99% of what I do these days is satisfying, but one of the most fun is my radio show. It focuses on how leaders develop, and each person I talk to offers a different way of looking at leadership—some subtle and some contrarian. Others, like Jan Masoaka, editor of the online newsletter for nonprofit leaders, offer thought-provoking new paradigms.
For example, when asked about her skills as a leader, she offered this example of her style. “I always ask my staff what job they want to have next—whether inside or outside the organization. Then, I ask them what skills we can help them develop to prepare for that job.”
In return for this approach, Jan expects her staff to tell her when they are considering another job so that she can assist them—as well as make the necessary adjustments for the agency. “I don’t want to hear it for the first time when they announce that they are leaving.”
In my years as a “coaching CEO,” I told my managers when approached for another job, to always go on at least one interview. Some were shocked. Others skeptical. I gave them the explanation given to me decades before by a very wise Board president, Shirley Cheramy. “We only want you hear if you are passionate about your job. You need to go on the interview so that you can look at your job from a distance and make sure it’s the one you really want.”
Jan said sometimes she will learn about a job that is perfect for one of her managers and tell them about it. A few worry that she is trying to get rid of them but soon learn, as one COO said, “That’s just what Jan does.” Then he coaches managers on how to work with her. “Jan plays tennis,” he tells them. “She hits a ball to you, then you change it and hit it back. Then she hits it again.” What a great analogy to use in explaining a creative mind!
As Jan and I discussed this, she added that most people who go on interviews discover that they have it better where they are. Talk about a win-win!
Some CEOs are so afraid to lose their best managers that they hide new job opportunities from them and even warn colleagues not to attempt to recruit them. When the prized staff member announces their resignation, the CEO is shocked, disappointed and sometimes outraged. One colleague I know was so furious with her COO for taking another (and much better) job that she didn’t speak to him for over a year. How sad. Especially, when the open approach works so much better.
Think about the staff who report to you. Would you be open to asking about their future ambitions and helping them achieve them—even if it mean losing them? Your answer may tell a lot about your relationship with your team—and about you.