Four Tips to Galvanize Your Team and Retain A-Level Talent

08/03/2016 09:19 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2016

Four Tips to Galvanize Your Team and Retain A-level Talent

Wes Gow ©

What do NBA superstars, elite college football coaches, and today’s emerging employees all have in common?  They’re not playing the long game when it comes to their personal success.  By now I’m sure you’re well aware that much has been published on both the current job climate and the future of careers. Employees change companies faster than my 1-year old goes through diapers, and millennials are through with soulless jobs. Loyalty, it seems, may no longer be an ingrained generational virtue (probably we’ve taken it for granted far too long anyway), but I still believe it’s possible to carefully farm the stuff! Here are four tips to help galvanize your team and maximize your retention of A-level talent.  

#1) Relationally Invest

Get to know your people, and conversely, let them get to know you. On purpose. A chance encounter at the grocery store doesn’t count. A strong sense of belonging can do wonders for a team.  As the leader, then, create opportunities for relational investment such as: 

  • take your team to lunch

  • bring in breakfast treats

  • personal and professional development

  • have their families over for dinner

Whatever it is, do it with intent. I’ll be quick to say that there is some wisdom in maintaining a line of demarcation (or expectation) between employee and BFF. But frankly, if the above suggestions sound like a drag to you, then: a) what are you doing with direct reports in the first place? b) I promise it’ll make it that much easier for your team members to start looking for greener pastures.

#2) Collaborate

Consider the difference between silos and castle towers. One is free-standing, isolated, and generally independent; the other is interconnected and unified in purpose. The more functional silos you have in your organization, the more disconnected it’ll become.  Build castle towers, not farm silos. The former will yield an army with a mission rather than a barnyard of rusty equipment.

Like a son trying on his father’s jacket, or a daughter stumbling around in mom’s heels, your team members need to feel some of the weight that you carry. For example, when appropriate, consider inviting them into the following:

  • the full breadth and scope of the budget, not just the line items for their department

  • monthly profit and loss

  • an understanding of the long-lasting effects of their opinions at the decision-making table

  • meetings with other teams  

One important note: silos will form without vigilance. According to Newton, systems left to themselves tend toward a state of chaos rather than orderliness. Similarly, organizations left to themselves will gravitate toward disconnect. Unless you are actively creating and fostering a culture of collaboration within your teams, they will begin to operate as silos instead of castle towers. If you’re not going to wave high the banner of collaboration, then your teams will drift towards their own insular visions, rallying cries, and modus operandi.

#3) Communicate

Ever wonder how a school of fish can seemingly move as one? The short(er) answer is that fish have a lateral line running the length of their bodies that detects vibrations in the water. They move as one because they’re highly attuned to each other.

Regarding communication, I’m specifically referring here to the verbal and nonverbal kind that enhances clarity and encourages momentum. We’ve all imagined how glorious fame would be as the iconic athlete, award-winning rock star, or A-list actor. We envy their bank accounts, vehicle collections, and their global platforms. But there’s a dark side to the spotlight - everyone is watching you. Likewise, your team is looking to you more than you realize. Your words, demeanor, and appearance are all working to either enhance clarity and encourage momentum or they are in some way fostering the moldy growth of ambiguity and the flat sails of organizational plateau. Check out a few suggestions below for galvanizing communication:      

  • clear action items after every meeting (and revisit those at the start of the next one)

  • be the first to arrive for every meeting; your team should find you eagerly awaiting them

  • take care of yourself; eat, sleep, and exercise to the absolute best of your ability

  • get your junk together! no one in the room should be more prepared than you

Now wait a minute! Everyone has their bad days. The athlete has an off-game, the rock star hits a flat note, and the actor signs on to a lousy script. It happens. But let me draw your attention back to the first action item. Relationally invest! Be honest about why you’ve been dragging into the office and unprepared for meetings (a new baby is a big deal, after all!). The old way of thinking is that your team members are 100% satisfied with nothing more than the responsibilities of their job descriptions. That’s changing. They’re not. How you communicate will go a long way in creating a team who’s willing to hang in there with you for the long haul.

#4) Foster accountability

Think of organizational (and even personal) accountability like the guard rails on a bowling lane: utilizing them means fewer gutter balls and increased effectiveness. It’s kinda that simple. In fact I’d go so far as to suggest that there’s a direct correlation between your appreciation for accountability and the overall effectiveness of your team. The reality is that people want to do work that matters, and if no one checks in, then it’s easy to start believing that it doesn’t matter. Here are a few suggestions for how to foster a culture of accountability:

  • clear job descriptions that are reviewed and adjusted as necessary

  • healthy performance reviews

  • organizational plumb lines

  • identify wins and celebrate them often!

  • quality improvement metrics

If you believe in the service that your team brings to society, then you owe it to everyone (inside and out) to avoid sideways traction. Much like the law of entropy affects collaboration, so it affects the mission of an organization. Who’s doing what? Why does it matter? Maintaining a strong pulse on those two questions alone will reap generous rewards in keeping your team on track. Clarity is the single most effective fuel to any organization; conversely, ambiguity is a death knell. The former is achieved - and the latter avoided - through accountability.

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