One of the most popular articles in today’s Wall Street Journal is “The Case for Letting Your Best People Go,” a riff on a prior op-ed by Dartmouth prof Sydney Finkelstein. The essential point is that the best bosses in corporate America invest in grooming their top employees, knowing full well that at some point they’re going to move on.

That benefits executives and their companies in all sorts of ways. Once they become known as career makers, they become talent magnets that attract the best and the brightest. Their alumni are also likely to become good customers, partners or vendors. And the virtuous cycle goes ‘round and ‘round.

I’m surprised we’re still talking about this like it’s new. Books have been written about it. And besides Oracle, which the Journal story cites, companies like GE, Procter & Gamble, IBM, McKinsey, Honeywell, Intel and American Express have employed the same model of growing corporate America’s future leaders for decades.

That’s also how new industries grow out of new geographies; they’re usually spawned by one mother company that seeds the region. Microsoft and software in Seattle. Fairchild and semiconductors in Silicon Valley. IBM and big computing in NY.

Look at it this way. The best talent is hard to come by and even harder to keep around. Sooner or later, your up-and-comers are going to want your job, and that’s when they’re going to up-and-go. Given that reality, the only strategy that makes sense is to do right by them and they’ll do right by you. You know, symbiosis. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’ve used the same logic throughout my career, and the payoff has been huge. I’ve groomed and I’ve been groomed. And many of us have helped each other in many ways after moving on. It’s not rocket science, just common sense. All you have to do is three things:

1) Always take the time to help those who need AND deserve it; 2) don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need AND deserve it; and 3) stay in touch.

There’s a real trend these days for everyone to act like they’re so busy. Busy, busy, busy. I have friends with grown up kids and no full-time job, and yet, they act as if they don’t have a minute to breath. That’s OK if you’re in retirement or cruise mode, but if you’re career or business minded, it’s a relationship killer.

Relax, take a deep breath, quit thinking about yourself for a minute and take the time to help others. It’ll come back to you in all sorts of ways.

Image credit S. Sgn via Flickr

  • SamHanson

    Agree with you on the article. However what do you mean by “deserve”? Because of skill or personality or..?
    btw, you say “which the Journal story sites”, you meant “cites”?