Leading with Trust

Five Benefits of Losing Your Star Players

Top PerformersMy team is undergoing a tremendous amount of change as several of our long-term, star players are moving on to other opportunities both in and outside the organization. For several years the composition of my team has remained relatively stable but now we’re entering a new phase of growth, which is both scary and exciting. It seems like each day I’m having the old Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” conversation with my managers, as we try to sort out who’s going, who’s staying, and how we’re getting our work done.

It’s easy to get discouraged when top performers leave your team. The immediate reaction is often to look at all the challenges that lay ahead — How do we replace the intellectual capital that’s walking out the door? Who is going to cover the work while we hire replacements? Will the new hires be able to match the productivity and contributions of the previous employees? All those questions swirl through your mind as you ponder the endless hours you’re going to have to invest in recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training new team members.

Rather than being discouraged, I’m energized and looking forward to the future because the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term difficulties. Here’s five benefits I see to losing top performers:

1. It proves you’re doing something right. Huh? Doesn’t it mean that something must be wrong with your leadership or team dynamics if you’re losing your top people? Well, if you’re a toxic leader and your team’s morale and performance is in the tank, then yes, there’s something wrong. But if you’re doing a good job of leading it means you’re hiring the right talent and developing them to high performance. I take a little pride in knowing that other leaders see the immense talent I have on my team and they want to hire them away.

2. Your team is better off for their contributions. The contributions of my star players have helped raise the level of professionalism, productivity, and capability of my team over the last several years. They have redefined what “normal” performance looks like and we’ll be looking to existing team members and our new hires to reach that same level. We are better off for having them on our team and I believe they are better off for having been on our team.

3. It provides a chance for existing team members to step up. Losing valuable contributors is an opportunity for other team members to step up their game, either by moving into higher levels of responsibility or by taking on short-term duties to cover the gap. When you have several high-performers on a team, it’s easy for other valuable team members to get buried on the depth-chart (to use a football metaphor). Losing a star player allows second-team players to step into the limelight and prove their capabilities.

4. You can bring in new blood. Having long-term, high-performers on your team brings stability and continuity. However, stability and continuity can easily become routine and complacency if you aren’t careful. Hiring new people brings fresh perspective, a jolt of energy, and a willingness to try new things you haven’t done before. Teams are living organisms and living entities are always growing and changing. I see this as a new era to bring in a fresh crop of star players that will raise our performance to even higher levels.

5. It facilitates needed change. Bringing in new team members is a great time to address broader changes in your business. You have new people who aren’t conditioned to existing work processes, systems, or ways of running your business. They aren’t yet infected with the “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here” virus that tends to infiltrate groups that stay together for a long time. It’s a time to capitalize on the strengths and ideas of new team members to help you take your business to new heights.

Losing high-performers is never easy but it doesn’t have to be devastating. I’m grateful to have worked with star players that are moving on to other challenges and I’m excited about developing a new wave of top performers that will lead us in the years ahead. It’s time for change…Bring it!

Build Trust Today or Lose Talent Tomorrow – 3 Tips to Keep Your Top People

dear-boss-i-quitIf you ask organizational leaders to name their top five challenges, there’s a good chance that retaining key talent will be on the list. Every person and role in your organization is important, but there are mission critical jobs and high performers that contribute substantially more to your bottom line success and it’s those people you can least afford to lose.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an increasing trend in voluntary turnover and the rate of unemployment for people with college degrees is about half the national unemployment rate and is decreasing. There is expected to be an ongoing talent shortage well into the next decade as Baby Boomers retire, technology and job specialization increase, global competition for talent rises, and education systems struggle to keep up with the demands of business.

Not only is competition for talent going to increase, the Hay Group reports that 20% of employees plan to look for a new job in the next two years and another 20% plan to leave within the next five years. The reasons cited for jumping ship? Of course the chance to make more money somewhere else is always high on the list, but there is a growing discontent among the workforce after years of low to no pay increases, increased pressure to “do more with less,” and low levels of trust with organizational leaders who have shown little to no regard for their employees.

Building and nurturing high-trust relationships with key talent is essential for keeping them on your team. Here’s three tips to help you build trust and retain talent:

1. Learn the skill of building trust – Yes, you can learn to build trust. Most people don’t give much thought to building trust. They think it “just happens” over time like some sort of relationship osmosis. The fact is that trust is built through the use of very specific behaviors and if you incorporate those behaviors into your leadership practices you will have high-trust relationships.

2. Foster a culture of engagement – High performers are more willing to stay in jobs and organizations where their needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence are being met. All people, especially your top talent, thrive on being in control of achieving their goals. They want to continue to develop their competence and expertise and establish meaningful relationships with team members.

3. Ask them to stay – Unfortunately, most leaders don’t ask their top performers to stay until they’ve submitted their resignation and are walking out the door. You can build trust with your key talent by engaging in courageous career conversations. Ask your top people what it will take to keep them in your organization and try to find creative ways to provide them opportunities for growth, learning, or expanded responsibilities.

Managing high performers can be just as challenging, if not more so, than managing poor performers. In most cases of poor performance, you can identify specific job skills or personal attributes that need to be improved and put a plan in place to work on those specific issues. When it comes to high performers, you’re constantly having to be creative and find new ways to keep them engaged and growing which can be absolutely exhausting!

Regardless of whatever talent management and retention strategies you employ, building a foundation of trust is critical to the success of keeping your best performers. You can choose to build trust today or lose talent tomorrow.

Discover Hidden Talent – How Many Jeremy Lin’s Are Sitting on Your Bench?

The sudden rise to stardom of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has taken the sports world by storm over the last two weeks. Seemingly from out of nowhere, Lin has gone from a no-name bench-warmer to the darling of New York and the NBA, leading the Knicks on a seven game win streak. During his last seven games, Lin has averaged 24.4 points, 9.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds, all the while reviving a moribund team, moving them up two places in their conference standings.

The talking-heads of the sports world have been proclaiming that Lin was a complete unknown who came out of nowhere to achieve this success, but the reality is, Lin was a known commodity who just needed a chance. Coming out of high school in Palo Alto, CA, he was offered the chance to walk on at Stanford, Cal, and UCLA, but chose instead to attend Harvard where he was a standout player. Although he went un-drafted by the NBA, he was signed as a free agent by multiple teams and played in the NBA Developmental league before finally getting his chance to start with the Knicks. It simply took him being in the right place at the right time for him to showcase his skills.

Lin’s story serves as an excellent leadership reminder when it comes to talent management. How many potential Jeremy Lin’s do you have sitting on your bench?

People Just Need a Chance
Our organizations are filled with people who have a wealth of talent that is left untapped. How do you explain the worker who toils in anonymity all day long only to go home at the end of the day and excel in a given hobby (sports, music, art, etc.)? Why do we not tap into some of those skills and abilities in the workplace?

A little over a year ago my organization started experimenting with in-house, high-end, multimedia productions. It was amazing to see the latent talent that existed in our company. People came out of the woodwork from various departments to lend their expertise, such as camera operators, video editors, script writers, and web designers. All these folks needed was an opportunity to showcase skills that weren’t being fully utilized in their current roles.

Don’t Stereotype People
There’s no doubt that Jeremy Lin has been stereotyped. Lin is frequently described as “deceptively quick” or “stronger than he looks,” as if an Asian-American isn’t supposed to be quick or strong. U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who played basketball at Harvard, knows Lin, and has worked out on the court with him said “This is classic low expectations and, frankly, stereotyping. He was under-appreciated and under-recognized. The fact that he’s Asian American, those two things are absolutely linked.”

In our organizations we frequently stereotype people based on personality assessments, job roles, or competency models. There is nothing wrong with these tools, but if they’re utilized to pigeon-hole people we run the risk of limiting people’s potential. My organization is a big user of the DISC assessment, which profiles people based on behavioral preferences. I’m an “SC” on the DISC, meaning I tend to be more of an introvert, prefer steady and structured environments, follow-through on tasks, don’t like sudden change, and pay attention to the details and quality of my work. For years I was thought to be a “behind the scenes” person until I was given an opportunity to MC an all-company awards ceremony. Afterward people couldn’t believe how well I did in that role and were asking me when I was going on the public speaking circuit! Little did they know that I had a tremendous amount of experience of public speaking and teaching both large and small groups in my church.

Take a Risk
It’s easy to get trapped in sticking with the tried and true. Leaders often have their “go-to” guys that have proven themselves trusted and reliable to get the job done. We stick with them because it’s less risky than giving a new person the shot at the choice assignment. A key part of being a successful leader is developing the talent around you. That requires taking a risk and giving people the opportunity to succeed.

A member of my staff was recently given an opportunity to lead a client-project review during an all-company meeting. She worked with the project team to develop a theme for the presentation, based on the movie The Matrix, and she beautifully orchestrated an outstanding presentation. Her colleagues were amazed at her professionalism, presence, and poise, and since that time she’s been in high demand for other internal projects that require those same skills. Was it risky to put her in that position? Yes. Did it payoff? Big time!

A Star is Born
How many Jeremy Lin’s do you have sitting on your bench, just waiting for an opportunity to shine? Leader’s aren’t just responsible for bringing in new talent, they also need to look for ways to uncover and unleash the talent that’s already present in the organization.

“Everyone who thinks this an overnight success fundamentally gets this wrong,” Duncan said in an interview with USA TODAY. “Jeremy has been very good for a long time and just never quite had the opportunity.”

Don’t stereotype. Take a risk. Give someone a chance. Who knows, you just might have a superstar hiding in your midst.

%d bloggers like this: