January 28, 2022

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

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!.

What Good Are Exit Interviews? by Trina Roach

Trina Roach has a great blog: Creating Tomorrow. I just love the name!

She has a particularly good post from June 7 on exit interviews.

This is an area where I find most leaders and managers struggle. They say that they just don’t want to hear the bad news. I always wonder if this is more about a leadership or personality trait…the employee leaves because they have been working for a difficult boss, and to hear anything negative is unnerving. Yet as Trina points out, the exit interview can provide you a gold mine of information.

If you are reading this blog post today, I challenge you to consider the last time when someone left your company. While your employee may have told you he/she was moving on for another career opportunity, what other reasons caused them to leave? What about your leadership style created the desire for talent to walk out the door?  And…how can you get to the root of the situation during an exit interview so that you grow as a leader?  It will take guts for you to hear it, but the risk is so worth the reward.

Check out Trina’s post today…great stuff! .

Leading the Superstar

In the work I do each day, I coach and consult for the A Players of the world…you know…the superstars who are always going to do well and who are shooting for the moon in everything they touch.

I have found that the majority of A Players are usually quite comfortable working with the boss and top decision makers in the company, yet they are often less comfortable working with the B and C players in the organization (Superstars thrive by spending time with other superstars or people who are ahead of them in rank). If the superstar is going to move ahead in the organization (or career), developing relationships with people who are hierarchically below them will be critical to their success. By giving them the opportunity to teach and mentor B and C players, the superstar can learn the people skills needed to advance.

Most A Players respond quite well to a manager’s offer of bigger, better challenges (challenges that stretch their creativity, project management skills and results). This is an opportunity to impress the top decision makers in the company and to develop skills which can further their career.

While it may be hard to believe, most A Players often live with a lot of insecurities (Winston Churchill is one such example). They have usually lived the life of an over-achiever due to pressures from authority figures, and they go over and beyond to do the best job possible. A manager can help by giving the A Player a job for which she was perfectly designed for, allowing her to succeed and then giving praise publicly for a job well done. The praise does have to be genuine, or the superstar will dismiss it as bogus. It is important to remove platitudes from the praise and focus on her unique skill sets and how that skill set has affected the outcome and the people on the team. Example: “Susan. Your work on the XYZ project was outstanding. I was so impressed at how detailed your project plan was and how you finished the project on time and slightly under budget. You are such a role model for the other team members, and I want to thank you for your hard work.” Superstars love to hear about their results and their hard work.

If you are leading a superstar, I encourage you to take the time today to map out a plan for her development. Get her involved in that plan, and watch as the superstar shoots for the moon!.