Getting top talent is one thing. Keeping them is another.
This is a struggle of many organizations. There’s so much opportunity in the world right now.
Competitors, startups, market-adjacent enterprises. These companies want what you have: a walking, talking leader. Someone with experience, knowledge, insight, capability and confidence.
…which by the way, you helped keep around. And your people? This precious resource can just open the door and walk out.
So, what can you do to keep them? Essentially, nothing.
On the contrary, I believe you have to learn how to let them go.
Yes. I learned this pretty early on as an executive. I knew I was never the smartest or most knowledgeable person on my team, whatsoever. If I was, then that was a sign that I needed better people.
I’ve never had the desire to micro-manage or be that “I know everything” kind of guy. I’ve had bosses like that. You probably have to. And how long did you stick around when the boss is like that?
If you’re like me, you’re looking for a better situation right away. You’re ready to escape with the next best opportunity.
That’s what I’ve always looked for in others. An intrinsic motivation that drives a person to excel, no matter who their boss is or how big the task is in front of them.
Instead of trying to do their jobs for them, I look for ways I can best support them. I expect them to outperform even their own expectations. I want them to grow beyond their current home.
As my own responsibilities grew, I had to learn how to scale that approach.
One of the greatest thinkers on motivation, Daniel Pink, has said: “If you understand the independent worker, the self-employed professional, the freelancer, the e-lancer, the temp, you understand how work and business operate today.” That’s the kind of people I work with best.
They will be fine on their own. However, if you collaborate nicely, give them the ingredients they need and the right conditions—then they will grow even faster. Soon, they’ll outperform all expectations.
Rule #1: Give them purpose.
Give them a very big reason to say there. Connect their work with you to a larger purpose that serves their own self-worth and growth.
Show them how their contributions even are connected to global problems. For example, “By doing X, we are saving Y and helping Z.” That’s something they should understand because you show it. You explain it to them.
It’s the foundation of your very special bond.
Rule #2: Never waste a crisis.
When there is urgency, you can expect your talent to:
- Find solutions,
- Show resiliency,
- Get creative, and
- Drive themselves harder.
A crisis can be anything: a worsening global problem, a virus, a cyber-attack, a blockade in the Suez canal. Anything.
Grab this opportunity. Don’t let it slip away.
When we get out of the crisis, we will look like this. We will accomplish that. There’s nothing more engaging than a crisis.
Rule #3: Learn to let them go.
Yes, they work for you. Yes, they’re part of a team, department and an organization.
BUT you better want them to have the drive and motivation of a startup founder. Someone who is:
- Going to find a way no matter what
- Doesn’t need to ask for permission
- Feels accountable to themselves
Their own inherent need to make things happen is what drives them. The feeling that my company does not hold me cuffed or cage is and unbeatable world-class scheme.
Rule #4: Develop world-class skill.
The best talent wants to excel. You help them by giving them all the tools, support, ideas and opportunities to become experts at what they do.
You want them to be so good at their job that they’re invited to speak and even get headhunted. Yes, headhunted. It is refreshing and motivating.
Honestly, it is a recognition of their talent from the outside world and benefits your company.
Rule #5: Encourage teamwork.
Your people may be autonomous and behave like self-starting freelancers, but human beings are social animals. We do better when we can rely on support and share experiences with others.
Teamwork is a critical way that people feel connected, engaged and part of something bigger than themselves.
Rule #6: Explore and engage new ideas.
Take the time to explore with your talented people. Become a partner in curiosity. Ask them:
- “Hey, what is your interest with this new concept?”
- “What are the possibilities that could arise as a result?”
Many years ago, I applied a quite innovative idea at the time called “Young Management Team.” It was a shadow management team to experiment with the idea of regularly engaging with young talent on critical topics.
The secret sauce to engagement is connecting them with work that feels like a creative play.
Rule #7: Execute and evaluate performance.
Ultimately, we need to move the needle tangibly. It is important to give them a scorecard to measure their success. And they like these measurements. Usually, they:
- Execute fast and with high quality.
- Do not settle.
- Do not like fair share.
- Don’t compromise for anything less than excellent.
- And are proud of their results.
For top talent, winning is a contagious feeling that keeps the organization moving forward. Explain, give them feedback and showcase them.
To conclude, the way to keep talent is to give them every skill, ability and experience they need to be successful anywhere. Bonuses, money and extrinsic rewards only work in the short term.
You want to develop your people into game changers. That way, you’re always raising the bar and the performance of your team. You’ll keep them in the team because they want to stay in your team.
If your talent does outgrow their work with you and move on— they will be your allies elsewhere. They will be your loudspeaker elsewhere.
Or, you can purchase your copy of The Gift of Crisis: How Leaders Use Purpose to Renew their Lives, Change their Organizations, and Save the World.
Don’t climb this mountain alone. Let me show you the route towards business success.