How Exceptional Leaders Push Star Performers Out the Door
August 3, 2015

How Exceptional Leaders Push Star Performers Out the Door

by Brian de Haaff

I once managed a guy named Tim (name changed). His work was strong and I considered him a key player on our team. But I noticed shortly after his two-year review that he was losing steam. His work was barely making it in on time, he was less collaborative in meetings, and folks were starting to wonder whether he was on his way out.

I was concerned, and one day in my office I asked him what was going on. He said he loved the team but felt stuck in his current role. He felt he was no longer growing and confided that he was starting to hunt for another job. After many years as a sales engineer, he really wanted to gain product management experience.

Leading people is never an easy task, especially when challenges with employee performance come up.

I realized that Tim took a big risk in telling me that he was checking out other jobs. Many companies escort employees to the door once they find out they are looking for a new job. But that seems all wrong.

It is a predicament, for sure. What do you do when you know someone has a diverse set of skills and wants to grow beyond their current role?

You are connected to the people on your team, and you do not want to lose a valuable employee who has also become a friend. But as a leader, you know you should not hold anyone back from exploring their career options. What can you do?

The best leaders get creative, and see opportunity where others see only an exit sign. They are able to think about a company that is bigger than themselves.

They help employees make moves within the company. That’s what they do.

In Tim’s case, I knew about an opening within a different business group and helped him see the career potential there. He was grateful that I encouraged him to stay within the company and take on a new role. I am happy to say he is still thriving there today.

I am the CEO of Aha! (product roadmap software), and I have spent a number of years now working with strong teams. Sometimes leaders are forced to make difficult decisions that seem to fly in the face of logic. In certain cases, helping an employee switch to a new role is a smart leadership move because it:

Helps someone you respect The best leaders see untapped potential and encourage employees to explore new areas of professional growth. It shows that you care about more than keeping the status quo, and would rather see an employee happy in a new position than frustrated in the same role.

Maintains team focus The departure of a key employee from the company affects team morale and can serve as a distraction. Once you explain to your team what is happening, they will realize that you have the company and their best interests in mind.

Builds a more efficient culture Managers are in a great position to help employees recharge and refocus, and sometimes a lateral move is just what an employee needs to renew that spark. Once everyone is working in their areas of strength, your team will be energized.

Keeps the company strong You know that losing a strong player can disrupt the team while you search for a replacement and the rest of team picks up the slack. You also know that the cost to recruit, hire and train a new employee will set the company back thousands. Helping employees make lateral job changes allows the company to retain a good, loyal employee.

Anytime a key employee decides to move on is a painful time for a manager. But you must put aside your own feelings and do what is best for the employee and the company.

By intervening on the employee’s behalf and showing them another career option, you display great leadership smarts and keep building the company as well.

Have you ever made an internal move at a company or helped someone do the same?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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