Boots,  Highheels

What to do when a team member quits

“I need to leave the team”, she sighs. After training her the past year in different roles, I have offered her a leadership position in the team. And while she was thinking about it, she realized that she needed to focus on another role in her life. And that role is not in my team. I have mixed feelings: I am more than proud that she thought deeply and made a decision (these are the type of people I want in my team!) all while I am sad because I will not work with her in the future anymore.

Did people quit in your team, too?

It is very easy to turn to disappointment when people quit in your team. All your investment could feel like sunk costs. In consequence, many managers, I have met, stopped investing in their people in general. Somehow the overwhelming feeling of ‘it doesn’t matter whether I invest’ turned to a hard heart when it comes to people development. Obviously, this situation led to even more people quitting sooner their roles as they did not feel valued. The manager feels confirmed in the prior decision that investment in people is not worth the hustle.

At some point, people will quit in your team. You decide on your response. And how you respond has a massive impact on your heart, leadership and future success. I believe, you can see this as a test. Let’s call it the ‘rejection test’. A test of your values, vision and resilience. We all know managers who have not taken this test well – and you can see the result daily.

Let’s explore the rejection test a bit. What do we feel when someone quits? And how could a different perspective look like?

Whenever someone quits, it is a ‘no’ to the position you have offered that person. And this doesn’t feel good. It can even feel like a ‘no’ towards you as a person. You don’t have to tell anyone about those feelings but you should be aware what a quitting team member does to your emotions. These moments have the potential to trigger convictions that are rooted deeply within you. These convictions could be: ‘No one likes me’, ‘I won’t have enough [staff]’, ‘I am not good enough – I cannot even convince this one person to stay in my team’

Unmonitored, these convictions can trigger your behaviour, e.g. you decide not to bond with your team too close in order not to get hurt in the future. These patterns run in seconds through your emotions und brain. Especially when you are in a high-paced job, it feels easier to surpress the negative feelings and just continue your job. You sense that you care less about people – but you tell yourself that this is fine. Everyone get’s more careless about individual people once they are in a management position, right?

A joker to excel in the ‘rejection test’ are values, vision and team culture. If my value is ‘I invest in people’, I will do that no matter what. Why? Because my vision is that we will know each other for years and I am investing in a long-term relationship. This is part of the team-culture I am building. Everyone I work with belongs to this giant network. And I rather have a network of well-trained people – therefore, when it is on me to invest in people, I am investing.

How does that sound to you?

Let me give you a personal example: As I love to challenge people about their vision, I have seen many people starting to change their roles after they have been in contact with me for some time. Hence, based on how I invest in people, I have gotten a lot of ‘rejection tests’ – people saying ‘no’ to roles I have offered them. But all of them said ‘no’ for a great reason: they knew what they wanted! They developed a vision over time and started to walk in that direction. Now, I have many people in my network who are vision-led. How cool is that!

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