Comings and Goings …

Branson Quote - Train and Leave - Morguefile

I recently ran across this excellent advice from Sir Richard  …

Two things immediately struck me, based on my organizational experiences, as I considered this thoughtful suggestion about treating people nicely and helping them grow.


We handle poor employees, especially those with aggressive personality traits, with the proverbial kid gloves, while our more valuable employees are left to clean up after them.  

This is our fault, Leaders …when we hesitate or are afraid to confront poor workplace behavior or performance.  By failing in this basic management task, we establish behavioral norms which reinforce poor traits, while extinguishing those that reinforce excellence.


I have too often heard the tired old idea about “What if we train them and they leave?” cited as a reason not to develop people beyond what we want them doing where they now are in the hierarchy.  It’s better for us if they just stay put and do what they have been doing … no need to learn additional skills.

The classic response, of course, is What if we don’t train them and they stay?, which perfectly illustrates one side of the issue … failure to train benefits NOBODY.

Another aspect of all this is less often mentioned:  “What if we train them and they leave, then become active and highly skilled recruiters and cheerleaders for our organization?” 

I once had the opportunity to test this out, as I managed a group of entry-level professional staff who labored in that most unrespected, but often most-loved of higher education positions … residence hall directors, otherwise known as “Dorm Moms” or “Dorm Dads“.

Many of my staff had aspirations way beyond this somewhat thankless, long-hours, and high-drama job working with a “tough crowd” (traditional age college students).  

I nurtured their dreams by helping them build solid resumes based on experience dealing with people, managing facilities, dealing with emergencies and interpersonal issues, planning and executing programs, and helping others successfully grow and develop themselves.

… and I watched my best employees transition on to other campuses and other positions, year after year after year.

While this meant I was stuck in a constant rut of having open positions to fill, it also meant I had a professional network for myself, my colleagues, and our school that extended far beyond our ivied halls.

Leadership is hard and helping other people grow enough to leave you is one of the more challenging aspects of leadership … but it is essential for servant leaders to do this.

What are your experiences with letting go and building leaders?

Remembering with fondness a good time of my life in the Heartland ….