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June 19, 2024

A Key Leader Has Left Your Organization- Now What?

Post By:
Lisa Rigoli
In-House Contributor
Leadership Coach & HR Consultant
Element of Change
Guest Contributor:

In 2022, my leader left our organization, an unexpected shift leaving me shaken and questioning my position within the company. Then I was hit with a second wave of news: With my boss's departure, my market would undergo a reorganization.

It was a brutal one-two punch. And again, the news shook me. 

I was charged with the task of helping 4,500 colleagues find new homes within the organization, but more than 40 of these leaders' roles were redundant – meaning the organization wanted them to stay, but didn’t have a place identified for them.

These people were not only grieving the loss of their market, which was completely dissolved, but the loss of their teams and their bosses. Familiarity had been replaced with compounding change.

Change is inevitable, within any organization (and a fact of life in general). Preparing for change and leadership transition is critical. Yet, 73% of organizational leaders are not prepared to deal with these changes, Gartner found in a survey. 

When a key leader leaves an organization, it can lead to others following them out the door – a daunting and difficult prospect. There’s a variety of factors that can contribute to this, one being a sense of isolation.

Instead of leaving my colleagues alone during a time of intense transition, I decided to help them through the changes – changes I myself was going through along with them. Here’s what we did.

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First, we launched a Strategic Cohort to allow us to be accountable, meet regularly and problem solve. 

Then, we implemented Stack & Build Behaviors to help us continue to grow and learn during the transition. 

Finally, we explored our options for Extended Learning Programs, to help us learn, develop and sustain new skills. 

The experience was so positive and formative, that I founded Element of Change, a leadership and HR consulting firm dedicated to supporting leaders and their teams when they need it most. Each quarter, we host virtual leadership forums to create community and safe space for leaders to openly discuss their challenges, mastermind to support one another, and learn best practices from our team of experts. 

This past February's forum examined how to retain and stabilize teams that are affected by a leader’s departure. (Did you miss this month’s forum? Sign up here to stay in the loop for all of our exclusive upcoming forums with insights and discussions tailored to senior leaders and HR partners.) 

This was a hot topic, and it comes as no surprise. In today’s landscape, many organizations are struggling with this challenge. And as it turns out, senior or executive level employees have a disproportionately high turnover cost for companies, of up to 213% of their average salary, according to the Center for American Progress

That’s a big chunk of change. 

It helps to explain why some companies invest significant time and money planning for leadership transition and supporting continuity. During this forum, we highlighted three ways you can address potential leadership continuity issues within your organization when a leader departs.

  1. Establish succession planning processes by implementing Strategic Cohorts.

Past forum participants have found success with Strategic Cohorts, leveraging peer-based learning pods or small groups to foster innovation and problem-solving.

  1. Implement leadership development initiatives using Stack & Build Behaviors.

Half of our forum participants were already acquainted with Stack & Build, a structured approach designed to enhance skill acquisition and knowledge retention through systematic learning experiences.

  1. Launch training and development programs and explore Extended Learning opportunities.

Surprisingly, none of our forum participants were familiar with Extended Learning opportunities, which offer ongoing skill development and knowledge acquisition beyond traditional training programs.

If you're interested in continuing discussions on topics like this with a community of like-minded peers, I invite you to join our next forum on Wednesday, May 1st at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET.  If you can’t be there live, register to receive the recap following each session. 

Gartner. (2023, October). Where HR Will Focus in 2024 .Retrieved from URL

Center for American Progress. (2012, November). There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees. Retrieved from URL