The Letter of Resignation You Never Expected
Perhaps you’ve seen this quote attributed to Tim McClure on social media: “The biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet.”
Sometimes it happens over the course of time, and you don’t even notice it. That is, until the day that passionate team member submits a letter of resignation.
Initially, you’re shocked. You’re confused. You’re angry. And then you remember that team member didn’t share even one creative idea in last week’s brainstorming session. No requests for time with you have been made in quite a while. One-word answers have become standard.
The Practices That Prevent the Silence
If this sounds familiar—or even if it doesn’t and you want it to stay that way—there are some actions you can take, some practices to follow, some beliefs to adopt that will keep those passionate team members talking. And collaborating. And innovating. And engaging. And fully enjoying the work they get to do.
MAKE TRANSPARENCY THE NORM. Transparent communication is the plastic wrap of the workplace. When you pull a plate of leftovers from the fridge that’s been covered with aluminum foil, you don’t really know what you’re getting. Plastic-wrapped plates are much easier. What you see is what you get. Transparent communication is the same. Decisions—even when made behind closed doors—are shared with the team. Updates are offered frequently. Your team is in-the-know about department and company goals and happenings, and they feel a valuable part of it all.
ENCOURAGE MULTI-DIRECTIONAL FEEDBACK. Gone are the days when feedback trickled in only one direction: from the top of the organizational chart down. Just as you share frequent, timely, respectful feedback with your team members (You do, right? If not, I can help you get there!), it’s also important that you ask for feedback from your team. A Harvard Business Review study of more than 50,000 executives found that “leaders who ranked at the top 10% in asking for feedback were rated, on average, at the 86th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness”. In asking for feedback and then receiving it in an open, grateful manner, you not only gather that all-important information; you also get the opportunity to model receiving feedback (and then applying it) for your team.
DELEGATE FREELY AND FREQUENTLY. Delegation is difficult for many leaders, and the reasons (errr… excuses) for not delegating more often tend to fall in three main areas. Time (It’s faster to just do it myself.). Belief in others’ abilities (I know there will be mistakes, and then I’ll have to correct them which takes even more time.). And empathy/control (I know they already have so much to do. I don’t want to overwhelm them even more.). The reality is that when leaders don’t delegate freely and frequently, team members aren’t empowered to learn, grow, and add more value to the team. It’s like picking up a baby each time she tries to take a step on her own. You know she’s going to fall after a few steps (as babies do) so you swoop in to ‘save’ her which ultimately prevents her from learning how to do it on her own. Your team members want to learn and grow. Help them do so with effective delegation.
CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF EVER-PRESENT RESPECT. The work you do isn’t a cake walk. It can be difficult, conflict-inducing, and stressful. And while that’s true for most (maybe all?) workplaces, it doesn’t mean disrespect should be an invited guest. You’re discouraged about that big client taking their business elsewhere? Think, breathe, and give yourself some space before you discuss it with your team. Getting far too little sleep these days? Develop a plan for a sleep solution, and remind yourself often that it’s not your team members who are waking you up in the middle of the night. Your team member made the same mistake again? Ask yourself, Who is the leader I want to be in this feedback discussion? The circumstances will change. Your respect toward others is the consistent factor others will come to know and admire.
DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO. Period. When you say you’ll check in with every team member individually every week, do it. When you say you’ll bring up that topic at a meeting with your boss and/or the leadership team, do it. When you say you’ll look into that team member’s request for extended time off, do it. When you say you’ll circle back with the team after running it by someone else, do it. Nike got it right. Just do it. And then witness the improved communication, productivity, and growth of your team members.
Value Your People
Your team members are vital, valuable, and very needed for the overall success of your organization. When you show them how much they matter through your consistent words and actions, the likelihood of those passionate employees going silent is slim to none.