...and it is kind of well, embarrassing. Perhaps you have seen this recent article http://tinyurl.com/9u8rroc. It is piece that claims that Marissa Mayer hired a new CMO at Yahoo while her current CMO (now ex-CMO) was on vacation. Yikes! Now, I don't know if this is exactly how it all went down but if the account is even partially accurate...not good!
Oh yeah. So, what exactly do I have in common with Marissa? I made the same bone headed move at one point in my career. Yes, i started to recruit for someone's replacement while they were still in the job and of course they found out about it. If that wasn't so bad, the fact that this person was actually a friend made it even worse.
"How could I do that?" you ask? Simple. Lack of experience, lack of courage and poor judgement. Whatever reasons Mayer had for handling her situation the way she did really doesn't matter. It was handled poorly. So was mine. By the way, Marissa Mayer and I are not the only ones to make this mistake. It happens all too frequently in Silly-Valley. That doesn't make it right.
What is the lesson to be learned? Leaders need to lead with courage, clarity and conviction. When making a transition with someone you inherited in your new job it is ALWAYS better to be straight up and clear with your intentions. There is no need to nuance these situations. If you are an incoming CEO, VP of Sales or Sales Manager and you are going to make personnel changes, handle the matters with integrity and directness. Make the changes quickly and don't mislead anyone by saying "hey, you are a member of my team...I don't anticipate making any personnel moves until after I get the lay of the land". People can sense the B.S. from mile away. For your sake (and reputation) as well as for the good of the other person, tell them the truth and get it done quickly.
I am sure you are wondering if I am still friends with the person I treated so poorly. The answer is yes. He was gracious enough to look past my mistake and I count him as one of my closest friends. And guess what? Karma can be cruel as the very same thing happened to me a few years later. I was in a senior executive role and the CEO began a search to replace ME while I still held the job. Nice! Payback can be a beeoch!
The moral of the story is handle these situations like the leader you are or want to be. That way you can stay on the good side of the Karma Gods.