Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

The Great Retention

Leaders can either accept the “Great Resignation” or create the “Great Retention” movement. The Great Resignation is grabbing headlines everywhere you look. Media outlets pounce on the opportunity to increase the weight of the heavy burden already being carried by so many leaders today.

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders speak a couple of months ago. He shared a staggering statistic that 10,000 people a day are leaving the workforce and 2,400 a day are entering it. That creates a 7,600 deficit daily. These numbers do not trend towards improving our circumstances anytime soon.

So…what do we do?

The Great Retention

Stop the Bleeding

A few weeks ago, I decided to reach into the sink to look for something. A full sink at that. I reached in and didn’t find what I was looking for, but did find the blade of a freshly sharpened knife! As I reluctantly looked at my hand, I found my index finger badly bleeding. So, where did my instincts lead me? I grabbed a rag, placed pressure on it, and stopped the bleeding!

Between the pandemic and the Great Resignation, we have seen unprecedented efforts in the world of recruitment. Signing bonuses, wage hikes, you name it. Incentives that may not send the best messages to our loyal employees who have hung with us during the craziness of the last couple of years. We have seen less effort placed towards retention. Stopping the bleeding should be our first response.

In this week’s post, we look at seven ways to turn the Great Resignation into an opportunity for the Great Retention:

You Are The Lid

We were fortunate to have Chris Goede speak to our entire city team a few weeks ago. Chris is a Vice-President for the John Maxwell Company and lives in our community. In his teachings, he shared John Maxwell’s concept of the Law of the Lid. Basically, your ability and willingness to lead and grow is the lid to your organization.

We must grow as leaders. Read, listen, watch, or whatever it takes to grow. Marcus Buckingham says, “people leave managers, not companies.” If the people you lead are growing and you are not, they will hit their heads on the ceiling height you establish. They will only bang their heads against the ceiling for so long until they leave to find a higher one elsewhere.

Provide Personal Growth Opportunities

If we cannot provide positional growth, we must provide personal growth opportunities. There is a myriad of free content on YouTube, in blogs, books, and other resources available that can help you provide personal growth opportunities for your team. People grow through exposure to content.

Here is the great thing, you do not have to be a great communicator or leadership expert, but you can facilitate a discussion. Let the world’s most renown leadership gurus teach, you provoke thought by leading with questions.

Any personal growth opportunities you can expose your team to is great for retention.  If they leave the activity better than when they walked into it, you have succeeded as a leader.  Not only can they get better as team members, but they become better fathers/mothers, sons/daughters, husbands/wives, and friends in the process. Personal growth contributes towards an overall healthy human being.

Create a Loving and Caring Culture

People want to know they matter. Loving and caring for them lets them know that.  What does a loving and caring culture look like? Walking the hallways, following up after hours with an employee who left sick, handwritten notes of gratitude, picking up cookies for the team at the local bakery, remembering birthdays, celebrating work anniversaries, being empathetic when a team member is walking through a difficult season in life, or grabbing a cup of coffee with someone you lead for no reason at all.

Early in the pandemic, I listened to a podcast that featured Patrick Lencioni. He shared a concept with me that stuck. We need to be, “exceedingly human.” Culture starts at the top. Never has simply being a quality human being been so critical to a leader’s success.

Recognize People are Investments

The largest cost in most organizational budgets are people. People can be looked at as an expense or an investment, it is just a matter of perspective. Where do your organizational priorities lie? I am not just talking about salaries either. We all have limited financial resources, but where do those limited resources get allocated to? Is it employee development, training, engagement initiatives, and/or retention efforts?

Conventional Won’t Cut It

I was listening to the Linch with a Leader Podcast at the gym today. Mike Linch interviews leadership expert Mark Miller. In the conversation, Miller talks about work that a gentlemen named Larry Miller did thirty years ago on the rise and fall of twenty-one civilizations. He said, “one of the signs of demise is when leaders begin using the answers from yesterday to today’s questions.”

This is so applicable to this season for leaders. How often do we try to apply old solutions to today’s problems? None of us have operated under circumstances like this. Why would we continue to try to fit a square peg into a round hole? Side note, I have always wanted to have one of those wooden toys on my desk that have the various shapes and associated pegs to serve as a daily reminder that conventional won’t cut it. No matter how much you force it, it just won’t fit.

The Great Resignation

I will drift from retention for just one second, because this concept is so important to recruitment as well. Innovative, unconventional, and unorthodox applies to both. Retain/hire character, develop talent. We tend to believe the lie that what we do is so important and specialized that no one else can do it. That is false. High potential leaders have no boundaries with their talents.

Rethink Restrictions

We must create innovative, unconventional, and unorthodox ways to retain and develop talent. Are experience and educational requirements restricting people in your organization from advancing?

If the City of Acworth would have stuck to educational and experience requirements, they would have never hired me as a twenty-three year old kid as their Director of Parks and Recreation.  Someone who would end up being their City Manger seventeen years later. I was an unconventional candidate, and their decision making was unorthodox. We continued that practice of positioning and promoting our team of unconventional candidates and we grew the department to one of the premier Parks and Recreation Departments in the State of Georgia.

I wonder if the experience and educational requirements that we write into job descriptions today would have prohibited our own growth? It would have mine. So why do we continue this practice of thinking inside the box?  Get outside of it and rethink those things that are restricting retention.

Get People Off the Bus

What?  You are talking about retention, right?  Yes, I am.  Toxic employees are those that suck the life out of the organization.  Out of desperation and fear of creating another vacancy, we hang on to bad employees.  These people do more damage to our work cultures than we ever want to come to grips with.  Sometimes making the tough decision to get someone off the bus will help with keeping others on it.    


Do not get me wrong, recruitment is more important than ever!  We will cover becoming an attractive organization next week. 

I will be exceedingly human here. I do not know the answers to the challenges we are facing, I wish I did.  This post is to simply challenge you to provoke some thought. 

Leaders are tired, discouraged, and burned out like never before.  The thing we cannot do is get stuck.  If we spend our time spinning our wheels on trying to fix our circumstances, we will never move our organizations forward. 

Let’s put one foot in front of the other.  Stop the bleeding, love and care for our people, invest in them, and lead a movement from the Great Resignation to the Great Retention.    

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