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In many organizations, from law enforcement to utilities to corporate America, recruitment and retention challenges are rising. How do we find good people and once we have ‘em, how do we keep them? It’s a common question and one most commonly answered with a request for an increased budget. But, not every organization has infinitely deep pockets. The money is not always available and even more frightening, not usually even the answer to keeping good leaders. While leaders may initially be attracted to your organization because of what you can pay them, this is not what keeps engaging them. Just how do you keep leaders happy and a vibrant, contributing part of your organization? This Monday Moment provides three answers to that question.

Special Feelings

Wow, if one just reads the headlines, one that says special feelings may conjure non-leadership images. Well, go with it. But also know that if the leaders on the team you have the privilege of managing and leading, don’t feel special, or as if they’re valued for their contributions, they’ll leave and find someone who provides said feelings. Often the buzz phrase is what have you done for me lately and every employee in your workplace is asking the question, including those in leadership. How do you convey appreciation? How do you recognize contributions? Are your recognition or gratitude sharing initiatives actually meaningful or only lip service in nature? These are three important questions by which to examine the ways in which you attempt to make leaders feel special. Remember, if you help a leader or team member feel as if what they do MATTERS or makes a difference, they’ll stay even beyond a pay cut and a demotion because what they do serves a larger purpose than being able to buy one more outfit at their favorite department store.


Even when well paid, the chief complaint of many of our leadership clients is how they and those they lead are promoted, but not prepared. They quietly share they’ve no knowledge of what they’re doing really and there is no one in senior leadership giving direction or development with any real meaning. Um, this is a problem. Promotion is easy, developing is time consuming. But one without the other is a recipe for a revolving door in your organization. What kinds of development opportunities do you give your leaders? If you send them to classes or to conferences for learning and skill building, be sure to have pre and post debrief meetings to set expectations and reinforce learning retention. If you bring in training, ask them what they’ve learned and spend time with the trainer to ensure a cohesive, non-conflicting with your culture, message. Development is imperative as those leaders who stagnate will find ways to grow elsewhere. A CFO once said to a CEO: “Isn’t this training too expensive?” The CEO’s response: “Not nearly as expensive as it will be to replace these leaders if we don’t train them.”


If you’re fortunate enough to work in an organization that values team members and provides development, you likely don’t have this last issue as a missing element. If you work in a company that feels more like a family than a group of team members, permission has likely already been given, many times over. Yet, one key to keeping happy leaders is to give them permission to take care of themselves and their families. In other words, recognize that it is a supremely healthy response for a leader to say I need a mental health day or for a leader to prioritize their own well-being or needs of their family. Certainly, this permission can be used to the person’s advantage and that must be monitored, but in most cases, expecting a leader to work tirelessly without ever shifting priorities to their own personal needs, spurs a desire for them to find satisfaction, quality of life, and that ever elusive work/life balance, elsewhere.

Whether it’s permission, development, or special feelings your organization might be missing, the three keys have one important ingredient in common. To keep happy leaders and to keep your leaders happy, engaged, and contributing, care about them. Follow that with hiring only leaders who also care about others and the expense of consistently replacing leaders will dramatically decrease, as will your time spent worrying about who’s on your bench to jump in when the next leader leaves. You spent all that time to interview, qualify, and bring them in, so why not spend at least a little of that time focused on keeping them.

Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.

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