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Don’t Save the Ship That Has Sailed

“Don’t Save the Ship That Has Sailed” was originally posted by hint Founder & CEO, Kara Goldin, on LinkedIn here:

Before founding hint water, I spent many years in both corporate companies and startups. During that time, I saw a lot of people come and a LOT of people go, and I did my own fair share of walking away.

Leaving a job is a big decision and can be a tough one to make. It can also be an easy one, and as leaders, we never want to see that happen on our watch. That, however, can be easier said than done, so I’ve come up with a short list of tips on preventing the best of your team from quitting on you.

1. All Work and No Play Makes Jill Give Her Two Weeks

When I joined the AOL team, it was absolutely exhilarating. They were growing faster than they could keep up with, and after I got on board, that reality only multiplied. I was dedicated to our vision and to my role in seeing it come to fruition— getting in early, staying late, and doing whatever it took was no problem for me. Everything was so fast-paced; it was like being in a speeding car with the world blurring around me. I felt like I was on the ride of my life.

But eventually that excitement dissipated, and the long hours and relentless demands of the position wore me down. Sustaining a can-do attitude amidst years in a chaotic environment became increasingly difficult. I eventually realized I had to get off the ride, for my own well-being. After I did finally quit, I learned that my boss’s schedule was so intense it took her weeks to realize I’d left.

We all want a driven, focused, and committed team — and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what good is a stellar team that has one foot out the door? My time at AOL taught me that it’s crucial to give employees opportunities to appreciate what they’ve helped build. If the attention is purely on numbers and growing the business, then that passionate group you worked so hard to bring together will fall apart one by one as people burn out. As CEO of hint, I make sure we’re having fun. Whether it be through team-building events, taking time to have lunch together, or just ensuring people use their vacation days. Employees may leave for their own individual reasons, but as long as it’s on my watch, I never want to see a rock star walk away because the job just wasn’t any fun.

2. Slow Your Role

With today’s elevated pace, there’s increasing pressure to perform in our roles and to demand performance from those working under us, even those who’ve just joined the team. Of course we all want — and need — results from our staff. But I’ve seen this pressure undermine less experienced leaders and trigger them to make reckless decisions in how they treat newer employees who are taking longer to catch up. A heavy-handed approach may seem appropriate when deadlines are looming, but it just might drive good people to quit.

When the chain has a weak link, it can feel like there’s no time to allow for a learning curve. Hitting revenue becomes the only thing that matters, and the bottom line reigns. Over and over again, I’ve seen the stress of such an unforgiving climate create a sort of hysteria that prevents leaders from being able to gauge situations clearly. The tragedy occurs when they respond with forceful, dismissive, or demeaning behavior, causing their best talent to walk away before they’ve had a chance to show their full potential.

As we all know, everyone learns at his/her own pace, and some of the best people may take longer at the outset to adapt to their new roles. Part of being a skilled leader is being able to assess various personalities and zero in on what motivates them as individuals. Slow down, look at the big picture, and zero in on the reason this person was hired in the first place. Use that as your entry point to helping him/her excel and strengthen the group as a whole. You won’t only see short-term success in your business, you’ll see long-term loyalty from your staff, and that’s key to keeping the right people on your team.

3. Don’t Save the Ship That Has Sailed

You may be an A+ leader, and still people will walk away. They’ll have their own reasons — a better title, a shorter commute, a company they’ve decided is a better fit. If a rock star employee comes to you and says he’s ready to move on, the best response may not be what you think.

Our first instinct any time we’re confronted with losing something we want to keep is to force a solution, and the workplace is no exception. When someone submits her two weeks, your knee-jerk reaction may be to offer more money, propose a title bump, or even list off reasons why moving is a bad idea in an attempt to talk her out of it. But pressuring her to stay with quick fixes will likely only postpone the inevitable.

The seasoned executive will take time to really listen to why that person wants to move on before reacting. Nine times out of 10, when people announce a resignation it’s because they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and genuinely feel it’s the best decision. As one of my greatest mentors at CNN used to say: “Don’t save the ship that has sailed.”The best you can do is keep your relationship with that person, wish her the best of luck, and let her know she’s welcome back if it doesn’t work out. That level of respect and maturity may be the exact thing that has her re-joining your team months or years down the road.

Kara Goldin is Founder and CEO of Hint Water, the fastest-growing flavored water in the United States. Kara started Hint when she couldn’t find a healthy water that tasted great without questionable additives like sweeteners. Hint Water has 0 calories, 0 sugar, and 0 diet sweeteners in a can be purchased online at www.drinkhint.com in a variety of flavors including Blackberry and Watermelon, in both still and sparkling.