Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Retaining Key People

Tuesday morning: November 9, 2010

Dear friends,

“When push comes to shove, we’ll deal with that problem.”

I hear this nearly every week now when working with executives regarding strategic planning. The phase when “push comes to shove” means that a problem will be confronted when it reaches a certain level or crucial point. Originally the term came from rugby in the 1950’s, where, after an infraction of rules, forwards from each team face off and push against one another until one player can kick the ball to a teammate and resume the game.

Today, we have a problem that has reached a crucial point. We must retain key people in key positions or the pressures of this economy could cause an organization to enter into a very difficult and extended period of decline.

Weekly now, I talk with these key individuals and discover that they are very frustrated with their organizations. The reasons vary from place to place, but they report to me that they are frustrated by the lack of leadership, effective communications, operational excellence, or strategic vision within their organization. But what ever the problem, these key people all end up at the same place, a feeling of dissatisfaction and disengagement.

Joel Kurtzman in his book, Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve The Extraordinary, Jossey-Bass 2010, shares six different ways to retain leaders. He recommends that we “identify them early, and make sure they know it,” “celebrate their accomplishments,” “educate them about the organization and its capabilities,” “give them access to the team at the top,” “respond quickly with a counteroffer if they plan to leave,” and “reward them with new challenges, not just more money.”

But as I review this well thought out list, I always think about the subject of coaching. In a chapter called “Recruiting Supportive Coaches: A Key to Achieving Positive Behavioral Change” from the book, The Many Facets of Leadership by Marshall Goldsmith, Vijay Govindarajan, Beverly Kaye, Albert A. Vicere, Marshall Goldsmith presents the results of an extensive literature review about the effective strategies involved in helping successful people get even better. As he writes, “Successful people are much more likely to accept coaching from those whom they respect and whom they see as successful.” Furthermore, “successful people are less likely to value coaching from those whom they do not see as successful.” As he continues, “This phenomenon tends to occur even if the content of the coaching from the less successful people is very similar.... This made us realize that when dealing with successful people, the source of the coaching can be as important as the content of the coaching.”

At the same time, Goldsmith explains, “Another clear finding of our literature search is that positive behavioral change is much more likely to last if the individual who is trying to change has a "support group" (or at least "support person") who is assisting in the change process.” As he continues, “Your best coaches may often be people whom you respect and who impact your life on a daily basis.”

With the above in mind, we as executives must come to understand that the degree of commitment in the work force reflects the degree of respect within the work place and the degree to which people believe they are part of the team. But in a business world that is focused on pursuing growth, promoting innovation, maximizing efficiency and getting things done using procedures, systems and process discipline, the concepts of respect and team spirit seem pretty old school, if not ancient history.

Nevertheless, these softer skill sets, from my perspective, have a great impact on retaining key people. For in the beginning, middle, and end of organizational change, we at times forget that people bond with people before they commit to plans or great ideas. And right now key people are experiencing a high level of dissatisfaction with the lack of respect and team work within the work place.

One solution is to teach people to become better leaders. By educating them about how to take the long view or bigger picture perspective along with how to successfully manage the details related to strategic implementation, we help them to build a work environment based on respect and team work where employees want to contribute. This kind of education is unique and very effective.

In the late 90’s, I created just such a training in order to help key people become better leaders and to help key leaders retain their best people. It was called The From Vision to Action Leadership Training. This in-depth, year long training course encompasses four quarterly sessions, and helps participants gain valuable skills, knowledge and perspective about leadership, strategic planning and execution, and implementing organizational change.

For more information about how to register for this unique opportunity which starts in March 2011, including cost, dates and location, I encourage you to click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html.

From experience and the extensive amount of well-written books on the topic, we know that retaining leaders is vital to short and long term success. Before push comes to shove in your organization, now is the time to invest in those individuals who can create a work environment where we retain and attract the talent for today’s challenges and tomorrow's opportunity.

I hope you can join this level of learning in 2011.

My best,


P.S. For those of you who are wanting to improve employee engagement throughout your organization, look no further than this recently posted article (11/2/10) at the on-line Gallup Management Journal web site called “Leading Engagement From the Top” by Jennifer Robison: http://gmj.gallup.com/content/144140/Leading-Engagement-Top.aspx

The article reports about the recently conducted research by Sangeeta Agrawal, a Gallup Consultant and Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and well being, about the impact of executive engagement on managers. In a well written two page article, the researchers discover through detailed analysis what are the specific ways senior executives can improve managers’ engagement. Without copying the entire article word for word, the first thing is to concentrate on mission or purpose.

From my perspective, the best have known this for years. It also is exciting to see Gallup confirm this through their research. As we look to 2011, we must education more managers and help them become leaders who can understand this research and make similar choices in their circle of influence. This is, where I believe, the 2011 From Vision to Action Leadership Training can make a profound difference.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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