Sunday, June 4, 2023

6 Keys To Retaining Your Top Performing Team Members

Wairere House Exit storySince the recent pandemic, I find that business leaders are fighting to retain and attract new talent to recover from necessary attrition losses and team members quitting due to personal priorities. In the wake of recent struggles, the people you need and want are looking for a new human focus from their leaders and managers in today’s chaotic and competitive labor market.

In my perspective, it’s more true than ever that team members work for people, rather than companies, and they quit bosses who treat them like inanimate pawns that can be moved around as required to plug the holes in the business. I’m sure you feel this change, and if you are, or want to be, in a leadership role, you need to focus on how to be more human and lead humans.

I found some practical guidance to supplement my own recommendations in a new book, “Be Human, Lead Human,” by Jennifer Nash, PhD. She speaks from running her own company and provides a wealth of real-life stories gleaned from her consulting in major businesses around the world. I will paraphrase her key points here, and integrate my own experience as well:

  1. Make time to listen and hear what people know. Ensuring that your people feel heard empowers both them and you. You really hearing employees also augments engagement levels and business results. Most importantly, it also attracts and retains talent by making people feel they are contributing. Every team member wants to be heard and contribute.

    Obviously you won’t hear much if you are not listening, or only thinking about your next response. Active listening is a communication skill that requires practice and intention. Your employees judge you by body language and cues, like repeating the message back.

  2. Build your emotional intelligence to fully understand. Emotional intelligence is the ability to have and show empathy for individual team members and get them to trust you. Understanding them leads to more effective communication, authentic relationships, and better results. Often it’s body language and what is not said is the true real message.

    I have long been convinced that emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) in leadership wins over logical intelligence (IQ) every time. Like everyone, you have emotional strengths and weaknesses. You need to become aware of your own and learn from those you trust.

  3. Add value by helping team members feel valued. Human-oriented leaders prioritize helping their team feel they matter and add value. This fosters engagement, connection, and community, as well as creating healthy, resilient, and high-performing teams. Leverage individual strengths and spirit, and work to align their purpose with their work.

    But first you need to communicate clearly what has value to you and the team. A surefire way to make team members feel value is to hand them the keys to a project close to their expertise and interest. If possible, let the project be based on the employee's own ideas.

  4. Acknowledge each and every positive contribution. If you recognize others on your team, this creates virtuous performance cycles. Accepting that we all have strengths and weaknesses allows you to honor each person’s uniqueness and lead them to more satisfying and productive results, which benefits the business as well as team members.

    In my experience, public recognition of contributions in front of peers often has more impact than cash rewards and bonuses. Recognition starts with a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ from you or a peer. These cost very little and have large returns for all.

  5. Provide inspiration and authenticity for followship. Your inspiration creates positive direction, and shapes movement to results. Inspiration requires vision and the ability to tell stories that incent action. The more authentic these stories, the more your team will believe that anything is possible, and will follow your lead. Give trust first to get trust.

  6. See people as human rather than objects or resources. Being seen as human helps team members feel a sense of belonging and restores their humanity. Use inclusivity and acknowledgement to focus on the human elements of the team, and make sure they see you as human, by acknowledging your own sensitivities, imperfections, and motivations.

In my experience, all successful leaders have long been seeking continuous learning and growth. I urge you to start today to develop a human-focus mindset based on the recommendations outlined here, but stay abreast of the changes that will come tomorrow in our changing business and economic environment. Remember that what used to work no longer yields the same results.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 05/21/2023 ***



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