Q: Dear Roland, all leaders are resigning from our scale-up, one after the other. I don’t understand why. Our scale-up has been in business for some five years. We are the leader in–even the Uber of–our market. We have recently turned profitable and we have runway of at least another year. So why leave exactly when we’ve turned a corner?
We have tens of great juniors working for us. But with regards to leaders, only us two founders are still holding on. All our other CXOs and VPs seem to be leaving us for sudden “better offers”.
A: Dear Peeved, it sounds like your scale-up has fundamentals to be proud of, well done! Market leadership, profitability, lots of runway, … What is not to love?
What I did not find in your message, Peeved, is how your executives’ felt about their departure. Did you ask them why they wanted to leave, and were you open to hearing an honest answer? Did they express any doubts about the company fundamentals? Did they still share the same purpose for the company? Did you discover any disagreement on how you work together?
Without having spoken to you, I would venture to guess that your scale-up has a giant elephant in the room. An elephant nobody dares mention to you founders—or that you have continued to ignore. Your most urgent job now is to find that elephant before it kills your workers.
To stop the bleeding, might I suggest you do an uncomfortably open workshop? Get both founders and your top 15-30 remaining employees in a room for a day. Reassert your core values and realign around your core purpose. Ask if financial projects are realistic. And debate openly why so many executives are leaving.
With the right workshop and the right facilitator, I guarantee:
- You will build more trust in a day than the departures have lost you in a year.
- You will identify employees that can serve as (temporary) managers.
- You will align the entire workforce around 3-5 core priorities, recreating the momentum you need.