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When a Key Executive Resigns

Sylvia MacArthur, Madison MacArthur, December 2013

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img-when-a-key-executive-resigns-madison-macarthurIt’s a fact of life – people move on! Even key individuals in the executive team who have been with an organisation for years, who have become synonymous with the company and its brand, and whom one would never expect to leave.
Nothing is static, people change, their personal and professional circumstances change, and so when compelling career opportunities arise at the right time, even the most loyal professionals may decide to pack their bags and move on.

What’s interesting to observe is the way in which different organisations respond to a key resignation. Some will literally march the ‘traitor’ to the door within hours of receiving the resignation letter, others haul the potential defector into meeting after meeting with corporate heavyweights in an attempt to make a counteroffer, while some (very few) accept the situation and focus on dealing with the impact of the impending departure.
The reality is that, unless a counteroffer tactic is successful, the executive employee will shortly be leaving the building for good, so it may be best to focus on filling gaps and managing stakeholders.

And who are these ‘stakeholders’? Some are obvious – (in no particular order) the rest of the executive team, direct reports, and the broader organisation; clients and customers; media; shareholders and investors; service providers and consulting partners…amongst others. In my experience, my corporate clients spend ALL of their time focusing on these ‘stakeholders’ (to varying degrees) with a view to minimising the fallout of the resignation.
However, there is one important stakeholder who is almost never given any consideration at all – and who, with different treatment – might be able to contribute to a successful transition and tremendously reduced collateral damage. Who is this key stakeholder, you ask?…..well, it’s the very same key employee who has just resigned!

Yes, it may feel like a bitter pill to swallow, but undoubtedly, the CEO’s and executive teams who can keep things amiable, respectful and dignified in the days and weeks after a resignation, are MUCH more likely to not just reduce damage, but to actually turn a gaping hole into the foundations for growth.