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Journey Strategic Wealth

What to Do When a Key Team Member Resigns

The reality is that you can do everything 'right,' as a leader, and still there will be employees who will leave to pursue other opportunities. Here are five tips to move on after that happens.


I won't sugarcoat it: It’s awful when a key team member suddenly resigns from your firm. It's even worse when it happens after you've spent significant time and resources investing in the firm's culture and building professional development resources.

The reality is that you can do everything "right," as a leader, and still there will be employees who will leave to pursue other opportunities. (This is especially true for the younger generation, which values experiences over gaining tenure.)

It's for that reason that I find it just as important to teach advisors how to rebound quickly after someone resigns as it is to teach them how to build an award-winning team culture. 

Here are a. few tips for how to move forward swiftly and efficiently after a key team member's resignation:

1. Emotionally Detach

Whenever I receive a call from an advisor who has just lost a long-time team member, there are usually a lot of emotions present—sometimes anger or resentment, confusion, sadness, frustration. The conversation usually stems around the advisor and his/her experience. (e.g., "I did so much for Mary. I can't believe she would leave us.")

My first piece of advice is always the same: Make a conscious decision to keep your emotions at bay and emotionally detach from the situation. It is OK to have feelings and explore them, but I recommend setting aside time for that, putting a time limit on it, and then choosing to move forward. Harping on how betrayed or aggravated you feel will not change the circumstances and will only hinder your ability to "think like a CEO" and make the right decisions for the business and your clients.

Additionally, remember that this isn't necessarily a reflection of you and/or your leadership. Taking things personally can keep you "stuck" in an unhealthy thought pattern.

2. Reflect and Analyze  

Prior to posting a new job ad, you should take a moment to pause and reflect on what occurred. Set up time with someone—a coach, mentor, colleague—who can help you objectively analyze the situation. Focus your analysis on what you've learned and what, if anything, should be changed. Start with these questions:

  • What did I learn through this experience? About the practice? About the role? About myself?
  • If I am being completely honest, what is it that I/we need to do better moving forward?
  • How should I share these learnings with the rest of the team?
  • Now that we have the opportunity, what adjustments should we make to the role and how it's structured? How will that help the practice?
  • What is critical for us to look for in a new hire?

3. Don't Overthink the Search

While it's important to be thoughtful about how you craft and post the job description, advisors spend far too much time trying to reinvent the wheel. "Where can I find a job description for a Director of Client Service?" was one of the most common questions I received as an advisor coach. 

If you don't already have an old job description on file, google it. Or search your firm's intranet (if you are at a larger organization). Or look on LinkedIn. Or ask a practice management coach.

There are literally thousands of resources for financial advisors looking to hire team members. Circulate the job description to your team and invite them to help you edit and revise. You should also write an introduction (or record a video that could accompany the job description) describing, in your words, what you are looking for. This is your opportunity to share the qualities that you are looking for in the new hire as well as the expectations for the role. Be as clear and direct as you can; weeding out candidates who do not align with your needs is just as important as finding ones who do. You may consider saying things like:

  • We are looking for a self-starter who is comfortable in a flexible environment with minimal supervision.
  • We are looking for someone who can wear multiple hats at once and can prioritize projects with competing deadlines. We will ask you to provide examples of how you have done this in the past.  
  • We are looking for someone who likes a highly structured environment and is open to coaching and mentorship.

4. Leverage Your Network

Once you have the proper job description, don't hesitate to post it. There is no "secret sauce" to finding talent. I recommend posting on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn and sending to your personal network. Put someone in charge of looking through resumes and scheduling initial phone calls. If it's just you in the practice, set aside an hour in the morning and evening to review results. You might also consider conducting highly specific searches on LinkedIn (e.g., location, job title, prior firm name) and direct messaging a handful of people a day.

I also highly recommend identifying 10 people you are close to: friends, family members, colleagues, COIs, etc. Send them a personal email letting them know who you are looking to hire. Describing the role and invite them to send recommendations over to you.  

5. Don't Repeat the Same Mistakes

Once you have hired the replacement, it’s important that you take steps to ensure you are never in a "hiring crunch" again. First, start a list in your CRM (or in Excel) of people who you think could be a cultural fit for your practice. Be intentional about adding to this list on an ongoing basis; perhaps you meet someone at a networking event or connect with someone on social media who you could imagine hiring at some point in the future. Cultivate relationships with the people on this list and stay in touch; you never know when you'll need to reach out to them.

Next, you should keep a folder of job descriptions for all the roles that exist in your practice, along with a few bullet points with your personal thoughts on each role. Finally, ask each member of your team to come up with two lists; one that includes all the repeatable processes they oversee, and the other that includes 10 common mistakes that occur in their role. These lists will come in handy If you ever need to hire a replacement quickly. But they can also help your current team gain synergy and clarity … and potentially prevent further turnover.

Penny Phillips is the co-founder and president of Journey Strategic Wealth. 

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