Change is painful and joyfulChange is the only thing that’s constant in our lives, yet it also makes people extremely uncomfortable in their jobs. A CEO client of mine  led the implementation of massive change for the organization over the past 18 months.  The organization was in the midst of implementing a completely new business model and developing a new 5 year strategy. The new business model required restructuring, some layoffs, and new hires as well. After losing two people unexpectedly in his leadership team, he asked “Is it something I’m doing?”

First, I believe that this question shows true leadership. A good leader will look at themselves and wonder first if they need to improve. There are always areas that can be improved, of course. But sometimes, it’s not the leader causing the problem.

Change Execution

In this case, the CEO had done a multitude of things right.

  • He included his team in developing the 5 year strategy.
  • Strategy updates were provided to all staff.
  • His leadership team embarked on a development and coaching program.
  • He started tracking goals and measuring success.
  • Biweekly leadership team meetings were established for consistent communication.

Everyone handles change differently.  Sometimes, people come to the realization that they are now in the wrong role or the wrong organization, due to the changes. Therefore, it would be natural to lose some people along the way.

Turnover and Agility

In this article by Forbes, they address the cost of turnover, and the cost of keeping the wrong employees when you are implementing organizational change. The article points to a new focus of agility for an organization, and the choice between changing the workforce, and changing the people who are already in the workforce.

“…turnover can be beneficial if it leads to the right individuals leaving and if it produces an organization that is more agile and better able to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment that most organizations face today. The key issue is not how much turnover occurs, but about who leaves and who stays!”

Yes, people will feel the pain of separation from their colleagues who have left the organization.  They may even need time to grieve the loss and come to terms with it. This is part of the pain with change and especially transformation.

As a grieving colleague, analyze and decide if you are still aligned to the vision of the organization.  If you are aligned, wish your colleague all the best and focus on what you have control over; your contribution, attitude and performance. Leaders must evaluate who was lost, and whether they were aligned to the success of the organization.  Sometimes it’s better to lose team members who aren’t aligned, than to work through the problems that they’ll cause. Additional personal inquiry may be required if the exiting team member was aligned and contributing positively to the strategy execution. Either way, you can’t avoid the pain.  But sometimes that’s a good thing.

Benefit of Leaving

One overlooked aspect is the positive effect that leaving has for the exiting team member. Many times, they’ve been unhappy and unfulfilled in their role for awhile.  The organizational change may be just one more signal that it’s time to move on to something better.

Contact us for coaching through your organizational change.