Salutations, loyal leaders. Capt. Fletch reporting with another edition of the Leadership Toolbox. Last month, we examined how to extract the best from our people by understanding their endgame. This month, we continue on a similar topic: the price of leading good people.
Recently a colleague of mine — my assistant actually — elected to pursue an opportunity to advance their career with another company. I like to advocate for people when they reach out and inquire about opportunities for work. I made it a point when I served in the military, and after I left, to do whatever I could to help connect people to opportunities. Often, this has proved bittersweet for me. I have witnessed many people go on to bigger, better things. As a sports coach it is an annual occurrence when I watch my graduating seniors move on to start their lives. This is an unavoidable part of leading good people.
The question is how do we deal with the void left behind? When good people choose to leave for various reasons, it can often bear an emotional element on top of the physical work they leave behind for us to pick up. Is it wrong to be upset when a good person departs? Should we feel at fault because we were not able to retain them?
In an ideal world, assuming they departed on good terms, we should be happy for these people. Life is a short adventure, as we all are aware. We should salute those who make decisions to ensure their adventure follows the path that best suits their intent. Still, it does not ease the pain of losing someone we value. As I have mentioned previously, leaders need the ability to examine the root cause of their feelings (and, thus, guide their own reactions and leadership in such situations). Perhaps the core issue involves realizing we have to begin the process of finding another good person to fill the vacancy. We live in a world where our industry constantly faces personnel shortages. The workload left behind is really a symptom of the hiring process lifecycle, which we have discussed previously. This brings us full circle to the reality that organizations face every day. Find good people, hire them, train them, be open to their endgame, extract the best from them, end the relationship at some point — hopefully on good terms, and begin again.
If all we had to do was show up to the jobsite and ensure the project was on time and true to budget, I think we would have a surplus of leaders in the construction industry.
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Some people never aspire to lead because they recognize the responsibility and weight, compounded on top of simply executing the work. A friend and fellow coach once explained it this way: “If all I had to do, Jake, was show up and coach the game, life would be easy. It’s everything we have to do leading up to the game that makes our job difficult.” The same is true of being a leader. If all we had to do was show up to the jobsite and ensure the project was on time and true to budget, I think we would have a surplus of leaders in the construction industry.
Professional sports provide a great example. Fans see the departure and arrival of new talent constantly, often to our dismay. When a team wins a championship, we often wonder, why didn’t the organization just keep that team intact for as long as possible? Every team, and member of the team, has a lifecycle. We need to learn to cherish the moments we have with our teams and, more importantly, our people. It seems simple, but we can either fill our bank with good memories or focus so hard on the job that we regret it when people move on. Then, we think about the things we wish we had said or done.
Make a conscious effort daily to cherish people — not simply for the benefit of the job or the organization, but because we often overlook the human aspect of construction work. Change is a constant, no secret there. My mom always says, “Live every day as if it’s your last.” I can’t emphasize enough the importance of that advice. What would it look like if we walked in every day and cherished our people through good and bad? Would it hurt less when faces change? Maybe. What it will do is allow us to look at the exchange with clear and honest eyes.
As I look back on the last year and a half with my assistant, I do wish I had cherished it more. I recall many days letting the burden of work cloud my sitting next to a great friend and tenacious worker whose seat is now vacant. As I look to the future, I acknowledge this is something I need to be better about and will add to my own toolbox. As you look to your own teams, take the time to enjoy today with them. Life can be unpredictable, and we never truly know when we might walk in to find an empty chair. This tool could prove to be one of the most important in the box for yourself.
Until next time, Capt. Fletch over and out.