Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange David Bowie
Just this week I’ve been on the receiving end of a half dozen of those emails. They start with the news that a valued colleague has made the decision to move on. It goes on to thank everyone for a wonderful experience and ends with best wishes.
It’s that time of year. Year end bonuses have been paid. Quotas have been earned. Options have vested. And so people are moving on. Or arriving.
I grew up an army brat. Every spring my dad would come home from work and tell us where we were moving to that summer. I didn’t know that people lived any other way. Each fall I’d find myself in a new school, facing the strange.
So I’m a fan of changes. I crave them. And so when I get one of those emails, I’m happy for the person and hopeful that they will find new challenges and new colleagues and friends in their next endeavor.
But what about the company that is being left behind? Well every departure is an opportunity to rethink the role and the organization. You can’t find an exact replica of the person who has left. But you can find a person who will bring different things. You can split the role in two. Or you can even choose to eliminate it.
My advice to the leaders of our portfolio companies is to embrace change and the possibilities it brings. And, even more importantly, I advise leaders to be open and transparent about the change and how it opens up opportunities for the organization.
The thing I caution against is the tendency to get upset at departures and departing employees. I’ve seen leaders take the mob boss approach of “your are dead to me now” with departing employees. The better approach, which I think is a hallmark of great companies, is the idea that departing employees who leave on great terms are roving ambassadors for your organization. After all, you never know when you are going to come across someone again in business. And it might be a situation where you need something from them.
It sucks to lose a valued colleague or employee or boss. It creates anxiety in the organization about what is going to happen next. But if you are working in or leading a startup you signed up for a boatload of change. Accept it. Embrace it. Make it work for you. Because you can’t make it go away.