Retention – You Can’t Get to the North Star Without it


Tino MantellaBy Tino Mantella


To be the best we can be, we must ask questions like “Is our strategy relevant?”, “Do we have the necessary financial resources?”, and “How will we shape our brand?” We might also consider who is disrupting the market and how we can capitalize on our unique qualities.

These questions, and dozens more, are all valid and must be addressed. But at the end of the day, having the right people on the bus and in the right seats is essential.

Leadership guru Peter Drucker is known to have said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, a statement that almost always rings true. I would add that a lack of retention inflicts havoc on both culture and business strategy. My rank for the most important factors in establishing and maintaining an impactful culture is people, followed by culture, and finally, strategy. It’s not likely that one’s culture will thrive with excessive turnover. We have all seen examples of companies “shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic”. It generally doesn’t end well.


What Got Them There Won’t Keep Them There

Our theme for this month’s newsletter speaks to the idea that what we do to attract people to our company today won’t work to retain them. Companies must consistently evaluate all aspects of the business to make certain they not only attract motivated employees but retain them as well.

Likely few, if any, of us have a perfect track record of selecting and retaining the people we need to take our companies to that North Star. Here are the top ten things I have learned about retention over the years, sometimes the hard way, in my own quest to reach it:

    1. Make the right hire. I am referring to both the interviewee and the interviewer. Often as interviewers, we are anxious to make a hire, so we don’t fully do our homework, or we don’t share the real story about our company. Perhaps we showcase only the good things and downplay the challenges.
    2. Share everything. If you are running a deficit, let people know. If you have had a lot of turnover, let people know. If you want people in the office every day, don’t hide that fact. I have seen too many situations where employees say what they heard in the recruitment phase wasn’t what they learned AFTER they took the job.
    3. Have a purpose beyond the financial bottom line and share that purpose openly with potential hires.
    4. Provide an abundance of training and mentoring to new employees (and people at all levels) as well as those with tenure.
    5. Paths for advancement – Let employees know their path to advancement and do what you can to make it a reality.
    6. Feedback – Create an easy way to accept feedback. It’s hard for leaders at any level (and everyone can be a leader) to hear what they are doing wrong, but if you close your mind to it, the feedback will come… just not to you.
    7. Practice the Leadership Character Model. Having a base of integrity and a balance of respect and responsibility is more important today than ever.
    8. Catch people doing something right. Too often, we practice the “seagull effect”. This is where the supervisor walks around and dumps on people for doing something wrong. Flip this effect on its head!
    9. Set an example. Do what you want others to do. And show that you are human… you have feelings, you make mistakes, and you have bad days.
    10. Don’t Burn Bridges. When all else fails and the person decides to move on, our hope should be that it’s for something better. Don’t burn bridges as they may return, or at minimum, will share good things about you with their community.

I’ll end by giving a shout-out to the mighty team at TLG. These folks are smart and hard-working, and they have stayed with TLG because they see the difference TLG’s work is making in people’s lives every day. What more could anyone ask for?



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