My colleague and I like each other. She likes our organization and the mission. She is doing solid work. Yet in a way, we are conspiring to let each other down by not wanting to let each other down. We are pretending not to know it isn't as good of a fit as both of us need.
Instead of well-intentioned vagueness, how can we make sure that we maintain a good fit and commitment between company and employee?
My dad often brings up the Army as a good example of an organization and employee consciously reviewing and choosing to stay together or separate. Every 4 years, Army and soldier decide to recommit... or not.
Stay Interviews are a way to take this concept of conscious review and enhance employee satisfaction and connection.
Recently our company decided to try this method. We found several good lists of questions and picked our favorite ones to use as conversation starters in our interviews.
In one interview, we confirmed that a team member felt like she was a very good fit with her job. She identified some areas where she would like to grow and take on new responsibilities. We felt a renewed commitment to each other after our conversation.
An interview with another employee identified opportunities to rearrange responsibilities to make the role a better fit.
In another interview, the team member had a hard time answering the question about what about her job made her want to jump out of bed in the morning. The more we talked, the more we both realized she was trying to do the job but her heart wasn't in it. She didn't want to quit and leave us hanging, and we didn't want to push her out. We jointly realized that it was time for us to separate. To speed up the transition to a new person, she helped us define the role we need, while seeking a role for herself outside our organization that will be a better fit. We decided to consciously part with mutual respect and well wishes.
Jim Collins promoted the idea of getting the right people on the bus in his book Good to Great. One of my friends worked for a company that has what they call a regular bus stop, or an opportunity to let people get off the bus. Some people, like my friend, decide to volunteer to get off at one of these opportunities. No doubt others are encouraged to go.
We didn't go into our stay interviews expecting to have someone transition out of our organization. Yet following our discussion, we realized we had uncovered an opportunity for both of us to grow in new ways. Being willing to have honest conversations about what's working and what could be better is a way to get rid of the organizational kryptonite of vagueness.
Consider using stay interviews as a way to identify opportunities for your team members to use their superpowers to achieve your mission. Or to decide it's time for a bus stop. Either way you won't be conspiring to stay in comfortable vagueness about your future together.