December 2, 2021

How Do You Keep Your Top Talent Excited About Staying With Your Company?

Watch This Guy In the Video…Watch Him Very, Very Closely


Did you get very, very sleepy?  I know I did.  Thank God the video was only 18 seconds.  The pencil tapping and fiddling with the keyboard were my first clues, but when he started nodding, leaning on his hand and YES! Finally fell out of the chair…I knew!  THIS POOR GUY IS BORED OUT OF HIS MIND! And the odd thing is, the employees in the background just kept on about their business as if this is a normal scene in their workplace…probably so!

How many of us, and how many of our employees feel just like this guy?  Just looking for an excuse to head to the coffee pot, to run an errand or get a terrible stomach bug in the middle of the day.

So, the question is “How in the world do you keep your top talent excited about not only staying with your company but literally dancing out the door to get to work every day?


Radical innovation is going to be a critical component in a leader’s toolkit in the future, and this does not mean that you “try innovation” over a week-end brainstorming retreat. It happens by disrupting the current environment, challenging old assumptions and even turning the culture upside down so that you can move ahead and start being highly competitive.

Each day I meet leaders, and the first question I ask is “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being super sticky, how stuck are you?” Most people laugh, and they usually respond by saying “I’m a 20 or a 25!” So, when you are stuck, you have to break up the pattern, turn a table upside down and figure out a way to still use the table as an eating surface, roll out of the bed on the other side, shave with the hand you don’t normally use…do something to be disruptive. This is the same for companies.  What would happen if you do the opposite of what you’ve always done? What would you do if you totally destroyed your most profitable item and had to start from scratch? Or, how would an artist, physician or scientist suggest that you change your company?

To keep your company relevant, a culture must foster a sense of psychological safety for employees to not only feel comfortable but be encouraged to challenge the status quo and bring fresh, radical ideas to the table and feel safe that they are not going to be criticized or made to feel silly in the process. Everyone in the company needs to be brought up to speed on the vision and direction of the company, and the leader needs to make a statement that the game is now on!  Everyone is going to be challenged to think radically, innovate, think strategically and that a part of this is to be open to divergent thinking and to allow open debate to get to the root of the issue. You have to be willing to get very uncomfortable…to laugh nervously and feel the sweat bead up on your brow.

Staying ahead will also call leaders to design an environment that includes a diversity of people, a mix of cultures, ages, ethnicities and religions can bring new, more creative ideas to the table. It will also be very important to add a Chief Knowledge Officer to your staff is someone who has their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world and how your company fits in and how competitive you are to people who are thousands of miles around the world from you.

THINKPAK Deck by Michael Michalko

To get started, I highly recommend the book Thinkertoys and a Thinkpak set to get your team thinking in a radical direction.  What WOULD a ballerina do if she were asked to build a skyscraper.  What WOULD a scientist do if he were asked to design the next trend in the fashion industry.  And finally, what WOULD your age 22-30 employees do if they were asked to take your company to the billion dollar mark in profits.  Think I’m crazy?  Just look around you at a few people you may have heard of like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who turned the world upside down before they were 30.

Tomorrow is already here. Are you relevant, or are you becoming obsolete? Only you can answer that question!

“Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress”

-Ted Levitt, American Economist and Professor-Harvard Business School

S Stands for Strategy: Do You Have a Leadership Strategy for 2011?

Do You Have a Leadership Strategy for Your Company for 2011?  If Not, Now's the Team to Get Started!

Do You Have a Leadership Strategy for Your Company for 2011? If Not, Now's the Team to Get Started!

Do you have a leadership strategy for 2011?  I don’t mean a business strategy, marketing strategy or financial strategy, but a true leadership strategy…one which will focus on developing the people in your company and your culture around a common leadership trait which will differentiate you from the masses?

I have been coaching leaders since 1999, and I have not had one single CEO tell me that they have a true “leadership strategy”.  They usually have some type of strategic plan, business strategy or marketing strategy that is sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Or, they may have a leadership training or week-end retreat in hopes that the team will “rally” and “get motivated“.  But this has absolutely nothing to do with designing a true leadership strategy for your company.  By designing a true leadership strategy, your entire company agrees to invest a good amount of time designing a company wide goal to focus on mastering no more than 1-2 leadership skills each year…skills that can have tremendous impact on your company’s bottom line.

How Much Time Does Your Company Spend On Company Gossip Each Year? And You're Paying Them to Spend Their Time Doing It?

Let me give you an example:  Company gossip. Just think and sit for one moment and consider approximately how much time your employees spend on gossiping about their co-workers.  If you have 500 employees, my guess is about 50 hours a day total (10 minutes per person…some people gossip, some spend their whole day doing it and some just “dabble” in gossip…that is over 15,000 non-productive hours each year.   I don’t have ANY research to back this up, so you researchers out there who study this stuff, send me along some solid research and I’ll be happy to post it.  I will just tell you that research on gossip is going to have holes in it…people just guess or they don’t “man up” around their gossip.  So, my “approximations” are probably going to be similar to yours.

Okay, so you take company gossip, and you and your company flip it on its head and say “We know that company gossip is going to happen, but let’s see if we can improve or get as close as possible to eliminating it.”

To reverse the company gossip and get people back to productive hours, you commit as a company to work on what Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler call mastering Crucial Conversations.

Their premise is so simple but often so difficult to implement. The premise is this: Behind the problems that routinely break teams companies are people who either cannot or will not deal with failed promises, broken rules, missed deadlines or bad behavior. If they do step up, they often step up in anger or say something that just makes the problem worse and then gets shot by the messenger or fired by the boss. The authors’ research demonstrates that these problems aren’t just irritating, they are costly both in revenue, in performance and in the cost of having to replace top talent.

In teaching the people in your company how to conduct a crucial conversation, you teach them the most effective ways of holding a face-to-face accountability discussion with someone who has disappointed you, missed a deadline or behaved badly…in this case…gossip.

So, you are sitting in your office and Bob comes in from a long week-end and starts complaining about the way Carole ran the meeting on Friday.  Rather than listening, chiming in and saying “Yeah…I know what you mean”, you call Bob on his s— and say “You know Bob, our commitment this year is to having crucial conversations, and this is your time.  I am not going to participate in the conversation.  This is between you and Carole.  If you would like to role play,  I can do that, but I won’t talk about the problems you are having with Carole.

Now, you are probably thinking…you know…this is really going to tick off Bob.  But not if this is the company agreement.  If you don’t keep the company leadership strategy forefront in your mind and stick to it, then you are breaking a promise to your company.

There are literally over 100 leadership strategies to address, and you cannot tackle them all at once.  To be honest, you can really only work on one at one time.  Once it is close to mastery, you can move on to the next behavior.  But I do recommend that you look very closely at designing a true leadership strategy for 2011 and just see if it works.  Here are the main questions you will need to ask AND answer before choosing the leadership behaviors to address:

1.   What are your core values, mission and vision?

2.   Who is your customer, and what leadership skills do you need to improve to address their needs?

3.   What performance metrics will you track?

4.   What will both the guidelines and the boundaries be for this initiative?

5.   How are you creating and handling the tension that will arise from the initiative?  (There will be tension, which is good thing, because when there is tension, growth follows).

6.   What are your biggest challenges in your company right now, and what is keeping you awake at night?

7.   How willing is your top leadership team (CEO, COO, CFO) to fully participate in this initiative?  Are they willing to hear from their assistants that they let them down?

Here are a few of the big behaviors that keep coming to me every day that you may want to consider:

  • Accountability
  • Being True Team Players
  • Boss Relationships
  • Command Skills
  • Conflict Management
  • Customer Focus
  • Decision Making
  • Follow Through
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Listening
  • Organizational Skills
  • Peer Relationships
  • Planning
  • Project Management
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Time Management
  • Trust

If you are considering designing a leadership strategy for 2011, please contact me today.  I would so enjoy working with you.

E Stands for Emerging Leaders: 10 Ways to Spot Them

bankeraIt is not uncommon to hear senior leaders talk about their fears around their succession plans.   They aren’t really sure who will be stepping into their shoes following retirement but the bigger question is usually “How do I know who will be a good fit?”

There is one thing that I feel sure about…the best people to begin focusing your leadership development around are those men and women between the ages of 24-35.  Many companies say they don’t want to offer leadership development to their younger employees, because they will more than likely be gone before they have the opportunity to step into a critical leadership role.  If this is your view, then you are probably not a visionary leader.  The goal is to develop high potential candidates…even those you are afraid may leave you one day, because if you treat them well, and train them well, there is a great chance they might just return to your company down the road.

So, the first question I hear is this “How to I spot an emerging leader?”

Here are a few qualities to look for.  While an emerging leader may not have all of these skills, they should have at least 7-8 of these skills which are quite evident to you and your senior team:

1. Intellectual horsepower: IQ of 130 or higher.  The person needs to be a quick learner/quick study.

2. Vision: Emerging leaders can communicate a compelling vision for the future.

3. Quick, sound decision making: Emerging leaders need to be able to  make sound decisions without undue delay.   They gather as much information as quickly as possible, and move on the decision, and at the end of the day, the decision they make is usually one that you can stand behind.

4. Change agents: Great future leaders stand for change, initiate change and get behind cultural changes happening inside your company.

5. Energetic: Emerging leaders have a passion for work and are high energy in nature.  They aren’t slaves to the company, but they give 110% while they are working, and they are willing to go the extra mile and pitch in to help out when help is needed.

6. Ability to mentor and coach others: Our future leaders must be able to coach other people so that they are empowered to make smart decisions and can develop out their skills, both soft and hard skills.

7. Marketing savvy: Top leaders understand the trends in the marketplace and know how to help the company build out the brand so that customers are clear about your company and receive red carpet treatment.

8. Strategic agility: Emerging leaders need to be able to think ahead, to spot trends and to be able to paint a crystal clear picture of how plans “fit together” so that a breakthrough plan can be developed out.

9.  Communication skills: Both oral and written skills need to be professional, crisp and clear.  Emerging leaders need to be able to communicate not only by text, e-mail and Facebook but in face to face conversations and through a well-written letter.

10. Team player and collaborator: Emerging leaders need to be able to play well on a team.  They need to be able to seek out the opinion of others and build consensus so that the team moves in sync in the direction of established goals and the vision for your company.

Once you have spotted your emerging leaders, it will be time to sit down with these individuals and formulate a true leadership plan.  The plan should focus on strengthening the above skills and also addressing topics such as:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Critical thinking
  • Networking with higher management
  • Learning everything they need to know about the past, present and future of the company

Just remember…don’t worry if you think you are going to “throw away” training on a high potential candidate who may leave you.  If you focus on leadership development, they will leave your company and RAVE to others about what you did for them…trust me…this is most always the case!.

Are You Smothering and Shushing Your Talent?

Each day I speak with leaders who are in the quest for finding top talent. And…they usually find a way to woo them into the company.

The challenge is this: Once the talent is in the door, it is not uncommon for the leaders and the culture to smother and “shush” this new talent. They expect the moon from them but don’t give them a voice or the room to spread their wings.

This is a prime opportunity for coaching and mentoring. In the future, it is not going to be enough to rely on your own thoughts and past learning to groom future talent. Smart organizations pair their people with top mentors who can educate them about all the ins and outs of not only the job being done but the ins and outs of growth, diversity and how to develop future leaders.

When it comes to developing out young talent, I recommend you look closely at the following:

1) Competency Models. I am all for having standards of performance and competency models. They give people something to strive for. But, many competency models are outdated and promote “sameness” throughout the organization. With young talent, it is critical to design customized developmental programs which will allow young talent to really spread their wings, try on new things and bring fresh ideas into your company.

2) Internal and External Networks. The future belongs to the companies who can successfully develop peer to peer and mentor to peer networks inside the organization and who can master external networks using technology such as Facebook and Twitter. Many companies are now designing their own “internal” forms of Facebook, but in my opinion, this defeats the purpose. The beauty of tools like Facebook and Twitter is that they can give your opportunity the leg up on being able to reach out to brilliant minds who are outside your company for R and D purposes, to collaborate or to even recruit new minds into your company.

3) The Collaboration Process. Do you really have a collaborative spirit inside your company, or do you simply give lip service? New talent thrives on collaboration. They want to know they are a part of creating something much bigger, and it’s truly up to your company to position collaboration on the center stage of your company. Collaboration is not something that happens during a week-end retreat. It is a mindset and a driver which helps to shape your culture. Look at your process closely, and begin today to open up your process so that it becomes deeply ingrained in your company..

How do I prevent my employees from jumping ship with the knowledge I have empowered them to deploy?

I don’t know a company alive who is not wrestling with this question. The majority of leaders today are being challenged by top talent that jumps ship or gets recruited away, and this trend is going to only escalate in the next few years as Generation Y comes into the workforce. This young group of leaders see job hopping as a necessary step in their career development, and in order to stick around, leaders are going to have to be committed to building an organization that is attractive enough to keep sharp people around.

Today’s careerists are saying that they are usually attracted to a company because of strong brand equity, a great salary and nice perks. But, what keeps them with a company is a creative, collegial atmosphere, pride in the organization, access to the top decision makers in the company, the opportunity for advancement in the company and exposure to the training and development needed to grow their managerial and leadership skills.

I have coached over 800 people and have trained over 10,000, and what I know to be true is that employees leave when they feel they have no other choice. Employees don’t necessarily leave companies…they leave a boss who is making life difficult, or a culture that has become boring and stagnant, or a lack of psychological safety, or when they feel like they are stuck in a dead end job without any type of inspiration from a manger or co-workers. To stop employees from jumping ship, the leader has to be willing to bring a great deal to the company to create an environment that is exciting, one that allows employees the opportunity to engage in open debate and that offers employees challenging assignments that will stretch them both mentally and emotionally.

Leaders will also be required to become dedicated to ongoing learning and development and to create a true learning organization in the culture. They will be challenged to find new and creative ways to capture and then leverage the knowledge of their most critical talent. Through blogs, wikis, company forums and interviews, decision makers can begin capturing and then sharing knowledge so that they grow the company and create a succession plan for future leaders. Leaders of the future who engage in what is known as a knowledge harvest — a systematic, facilitated gathering of information through formal interviews, observations and collection of data so that best practices can be shared throughout the company will have the upper hand in the future.

We are in the midst of one of the most exciting yet turbulent times in history. The companies who can keep talent from jumping ship will be those who take the time to respect, trust and develop their employees. It’s just that simple! We would like to encourage you to comment and share your ideas on this pressing question.

To learn more about how to prevent your top employees from jumping ship and taking their knowledge with them, pre-order EDGE: A Leadership Story today..