Let’s put the 800lb gorilla on the table….People are skeptical of companies, so expect people to come in your company having LOW expectations and low TRUST, its important for companies to begin extending that olive branch from day one, chipping away years of disappointment, resentment, and dishonesty.
How do you do that? Invest time and money in actually building a culture that shows that you have a team of people who care about each other, more than just the work, but about each other as people. This must start from the top.
For SEER, I believe you can communicate this from day 1 with policies:
- unlimited sick days (we trust you),
- unlimited vacation days (we want you to enjoy life),
- a very progressive health insurance plan (we don’t want you to worry about $$ when you are sick),
- investments in people’s learning (we want you to grow professionally),
- investments in team events (we want you to have FUN!),
- firing bad teammates (we want you to enjoy working here w/ people who you feel have your back)
- firing bad clients (we want you to work with people who respect you and are fun),
- doing the RIGHT thing for clients (we have integrity to do whats right),
- volunteering (we care about others)
These are all examples of the kinds of clues you can give your team from day 1, that they are more than “human capital”.
For instance you want people to feel this way when they take vacations, or have a family issue, right?
Imagine what we as a company can accomplish if we all felt this way? If we all hired people who thought this way?
How do you think Ethan & I and others are going to act when Adam takes his honeymoon later this year? Yeah you know! That is the intangible…that is caring about the individual when people step up to help others enjoy their vacation or spend time grieving over family losses (heck, I’ve even gone to funerals of people I never met just to show support for people on my team & their families).
I talked about this in my best wedding gift post, the bonds with those people who stepped up so I could enjoy my honeymoon is exactly why when it is their turn to honeymoon or take time off I’m working OVERTIME to help keep them from having to worry. Those bonds are TIGHT, because they cared about me as a PERSON, not a boss, they wanted to see me enjoy myself w/ my new wife.
Companies need to create THOSE bonds if you want to minimize unwanted turnover and make it hard for people to recruit away your team!
In SEER’s time a lot of people have come and gone, and my feelings on them range the gamut, while I am not proud to say it, it ranges from “wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire” to “I hope you get the best this world has to offer”. I wish I didn’t carry the first sentiment, but I’ve invested heavily in some people only to be screwed by them. The important thing is that I invest .000001% (still too much) of my time thinking about the negative, and it only happens when a name comes up, or reviewing old phone lists.
I really believe in only giving mind share to the things you can change, but I am also realistic to say “look does that name or face flash into my mind, yes, and do I think good thoughts, no” - I am human.
So I am writing this because I have recently re-connected with the first person who ever worked with me, Joe. As SEER transformed and changed Joe did too, and after a 3-3.5 year run he moved on. I made the mistake when he left that so many young managers do with their first teammates, I got sad (not mad), I was sad b/c Joe was going to explore different projects, he was a GREAT person, and I was sad that he didn’t want to work with “me” anymore. I took it personally, I thought I had done something wrong. I never let that on because I LOVED working with Joe and even though I was sad, he had been so great to us that I couldn’t be angry, only supportive.
So I start there, 3 people who are no longer at SEER, whom I hope are getting the best this world has to offer, and I wish nothing but the best for and what they’ve taught me.
First off, one of my core beliefs is to create happiness where I can, I want people to be happy, I feel life would be better for all if we were more positive. Below you can see a pic of Patrick and I …7 years after it “didn’t work out”… :) We seem pretty happy huh? (in Tamarindo where he lives, he showed me & Nora all around Costa Rica)
So if you are not happy at SEER, so be it move on and find that thing that will make you happy and that is what Joe, Patrick, and Mark have done, and in reflecting on those three dudes I thought, HMMMMMM what is it about working with them that makes them fall into that category, where I LOVE meeting up with them, helping them when I can, they help me when I need it, when I see them…I hug their wives and are interested in how their lives are, if their new endeavors are panning out, and how I can help if they are not…its like we’re old friends, not bitter ex-employee/employer BS.
It all happened this year funny enough…Joe came to our office grand opening party (meant a LOT, my mom ran over and hugged Joe as soon as she saw him) and I’ve seen him twice since including today, I saw Patrick & his wife while in Tamarindo for a friends wedding, and I saw Mark & his wife just a few weeks ago in San Diego as we looked at new office space. There are definitely others (Staci & Bonnie - both left for families, etc) but these three guys will be my focus today:
So here’s my 9 takeaways if you wanna part ways on AMAZING terms, with your teammates (both employee and employer):
1 - You gotta actually care about each other personally and professionally
So I gotta be HAPPY for Mark when he told me he was moving to SD and to go working for an AWESOME company, not sad that I was losing him. I cared about Mark personally, and because I did, the personal side kicked in over the business side when he told me he was leaving. I was like OH crap, how can I ever replace him was my next thought! You aren’t truly wanting happiness for someone if when they discover that “thing” that will make them happiest and it happens to takes them away from you, you get angry.
2 - You have to respect each others paths
Even when you have to let someone go, they should respect that your company has a path and that they may no longer be right for that path, in the same way that they have the right to have a path and even after 2, 5, or 10 years they may choose to change paths. That happened with Patrick who moved out of the country altogether after we parted ways, today he runs a kick ass agency and he too, like Mark, is surfing on the regular (check out this video) I’m PUMPED for him. Having the time (after 5-6 years) to reconnect was awesome and time that I truly cherished, heck if I was able to change my path from teaching to SEO, how can I not be happy for someone else who changed their path!? That even reminds me of Leslie, who left to go back to school to work in non-profits…again how can I not be happy for that?
I think learned this in part from John Pogas & Sharon Cohen at AON (not my direct boss), whom when I told them I was leaving…John seemed truly happy for me - he just gave me travel recommendations yesterday actually! His “boss” Sharon asked me to come into her office and said she heard I was leaving…as I prepared to shake hands and get my cube all packed, she called me a “mensch” (which I was like umm what is that?) Sharon said, its just a “good egg” someone who is a “good guy!” I thought whew! The way I left AON to start SEER, left behind a trail of positive thoughts…why? Hopefully because first they saw my path was taking me in a different direction that would make me happier, but the time while we were together I did everything I could to make sure that for what I controlled I did an AMAZING job for them. How people treat you after you work for them says a LOT about how they thought about you while you did and to this day I love it when I bump into Sharon or chat with John via Facebook which we do often :)
3 - Be flexible on the way out
Give more than 2 weeks if you can, or at least make yourself available to help afterwards if its at all possible. Friends don’t leave each other high and dry, its not about 2 weeks, it’s about getting things to a point where the timing is right. I owe it to them to not drag it out, friends want to see friends happy, so its my job to appreciate the willingness but also expedite the process. In a company where you had impact there is a GOOD chance that your impact can’t just be wrapped up in 2 weeks and passed on to someone else.
4 - KICK ASS for your clients
You gotta leave behind you a bunch of clients who are sad to see you go…not thrilled they’ll get someone else. That is your legacy, you want your clients to be like OH NO. I’ll never forget one day I called one of Marks clients saying “there will be changes to how we are structured at SEER” before I finished he said…”You aren’t taking Mark away from my account are you?” in a panic. At the time the answer was no, but as a manager I said holy shit, he’s adding a ton of value, his clients are loving him!! Wow he’s gonna be hard to replace someday. I have a few people who have left a legacy so great that people who were hired after they were gone still hear about their impact. That’s how you want to leave things, on top!
5 - BE GREAT AT YOUR JOB
As an employee, you have to do a GREAT WORK and be a person of high integrity, integrity means you work your fingers to the bone your last 2 weeks to make sure your current friends still at the company and your employer aren’t left holding the bag. No one misses sub par employees, actually when they quit you think…thank GOD I don’t have to get dinged for unemployment. But if you want to leave an impression on those around you, go out with integrity and helping make their lives easier.
6 - Minimize “Healing” time
Work to make it non existent, with Joe it took me a year to no longer feel regret that I had let him down or didn’t offer him the right opportunities at SEER, with Mark it was instantaneous happiness. The difference was about 7 years of learning and watching people come in and out. Today people like the above, are the kind of people you are happy for first. Staci, who is my ROCK, started off managing my schedule, then managing payroll, then our books, is leaving to start a larger family. I got the call that she wanted to talk, took a big gulp and returned it from my hotel room - I knew what was coming … I was immediately happy for her, TRULY. Then I thought … oh shit, I’m losing one of the few people who has been around since the beginning, which was a bit sad. I’ll miss her, which is why I had a guy record a BAD rendition of please don’t go girl in a gorilla suit on Fiverr. :)
7 - Continue extending the olive branch
Due to my travel schedule I find myself in the cities of ex-teammates all the time, I still try to hit them up when I can and if I can squeeze it in we meet up. These are PEOPLE, not widgets…just because you don’t work with me anymore shouldn’t stop me from caring about how you are doing and if you are happy. Again this is for the people for whom we ended on good terms obviously.
8 - Don’t hire people you dislike, fire the ones you work with and find over time you don’t like
This sounds obvious, but people get hired all the time by people who don’t like them. Its usually the “I need someone to do X for me” approach, that leads to this or the “they were really good at X part”. Hire for cultural fit first, always. Fire the people you don’t like, no one says be friends with everyone at work. If you work with people you seriously don’t like who don’t fit your culture the damage they do is widespread. If you don’t like them, you probably don’t invest in their happiness like you do others, so why be someone’s anchor? Cut em loose and let them start the process of finding the right match.
9 - Don’t look back in anger…I heard ya say
Once you minimize “healing” time, you’ll start to look back not with anger or sadness, but with happiness, you’ll be happy that you got to know that person, still know them, and still stay in touch, as that gives you a sideline seat to watch them as they find their happiest place. There are tons of other great reasons to love the employees that leave, as my mentor Brad Aronson has said.
Patrick, Joe, Mark, Bonnie, Staci, and so many others have created things or taught people things that are still helping us kick ass for clients today, or helping us in how we manage people today. I’ll tell you this, I’ll take being with them for a time period over never having met them at all, right?
As Joe and I left Kraftwork for brunch we hugged, it was long enough that someone beeped at us. We laughed (Joe has a funny laugh), thinking they either could feel the love, or they thought we were gay! Joe walked down Girard Ave and headed home, I jumped in my car, we both knew that we’d see each other again and that when we did it would rock.