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Submitted by SK68 on


Not my organisation, but one I serve on the Board for. I'm observing this play out and thought to myself I wonder what the Manager Tools community would each do about this. 

They have a high performing staff member, good attitude, great delivery, bought into the values. They have a really crucial role to play over the next year and gel their team together. This high performer has just said they have an interview for a CEO role with a smaller charity.  They had wanted to make an exit in around 2 years time into a CEO role, with development so that role was a more developed one that the one they have applied for which is a turnaround project. They asked for an open door meeting, and said they had this interview and were looking to leave much sooner than they had discussed. The reason they want to leave is they have a poor manager, are feeling miserable and demotivated as a result, and they have no way to really deliver a performance plan for their next career steps. 

The kind of development they would need is possible within the organisation, but it would take an organisational input in order to offer it, such as working cross departmentally, getting the opportunity to manage financial processes, and other opportunities which could be possible in the organisation if built into the role. The manager is a mid to low performer. Their direct doesn't get one on ones, hasn't got a performance plan, isn't being developed in role, gets mixed instructions, last minute delegation with no support to stop doing other work. You know the role call. 

If you were the manager, and this was your direct and skip, what would you do? 

drenn18's picture
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I lack experience in this situation but I'll take a principle-based shot and hopefully learn a thing or two from our community. 

Take the meeting. I'll assume you mean "what would we do", other than that, so, that would be: reconfirm their status as a valuable top performer, encourage them to interview, get the manager's perspective, and don't create development for them if it is not in service of the enterprise.

Context: How long has the top performer reported to the manager? I'll assume you've included any important data, e.g. if the manager or reporting relationship is new. If I read it right, the top performer is a manager, making the bad manager a director, making the decision-maker a VP-ish? 

1 rule I would not violate is to never interfere with what a person believes is best for them. This means, while engaging in whatever conversation they want, avoid discouraging them (don't go out of your way to encourage them) from interviewing for that role if they feel it's in their best interest to do so. What if I don't support it, they leave, and succeed? What if I convince them not to interview and they stay here, and don't succeed? Lose lose. What if I encourage the interview, they decline the offer, and stay? No loss vs what I'm going to do anyway. What if I support them, they leave, and succeed? Loss in the near term, assuming lack of succession planning systems, but long term relationship win. Step 1: encourage them.

2nd rule is I would try to retain them in a way that reflects the principle "the interests of the company and individual are inseparable". This means asking them what about that role interests them and promising to work with their manager on what is realistic here. I recall in MT's cast on open door the default is avoid siding with the complainer, right? So of course don't say anything that validates their claim that the manager is "bad". Not the place or time. AND, if there's no CEO role coming open here within a couple years, why go out of your way to develop them for a CEO role? Always develop people, but in service of the enterprise. So, maybe it's not just about CEO roles?

3rd, inspect what you expect. The "1-up" VP/decision-maker must never be surprised like this. It belies a big miss on the managers part ot not have seen and sent a WARNO of sings of disengagement. But that places fault with the VP who clearly is not ensuring proper upward channels of comms so this gets noticed.

Ok, I'm sure there's more and that I'll be kicking myself when corrected by more experienced leaders, but let us know how it goes!