Mar 7, 2012

Why Good People Leave

Risk factors for organizational sustainability: “If we are unable to retain our existing senior management and key personnel and hire new highly skilled personnel, we may not be able to execute our business plan.

You have most likely heard the refrain: “Our people drive the business” or “Our most important assets go down the elevator at night” or some variation of those. The problem is that most organizations stop at this superficial level. They don’t actually develop sophisticated programs to actually address the problem of keeping their best people and finding more to further accelerate their growth.

Why do most people not have a clue how to hire, retain and motivate great people?

1. It’s HR’s problem. It’s not. It’s the leaders’ problem. At most companies, HR is chronically under-staffed and having difficulty keeping up with the more nuts-and-bolts aspects of their jobs (i.e., getting payroll out the door, doing basic hiring/promotion, and generally keeping the business moving ahead).

2. Throwing more money at the problem doesn’t solve it. Many people believe more compensation will solve the “talent problem.” However, this rarely happens — or it’s only a quick-fix for problems that will recur. Money is a factor. But it’s usually not in the top 3 reasons for a really talented person to join an organization, especially as they mature in their careers. They want a great boss, great people, and an amazing opportunity to change the world.

3. What gets you promoted, doesn’t make you a great leader or manager of people. When you start out in your career, how do you get promoted? You get stuff done. Whether you’re an accountant, a lawyer, or a tech exec, you do a lot of work and you do it well. What gets you promoted when you’re a manager of people? Getting a lot of people underneath you get stuff done. That’s a totally different skill set, learned on the fly and not via a MBA, and most people don’t have a clue.

4. Performance reviews and goal-setting doesn’t happen. If you’re doing a poor job of sitting down with your people and not at least setting goals with them and giving them feedback on how they’re doing, they’re going to look for other opportunities where they get that feedback.

5. There’s never any discussion around career path with your people. Goal-setting is one thing. Taking a half an hour and asking your people where they want to go in their careers in the next 5 years is another thing. 90% of people I’ve talked to have no clue where they want to be in 5 years. Most will say they just want to be promoted to the next rung in the ladder. If you actually help them think through where exactly they want to go, they’ll appreciate it and it builds loyalty.

6. Bosses get sucked into promoting based on performance and not potential. We like to predict who will be a great future sports star or future executive. Getting real complex tasks done is a better predictor of future performance than just some subjective assessment of their potential.

7. Allowing “bozos” to infiltrate a team. Great talent loves other talent. What talent hates is when “yes men” and brown-nosers – with no talent or at least much less talent – are made their peers or (worse) their bosses.

8. Losing touch with the product or market you’re selling into.

9. The leaders get arrogant. They expectto keep dialing it in and being successful. Life doesn’t work that way. Eventually, all monopolies end. Arrogance tends to put off team members who have to suffer through it, especially when you combine it with losing touch with your core market.

10. Paying people unfairly. Pay good people fairly for what they do. And don’t reward the bozos.

Growth can mask a lot of problems. However, you shouldn’t neglect the issue of talent selection, retention, and motivation in your organization for too long. You only have to go through the experience of trying to replace a “star” once to know what I mean.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Not all talented folk are good leaders, that is for sure. There is a hidden quality, one not every 'head hunter' can see, the quality of taking a position and hitting the ground asking questions of the workers. learning how they do and have done. Getting their confidence before trying any of the 'SUPER IDEAS' that made him/her a leader.

    Have a great day up there.


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