Have a Stay instead of an Exit Interview

Have a Stay Interview instead of an Exit Interview

You have a sneaky suspicion that your high-potential team member is ready for more — possibly with another organization. You are dreading the moment when that employee shares, she is submitting her two-week notice. When that day comes, she’ll make clear it’s not “you” or the “organization;” it’s “her.” A position opened up in another organization that was too good to be true — she had to take it.

You can see the writing on the wall: Your assistant coach is going to be heavily sought after by other teams at the end of the season. Eventually, the day comes when your assistant asks to see you in your office and reluctantly shares that he has been offered an opportunity he just can’t turn down. He greatly appreciates you and will never forget all that you’ve done for him…but this new position is simply what’s best for him and his family.

Too often, supervisors, managers, and head coaches, see what’s coming but do nothing to address it. Our only “prevention strategy” is to hope we are wrong as we wait for the inevitable exit interview.

Such a “strategy” however, cannot be considered leadership.

So, as an alternative, how about we actually lead? How about we conduct a stay interview that trades “waiting and hoping” for “knowing and acting?”

If you think key team members are looking to leave, then go talk with them. Be completely transparent. Let them know how great they are and how much you value them. Share with them the variety of in-house career options available now or in the near term. Give them the space and let them feel safe to share what they are thinking. Listen intently without judging or becoming defensive.

What will keep a key employee on the team? Identify the opportunities and benefits you can provide that will help him advance his career by staying. You may discover that a few simple changes to his contract or a few new opportunities are all that is needed. Conversely, you may learn there is simply nothing you or the organization can do that will meet his requirements. In either case, you now know and can act accordingly.

Don’t ignore your leader intuition. If you sense a key team member may be looking to leave, then have a simple, nonthreatening stay interview. That conversation could be the difference between keeping a valued team member and letting her walk out the door.

Have a Stay instead of an Exit Interview was originally published in Horizon Performance on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.