This article from the Wall street Journal reminded me of a moment earlier in my career when my boss recruited away one of my best employees.  My instinctive reaction was one thing; my more studied reaction a while later was another: leaders, it’s OK when your best employees leave.

Maggie was my Administrative Assistant.  She was a darn good one too.  Maggie was efficient, friendly, professional, and a good team player.  In addition to helping me administratively, she became the hub around which the whole department revolved.  She was especially good at hearinLeaders, It's OK When Your Best Employees Leaveg a need or question, and then putting the caller or visitor in touch with the right person. 

In addition to all of this, Maggie was English by birth, and had the most gorgeous accent.  All my friends were envious.

I treasured Maggie.

Of course, I wasn’t the only person to see her talents and interpersonal skills.  So I was not totally surprised when I learned one day that the CEO was recruiting Maggie to become his Assistant.  His own long-time Assistant was retiring. 

My first reaction was instinctive.  “You can’t have her!”, I said to the CEO (whom I knew well enough to say that to).  “Go find your own Assistant!”, I continued.

The CEO simply smiled and walked away.  A while later I realized that my first response was a rather selfish one.  I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) stand in the way of a better opportunity for Maggie (even if I could).  I thought too much of her to do that. 

Leaders, it’s OK when your best employees leave

Like all leaders, a big part of my job was to help make my employees successful.  Obviously, I had succeeded in that effort where Maggie was concerned.  So, it was no shock when other leaders noticed that success. 

Further, I realized that it reflected favorably on me when other leaders wanted to hire my employees.  It helped build my reputation as a good boss and a developer of human talent. 

Finally, I realized that such positive turnover was also an opportunity.  It opened the door for fresh talent and new eyes to join my department.  Sure enough, we recruited a young lady who in her own way became just as well-regarded and valuable as Maggie.

So, leaders, be glad when other leaders recruit away your best talent.  Sure it’s a loss (and you don’t want it to happen too often).  But when it does it tells me that you’re doing a lot of things right as a leader.