The Power of Listening

You might recall an article I shared with you about how we celebrated the departure of one of our valued team members with the same enthusiasm we welcomed her. Cynthia tendered her resignation to me just shy of her 10-year anniversary, and we had great angst over replacing her. But we believed sending her off in a positive manner was important for maintaining a positive relationship with this talented employee. In fact, I went out on a limb saying it was as important as nurturing an employee while the person is with your organization.

Here it is one year later. I’m pleased to report that Cynthia has rejoined Hillary’s, which is a testament to our philosophy. It turns out that at the same time Cynthia realized that her new job hadn’t met her expectations, her replacement at Hillary’s needed to make a change for personal reasons.

While the timing stars aligned perfectly, if Cynthia had not left on a positive note, she would not have reached out to me. We had left the door open, and I was ecstatic about Cynthia’s return to us.

The rest of the story

When Cynthia first left, I hadn’t tried to keep her because I didn’t want to stifle her growth. But when her replacement left, I asked if she had any thoughts about the position that she might like to share. Her reply was a huge ah-ha moment for me.

She explained that the job really requires wearing two very different kinds of hats—administrative and creative—managing production to ensure on-time shipments and making sure all packages pack a “wow” punch. It hit me that the job Cynthia was originally hired for was simply creating spectacular presentations, and along the way we added administrative responsibilities. When I spoke to Cynthia about these roles, she confessed that she did not like moving from a doer to a manager, including the administrative part of the job.

I wanted to work with Cynthia, because she was outstanding in her creative role and I wanted her to stay. So I reconfigured those administrative responsibilities into a separate preproduction role.

The moral of this story is: Exiting employees are an excellent resource for feedback about a position and possibly the need to readjust responsibilities. Don’t miss an opportunity to see what works, what doesn’t and why. And, if feasible, you might consider reconfiguring a position to allow you to keep a high-value employee.

At any rate, always keep the door open to dialogue with past employees who may want to return.

If you’re looking to be intensional about shaping the culture in your workplace, we have creative ideas. Let us help you implement down-to-earth strategies that are aligned with your company objectives, brand, message and voice. Call us.
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