Finding what’s next

A common challenge that I hear from managers falls along the lines of “I’ve been helping my direct report figure out what they want to do.  But now I don’t think staying at this company is best for them.”

There are variations to this (motivations, journey, etc) but all leads to the same place…this conflict between wanting what is best for someone else but also knowing that might hurt the team, organization and/or you as the leader.

My answer is always simple…your first goal as a manager is to help your direct report grow. Ideally, you can do that in the organization but sometimes that’s not possible.  When that happens, I happily do whatever I can to support them in their next step, including references/recommendations/etc.

The first time I was told that people leaving would reflect poorly on my leadership abilities, I was worried that would be true.  However, it felt right so I proceeded.  I’m glad I did.  Those individuals challenged themselves, stay connected to express what they were learning and I was proud – of them and me.  Sure, the organization lost a good person but no organization is made or broken by one individual.  If I could have kept this person and truly believed that it was in their best interest too, I would have.  So the next time (and every time after that), I hear the “but people will think you are a bad leader”…I just smile.  A great leader helps people become what they didn’t know they could be.  To think that will always be achievable within one organization/team, well, that’s just cute.

I hope that my managers knew that I left because I believed I could do the next step – and that’s because they believed in me.

How do you help people find what’s next (in or outside of the organization)?

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