The sudden departure of trusted and valued team members can be a shock to a leader and navigating this scenario is one of the most challenging, and often frustrating, parts of being a leader. The loss causes more work for the leader, less efficiency in the team in the interim and it takes time to adjust to a new dynamic afterward.

Sometimes you’ll be fortunate enough to have a good amount of notice to get a plan in place. These scenarios are much easier to navigate. Hopefully, you have put the one-level-up mentality to use in your environment (Training everyone one level above their current position) and you are ready to rock and roll. Today we are going to focus on the ones that leave suddenly with little to no notice.

Focus on your plan and not your emotions

This scenario can catch you off guard and I’ve seen many leaders act out in their emotions as a result. Leaders have displayed anger, disappointment, a sense of being overwhelmed, and even questioning their own leadership during this time.  If you have a good relationship with the person, it’s okay to ask them why or give them an exit interview. Be sure to keep a professional demeanor about you and be willing to be okay with a weak response for the person leaving. They may not be comfortable sharing their why with you.  

Focus on building your plan instead of letting your emotions get the best of you. You’ll have plenty of time in the future to reflect and make changes to your leadership and employee experience. 

Lean on your team

This is where the development of your team truly pays off. Ask key team members to step up and take a temporary larger role. I would often use this opportunity to give people that had the skills and training but were unsure they wanted the next level and chance to try it out.

Reward those that do step up. For an hourly worker, the extra time is appreciated, but everyone loves little rewards like gift cards to their favorite restaurant or a little cash bonus. 

Be more present

If the person was a key player on your team, then they likely had some strong relationships with co-workers. These co-workers will be struggling with the loss of a good friend and may even start doubting their own place on the team. Make sure that you are very accessible to your team so that they can talk or express any concerns that they may have.

Be an encouragement to them and spend one-on-one time with as many as you can to assure them that you value their contribution and that the team will be able to move forward. 

Start hiring but be patient

Even if you are a fantastic leader and have a team full of one-level-up employees, eventually you are going to need to hire someone to take someone else’s place. Vary your search, ask current employees for referrals and don’t forget about your customers; sometimes they make great employees. 

I would suggest involving some of your team in the interview process so that it helps in their development and gives you a different perspective on the candidate. This also gives the team members involved a sense of ownership in the person coming on. They don’t want their stamp of approval on someone who is not going to be a good fit for the team. 

Take your time. Your team can handle the extra load better when they have a sense that you are actively looking for the right fit. 

Losing a good employee and can be tough. Keep your emotions in check, let your team step up to the occasion and be there for your people.  Know that this time is just temporary and use it as an opportunity to take your team to a new level. 

Make a better tomorrow.