Nicole Stanton | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Nicole Stanton

Background:  

Quarles & Brady LLP is a full-service law firm headquartered in Milwaukee with offices in Phoenix; Scottsdale and Tucson, Arizona; Chicago; Indianapolis; Madison, Wisconsin; Naples and Tampa, Florida; and Washington, D.C. Nicole Stanton is a managing partner in the Phoenix office.

The Mistake:

Believing people's explanations about why they're leaving the company.

I typically trust people. I take them at their word until I’m proven wrong. When business owners and people who are managing business operations need to transition someone out of their organization, sometimes it’s in the organization’s best interest. It may actually be the organization’s choice that a person is being transitioned out.

Because of confidentiality and privacy concerns, you can’t tell people that this was a decision the organization made. When people depart from our firm, we let them write their own story as they’re heading out the door. Of course, no one is ever going to say, “I’m leaving because I was asked to leave.” Very few people would ever say that. 

Usually, people want to create a more positive story than the actual reality of their departure. Sometimes people within the organization are very close to someone who leaves and they’re sad to see them go. You can’t tell them, “Actually, this person is not leaving for a better opportunity. They’re leaving because of x, y or z reasons."   

If you don’t have stability at the top – a faith and trust in leadership – it can be really easy for someone transitioning out of your organization to do damage.

If you don’t have stability at the top, it can be easy for someone transitioning out of your organization to do damage.

The Lesson:

It’s important to build trust and confidence in the leadership and management of your organization. So, when things like that happen, hopefully, people give the organization the benefit of the doubt. 

If you don’t have that kind of stability at the top – a faith and trust in leadership — it can be really easy for someone transitioning out of your organization to do damage – to make everyone wonder if the people at the top really know what they’re doing. They may think the organization has lost a terrific person, when that person may not have been as terrific as the people around them think they were. 

You need to create an organization that has confidence that whatever is going on – even if people disagree with it and they’re not happy about it – they know it’s a strategic move that’s in the best interest of the organization. 

It’s tricky because when people leave, the firm never gets to tell its side of the story: the person left because they were stealing or because they were harassing someone or because they weren’t playing nice in the sandbox with others. 

As lawyers, because we have such a strong ethos of confidentiality, there are probably fewer leaks in our organization than some others. Sometimes you hear through the grapevine the real reasons why people leave, but I think we try to do a pretty good job of keeping that under wraps to protect people’s privacy and confidentiality – even to the detriment of the organization, such as when the person who leaves has a big fan club.

Follow Quarles & Brady on Twitter at @QuarlesandBrady.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Stanton

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