One of the more challenging tasks of leadership is making sure that your best people stick around.
Of course, there are all kinds of reasons why valued staff members decide to move on. And those reasons may have nothing to do with their level of satisfaction with their job, or your company or team. For example:
* They may be ready to change careers.
* They may need a challenge not provided by your company.
* They may find that ther values are no longer a fit for your firm.
* If your company was involved in a merger, acquisition or alliance, they may not want to work with/for the other firm.
Regardless of the reasons why someone may be thinking or planning to leave, there are some signs you should be watchful for. My goal here isn’t to make you paranoid, carefully watching every move (or non-move) that a key staff member makes, but rather to give a sense of what may be happening when someone establishes a pattern of doing several of these things:
* Significantly increased distractibility or lack of focus.
* Radical change in attitude (going from hard-charging to mellow, for example, or from mild to aggressive).
* Less involvement with informal activities, like lunches with colleagues or after-work social functions.
* Markedly less interest in “going the extra mile” or making sacrifices to accomplish goals.
* Increased time off other than holidays or traditional vacation times.
* Taking more calls with the door closed or using the cell phone out of the office/building.
* Missing meetings or generally being less dependable than usual.
* Spending excessive time with clients or colleagues out of the office.
* Removing personal items from the office.
Be careful about jumping to conclusions, or taking one or two signs out of context. All of these signs could also be associated, for example, with a personal or family illness, marital or other family problems, personal finance issues or even positive things like buying a new home, a marriage or something else.
The important thing to do when you notice any significant change with someone you supervise is to communicate about it.
An easy way to start that conversation is to schedule time to meet, indicate your interest in finding out how things are going, and putting the issue on the table.
Whenever you are in a position to raise a concern, do it as concisely as possible, focus on the data (your observations, not your assumptions about what those observations mean) and quickly turn the conversation over to your direct report.
For example: “I wanted to meet with you today because I’ve noticed you missed the last three staff meetings and you’ve been out of the office more than usual. I wanted to talk with you about that. How are things going?”
Then push your own hypotheses aside and allow the other person to discuss what’s happening. If there is an issue, always ask first what their proposed solution is, or what they might need to turn that situation around, before offering your own advice or decision.
To prevent most surprises, you can follow the sports dictum “The best defense is a good offense.” That means meeting with everyone within your span of control on a regular basis.
Regular meetings ensure a timely exchange of information and make it less likely that you’ll be caught off guard if someone is planning to go.
During annual reviews, and more frequently depending on your organization’s culture, inquire about future plans, goals and dreams. Incorporate those into annual development plans, and make sure that you and your company are doing everything you can to be involved in helping build an outstanding future for every employee.
Bonus Tip: Make sure you have a succession plan in place, and review it at least annually,and ideally twice a year to plan for changes and update information about each staff member.