Please Accept My Resignation


Imagine that today your #1 person turns in his/her resignation.

This is a shock. Your company has a robust talent management process. You identify people from within, precisely defining each level of their leadership lives with accompanying training. You analyzed this person’s compensation and paid them above market. Maybe they even had a development plan. The point is, you could be doing all the right things, and the best people may still leave.

If your internal talent management process worked, congratulations! It took one phone call to tap that person’s successor, who is ready now, to take the job.

If not, who was ultimately responsible? Current thinking would say, “That’s HR’s responsibility. There was no successor, so the process failed.”

But, you’re not a current thinker, you’re a future thinker. Future thinking would say:

  1. I have key positions and key people. It’s my responsibility to develop my people into leaders through customized stretch experiences tailored to meet the trifecta of development needs: the person, the key position and the organization. I am an expert in my industry, and so I can anticipate future market and organizational changes, thus constantly adapting those positions and experiences for my people.
  2. It’s my responsibility as a leader to work closely with my HR executives and actively network with external talent, as a back up to my internal pipeline.
  3. It’s my responsibility as an employee to actively develop people internally and network externally for my succession.

In other words, having the best talent with the right skills just in time, means everyone is responsible for talent management. Starting now, employee or manager, but especially if you’re senior in your organization, change your mindset from, “I take part in my company’s talent management process” to, “What if my key people leave tomorrow?”

Fistful of Talent’s blog post, “Recruiters Don’t Own Executive Recruiting” makes this point more tangibly. “Some CEOs are smart and automatically assume the role as “the chief recruiter” for the firm. In other cases it takes some convincing and building the business case…CEOs are routinely called upon to influence key customers, key vendors and strategic partners, so it’s only logical that they play a role in recruiting too. While time management is a major concern, most CEOs actually enjoy and learn from the process of meeting with top professionals.”

You are now an expert networker and developer of people.

What does this look like?

  • Executive and HR partnership: Quarterly meeting with HR to discuss internal and external sourcing efforts for key positions (By “sourcing,” I mean actively networking with potential qualified but passive candidates vs. the opposite traditional approach of passively reviewing candidates that apply for open jobs).
  • Sourcing and development goals: Organization-wide written sourcing and development goals. For example, I have a succession plan with “ready now” successors. My development plan has stated experiences and learning goals for those experiences (i.e. not “learn about this or meet with X people or attend training. We want active and measurable development experiences!). My direct reports have approved development plans with stated experiences and learning goals. I have identified and met X external candidates for my key positions.
  • Industry visibility: Find ways for you and your key people to become visible “experts” in industry organizations through speaking engagements, serving on panels or on boards. Also, expect your industry events to generate talent leads: set networking goals for those attending industry events.
  • Organizational sourcing: Ask direct reports and other key people to name potential external candidates for networking purposes.
  • Social Media Strategy: Develop a talent-focused Social Media Strategy (LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging). Too long to discuss in detail here, but next week I’ll dedicate the entire post to this topic.
  • Manage performance: What’s that got to do with a talent pipeline? Everything. Many people end up on succession lists that shouldn’t because they’re next in line, or that annual talent meeting got squished down from one day to two hours. Talent processes simply enable companies to identify talent in a consistent, repeated, measurable way. However, real growth and leadership readiness happens from thoughtful development experiences, shared and stated accountability and two-way feedback between you and your direct report, all the time.

Gather those names from above, prioritize them based on bench strength gaps and skill needs, and start developing relationships through lunches, informational interviews or a quick phone call.

To close, remember to read next week’s post on social media strategy.

Have a great week networking!


  1. Great recap Christine. On your last point – manage performance – studies also show that some turnover is impacted by lack of dealing with performance issues, i.e. top performers generally want to work with other top performers.


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