Leaders who leave… and the team that stays behind

The announcement that M&S CFO Alan Stewart is departing to join ‘rival’ Tesco certainly ruffled a few media and shareholder feathers yesterday (10 July 14) with the internal appointment of Paul Friston, to hold the reigns while the recruitment process in underway.

What should Paul and other M&S leaders do to minimise the impact on the internal team who’ve seen their leader depart?

M&S staff rate the company ‘ok’ on glassdoor.co.uk,  but interesting ‘senior management’ scores the lowest of the 5 rating scales at just 2.9.  Times of change (especially unexpected change) shines the spotlight on the senior management even more brightly, so my suggestions to the M&S leadership would be:

Fill the void with communication – don’t wait for the bongo-drums to beat their own story as to the why’s and wherefore’s… grasp the opportunity to reinforce positive strategies, to wish your leaver well, and to focus on the future

Be visible – balance the doubtless necessary meetings with time talking to the teams, being seen ‘on the shopfloor’.  Perfect a calm aura than reinforces ‘business as usual’

Resist the urge to disrespect the leaver  – reassurances that all is well doesn’t work if you’re caught in a ‘well he hasn’t been engaged for sometime’ commentary.  As my mum would say, ‘if you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing at all!’

Step up – don’t wait for the dust to settle, fast-track your immersion in the team, and lead from the front.  If the strategy is sound, embrace it as if it was your own.  The team will thank you for it.

and remember, the team, alongside your shareholders and the media are watching.