? Consider whether you can/should redesign the position to help the team as a whole.

5. Ask your team: what are your greatest needs?

You’ve outlined the needs of the market, yourself, and the organization, but what about your team members specifically?

A resignation is a great opportunity to see what your team needs in terms of a new hire, to help them perform their roles even better.  It’s also a good way to promote shared leadership and check your instinct.

Once you’ve worked through the five questions, use this insight to develop the position description that will be precisely what you need for maximum benefit.

In my case, I eventually replaced Jason with a few different part-time positions — exactly what I need at this moment in my business, and very different than the skill set I first needed from Jason nearly eight years ago.

I’m grateful for this next step in the evolution of our team…despite the sting of the resignation.

Try to accept your next disappointing resignation as a unique opportunity, rather than a painful loss. What was working then won’t work to get you to the next level. Reevaluating your needs and hiring for what you need now is a hidden opportunity in a difficult situation.

Have you ever lost an employee like Jason? How did you recover? What other questions and processes do you use to restructure the role when a team member resigns?

When a loved employee resigns, you feel the loss on many levels. If you want to chat about your current situation and explore ways we can help you turn this tough time into a powerful transformation, we’re here for you!

Click here to schedule a complimentary Painefree Conversation.

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