The departure of someone seen as essential for your team

Laurent Le Jariel

CTO at Azalead



Five years ago, I was a Research and Development director, and was in charge of a team of seven people. I had worked with one of the team members for four years. I had a strong relationship with him, and he was easy to manage, as he was incredibly reliable and professional. I could have a one-hour meeting with him, and he would then be able to independently do the rest of the job, without intervention. In addition, he was able to plan and prioritize his and the team's activities for long periods of time. However, one day he told me that he wanted to leave the company for a year, as he wanted to work on his own personal project in China.

Actions taken

I didn't want to hide the fact that he was leaving from my team. While I have often seen organizations hide the fact that somebody is leaving, I prefer to be transparent and face any issues as they come. However, I knew that I wouldn't be able to replace him, as his skills were so specialized and acquired in the long term. I decided to be very transparent with the team, and to let them know that the team member was leaving to work on a personal project. We then worked on ways to handle the big shift that the team was going to be faced with when the team member left. To do this, we identified the work the team member had been doing, and discussed how we could share these activities among the team. Because I had previously mainly spoken to the team member who was now leaving, I had to change my management style to become closer to the team members. I also had to ensure what I said was more precise and detailed, so that team members could understand what I was asking of them. In the week following our meeting, we agreed to work on transferring subject knowledge by setting up a wiki on what the team member had been doing.

Lessons learned

The key word here is TRANSPARENCY. Don't hide issues from your team, even if you find them tricky to discuss. By being clear and transparent with my team I turned a problem into an opportunity. In this case, I had to adapt in my role as a manager, and my team had to adapt in terms of how they communicated, but this resulted in processes becoming more accurate, and my team becoming stronger.

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Laurent Le Jariel

CTO at Azalead

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsMentorship ProgramsPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthSkill Development

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