Like many of you, the staff turnover bug bit AME this week. Of course, I knew we weren’t immune to the Great Resignation, but it was still a bitter pill to swallow when AME’s director of marketing and communications, Jeff Puma, signed off for the last time earlier this week.
From hosting our weekly lean coffee breaks (which I will begin facilitating next week) to working with the 2020, 2021 and 2022 AME International Conferences chairs to create their themes, Jeff has left an indelible mark on the AME community. I know that his decision to leave AME was not arrived at lightly.
The thing about this tumultuous time for staff turnover is that you can create a great work culture and empower your employees, and yet things may still draw them away because of factors outside of your control as a leader.
If you’re a fan of the show Ted Lasso, you might recall when Higgins shared this brilliant insight during the season 2 finale, “A good mentor hopes you will move on. A great mentor knows you will.”
When you lose a valued staff member, some of the best things you can do as a leader are to help with the transition, reassure those who remain on staff, and let the departing person know that he or she will always have a home with your organization.
To recognize Jeff’s contributions, I asked a few members of our staff and our board chair to share some thoughts about Jeff and what he’s brought to the lean, continuous improvement community. What came back are some lessons about teamwork and communication that I’m sure Jeff would appreciate me sharing in this letter.
- Bring an improvisor’s mindset into any situation and say “yes, and” to help move things forward.
Darlene King, AME’s director of operations shared, “I’ve never worked with anyone who embodies the spirit of ‘yes, and’ more than Jeff. The consummate team player, he is always willing to take on challenges with an abundance of grace, humility, and generosity.”
- Consistently encourage others, but don’t shy away from providing honest feedback.
Desiree Dolecki, AME’s director of conferences and events shared, “Jeff is a dependable, supportive, encouraging, honest and reliable team member who will be missed.”
- Your team knows when there’s a pressure situation. You can help them stay grounded and focused on the mission if you stay calm.
Laura Cloninger, our events registration coordinator shared, “Jeff has always been a calming support over the last few years in all the times of uncertainty.”
- Cultivate your personal network and be a connector for others.
Conference and events manager, Sara O’Hara shared, “What I like best about Jeff is that he is always calm under pressure, he’s a team player, he’s an amazing writer, he’s fun and he’s the person you need in your life who always ‘knows a guy!’ He is the AME version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon!”
- To build a community, always keep your focus on those you serve.
AME board chair, Marc Braun shared, “Jeff has contributed greatly to building the AME following over the past three years and will be missed dearly. I trust his passion for people, integrity for doing things right, and dedication to spreading positive stories of human thriving will serve him well in his next role.”
For my part, I will miss Jeff’s can-do attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes. He has been such an inspiration in my first two years at AME’s helm. In particular, I’ve learned a lot about social media from Jeff. The most consistent refrain of his AME tenure may well be “Don’t forget to share, like and comment on every AME post.” In fact, during his time with AME, our LinkedIn followers more than tripled!
Of course, it is never truly a “goodbye” at AME. Jeff is already volunteering some of his time to help us with a few odds and ends. What’s more, he just joined AME as a member!
So instead of saying goodbye, I ask that you join me in welcoming Jeff as our newest AME member. If you wish to stay connected, you may find him on LinkedIn.
As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.