It is tough enough when a team member’s departure is expected, whether that’s because they were not a fit for the organization or due to a planned departure for new opportunities.

But it can feel very personal when it comes as a surprise. Leaders all want to say “it is just business,” but it can sometimes feel like a betrayal and a big disappointment.

Here are a few things to do when and if there is a sudden departure from the team, whatever the circumstances:

Get in the right mindset. It might take you a little time to process the news. Give yourself that time. (Not too much!)  Be irritated or pissed off if you need to and then get your mindset back where it needs to be: the team is not set in stone; it is your job to continually attend to it. One of my past bosses used to say, “I know you won’t be here forever, but I do want you to be better when you leave.” I think that is a healthy way to think about it.

Look at your Succession and backup plan SOP. If you don’t have one, now is the time to get one. At a minimum it should include a list of critical roles (roles that if they were not filled would jeopardize the business) and options for who could fill the role temporarily and identify any potential team members who could step into the role permanently. If nobody is ready, consider training or process improvements.

Get comfortable with the idea of ABR. Salespeople talk about ABC: Always Be Closing. Leaders need to be thinking ABR: Always Be Recruiting. Have warm leads in the pipeline. Keep your feelers out there. Have a good relationship with a recruiter who knows your business. One leader I know was constantly having lunch with top talent of his competitors. People knew him and he had a network he could tap in to when opportunities came up. What you don’t want is to be caught completely flat-footed.

It is going happen. Team members you value will leave. And Fortune will always favor the prepared.
PS The ultimate solution to people issues is to have a management operating system that addresses all the facets of running an effective business with a high-performance culture. For more information read Your Most Important Number or contact me to discuss your unique situation.