....and goes to a major competitor. Ouch.

We were notified yesterday that our GM/VP has not only left her position, she's going to our major competitor. Two words that I heard [i]a lot[/i] yesterday after the announcement were "[i]betrayal[/i]" and "[i]disgusted[/i]".

I work for a large corporate that's struggled with the rest of them for the past 4-5 years. We've gone through countless downsizings and restructurings, and this GM was appointed about 3 years ago. She had been making steady - but slow - progress with rebuilding morale and trust.

We're faced with getting tossed back to "square one" yet again. As a manager, who frankly, is feeling pretty deflated herself, how can I keep the team focused and [i]believing [/i] that this is another transition that we can weather? Most employees these days have been battered by the constant chaos and transitioning at most companies - so how do you keep delivering the message that as a team, as a company, as employees of this company, we can get through [b][i]yet another [/i][/b][i][b]crisis[/b][/i]?

Two conflicting thoughts that keep drifting through my head are "[i]failure is not an option[/i]" - and "[i]is it time to abandon ship?!" [/i]

Any thoughts on how best to approach this from a manager's perspective will be greatly appreciated.


Mark's picture
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Is it a quirk of fate that yours is the last post I got to tonight, and it's by far the toughest??

GREAT question. A classic, really, what my brother and I call (in any arena), "HOF" - Hall of Fame.

My recommendations are going to sound simple, but please don't infer that I think it's a simple situation. Yours is one of the most disheartening and confusing situations I've seen managers face.

Some things to think about:

Start looking for another job now. This is not because I'm suggesting you leave, but rather because you need all kinds of data to make your decision. And, in light of what's happening at your firm, you don't want to make this decision because you HAVE to.

You absolutely have enough data to KNOW that your job is at risk. Jobs are not held solely by performance, and when something like this occurs, senior people start throwing around phrases like, "everything's on the table."

Could you survive and thrive? Absolutely. Will you know that soon? No. Therefore, what you CAN do is be ready, by thinking job search, which means resume, lunches away from the office with old friends, outreach to recruiters (who interestingly may know more than you do about what happened), etc. [Don't forget our casts on these topics...].

[A clever hint: others with whom you network who seem to know more about what your firm has been through are more likely (all things being equal, which they never are) to help your search. They're more industry and company/people aware.]

Let me be clear: I do not believe one can claim to be a great manager without doing the above. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if you don't, and you lose your job*, you will be WORTHLESS to your team in their time of need, and they are surely almost universally less skilled in transitions than you are. Second, it's reasonable behavior in today's world. If you aren't doing so, and they are, and you give them friction about it that causes them to make missteps and they then lose their jobs... that's nothing to be proud of.

[* - Please don't say, "Mark, really, I CAN'T lose my job - it's too critical, blah blah. I've worked with hundreds of managers who have said that (and they're usually shell-shocked and ineffective). I'm not suggesting you're going to, I'm suggesting that other than abysmal performance failure, the present situation is the most tenuous position you've been in. People who aren't proactive during crises are doomed.]

Now, SHOULD you leave? Well, hard to say...depends on the offers you get, and because the search will take time, you will have learned a great deal more about YOUR firm, and then you'll be making an informed decision.

I have two other thoughts for you that have worked well many times for my coaching clients.

1. Speak openly with your team about what you're thinking, to INCLUDE touching base externally and considering other options. Explain WHY you're doing this - you may not leave, but you want to compare apples to apples if you HAVE to. If you stay, this process will make you better, and you're not going to go just because you get an offer. This candor will allow you to do two things: help them if they need it, and LEARN WHAT THEY THEMSELVES ARE DOING IN CASE YOU STAY. You'll want to know what kind of team you'll end up with.

This is a path that many disagree with. "Wait, the company's paying me -isn't this treasonous?"

My feeling here is that you're not suggesting anyone go anywhere, and this makes it easier to assess what's happening in your team. And since you already know folks above you are doing this very same thing, and they aren't telling you, which causes you to question some of what they tell you, either they're suggesting you be duplicitous or what's good for them isn't good enough for your directs. Neither works.

I'd offer to look at resumes, and I'd suggest they listen to our casts, as mentioned above.

If you want to do this individually, rather than formally as a group, that's fine.

Something else: I recommend you reach out assertively across and up the organization, and see what you can find out. (And yes, I'd recommend you share what you learn with your org.)

Then, I'd also ask myself what really IS needed at the GM's level, and maybe one level down from her... and I'd be prepared to discuss that with whomever. I'd have PowerPoint, too, to suggest that it wasn't off the cuff. Like it or not, this is neither dancing on a grave nor shameless self-promotion. This is what smart professionals DO - they think about their org a lot and have opinions they can justify.

The junior person looking for guidance and help alone comes across as needy and selfish... which is probably fine right now. But the one who can also talk about what needs to be done, by whom, and how... THAT person catches others' eyes.

That's a start - let me know where I've got holes based on your situation.

Ouch indeed...but remember: Be Bold, and Mighty Forces Will Come To Your Aid.