Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:
In the last post, I outlined the seven main reasons your top performers are likely to leave. Here are the three steps you must take – now – to prevent that happening.
1. Re-establish a shared vision
To stay with you after the shared pain of the last couple of years, your key performers will need to feel a renewed sense of shared vision – they’ve been ‘running on empty’ for long enough. But if you’re like many leaders right now, the thought of hauling yourself back into the ‘vision business’ is a daunting one.
After all the best-laid pre-pandemic plans were torpedoed out of existence, and after endless months of wearying slog, dusting off the mission statement, pulling down the strategic plan and shaking the crystal ball anew feels like an exercise in futility and frustration. Weariness, lack of clarity and the pressure of other commitments all make this an unappealing exercise.
Here’s the thing – while most leaders will be wakening to the need (and desire) to rebuild their vision sometime near the back end of this year, that’s way too late for you. Your best performers will be gone by then – substantially because of that self-same lack of shared vision.
As a leader, your biggest single challenge right now is to find from somewhere the energy and enthusiasm to rekindle a new shared vision for your organization, your people and yourself.
Do it now. Schedule an off-site - yes, the dreaded 'retreat' - in-person if you can or virtual if you must, and just do it. One agenda item: One Vision. If you can't stomach the thought of that heavy lifting, find yourself a trusted, engaging, experienced facilitator and put yourself in their hands. They won't (and shouldn't) come up with the vision, but like a great sherpa, they'll make sure you and your team get there.
2. Provide a fresh challenge.
Part of that new shared vision must be the provision of a fresh challenge for your top performers. As we saw in the last post, for your top producers, simply returning to life as ‘normal’ - what it was before the pandemic - won’t cut it.
Why? Because although for most employees a return to something close to the old normal would be (and will be) a great relief, for your top performers, it's simply going to feel like going backwards. For your key people, you need to find new responsibilities, new locations, new oversight, new authority, new horizons, new challenges.
Vitally, agreeing those new challenges will require a higher-than-usual level of dialog. Hear me on this: You won’t retain your top performers by issuing them with a new challenge that you’ve simply delegated or imposed. Instead, you need to engage them in a dialog whereby you hear from them what they want to do next – otherwise, they’ll take those desires to a hiring interview with your competitors.
3. Use trust to rebuild a sense of ‘fit’
Your key people (especially if they have been with you for three or four years or more) are feeling disjointed and unaligned – like they don’t ‘fit’ with the organization the way they used to.
Rebuilding that sense of fit involves implementing both the points detailed above (re-establishing a shared vision and finding a fresh challenge for your key people) plus rebuilding a sense of trust.
As we saw in the earlier post, most people have had their trust in all institutions severely eroded in the past couple of years. Don’t kid yourself – you’re no exception: you, your leadership team and your business or organization are included. No matter how upright you’ve been or how trustworthily you’ve behaved during the pandemic, you are still the public face of, and subliminally the cause for your employees’ distrust.
Rebuilding trust (and renewing that sense of fit) will require one thing from you:
Consistent, predictably regular, and authentic communication.
Sounds like something you'd hear in couples counseling, right? Right. That's actually a pretty good proxy for where your relationship is with your top performers right now, and any therapist (or just your best friend) would tell you that communication is key. It is.
In the next post, I'll share what ‘consistent, predictably regular, and authentic communication’ involves, specifically in retaining your top performers this year.