Your “SUPERSTARS”…are going to leave you soon!



Your “SUPERSTARS”…are going to leave you soon!


They can be selfish, egomaniacs, narcissistic, aggressive….and impatient. Impatient is a key word and many corporate leaders are unequipped in curing the “impatient bug” of their top people. Typically at the beginning of any year is when you have heavy recruitment activity of top talent, companies across the globe are looking for the “business savant” that will take their business to the next level….conversely those savants are accepting the call. Yes, those folks in your company or on your team who deliver profits and value are looking for a better option and it’s not personal just inspirational (notice I didn’t say “just business”). There are many recipes available on ways to keep your top performing employees fed & happy, and usually the ingredients consist of “money”, “education”, “development”, “attention” and sometimes even “power”. On its surface any one of these accouterments would appear to be effective in keeping someone of high caliber from sneaking to that competing company interview, but those incentives are no longer appealing to the new generation. There’s a great deal of discussion out there on how to motivate millennials and there’s one thing abundantly clear…superficial enticements don’t excite them. Top performers understand their value, the days of just giving them trinkets as a way of showing them your appreciation is no longer effective. If you think about it critically that “Value” per se already comes with many of the items I’ve listed, someone who’s at the top of their game is going to achieve financial and personal reward….couldn’t they get that someplace else other than your company? Many leaders of business I think make a lazy mistake (yes, LAZY) in assuming that most top performing people are motivated by the “tangibles”. Along with money, trophies, and plaques the other indifferent platitude provided to top employees these days is smothering them with plastic attention. Smothering top employees with the best attention money can buy is the biggest mistake and often times is the reason why many of them leave a company. Having been on both sides as the “smotheree” and “smotherer” the burden of receiving so much attention was more difficult to deal with then actually working my tail off to achieve performance success.  When they say it’s tougher staying #1 what’s implied is that the attention becomes more intense, who thought giving more attention to the top performer was an incentive for them? (haha!!).

“NON-tangible”…gift that keeps giving

I’ve always believed that the most successful people aren’t just driven on being a success, they’re driven on being consistently inspired. The challenging thing about success is not necessarily attaining it….it’s mistakenly trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations of what success should look like. Not to continue with philosophical parables, but, to say how we view success aligns with how we interact and lead successful people. It isn’t always confirmed that your top employees are driven by having their name on the top of the list, making the most money….telling them they’re great…they may just want to be inspired. I was fortunate to have the #1 salesperson in the country on my team they held the spot seemingly forever, it was a standing joke among the team and company that the travel department would reserve their room at the President’s Trophy at the start of every year. They were that good…yet I lost them to another company. To keep this rep I gave them all my attention, compensated them well, even sold the company on sending them to Wharton for a leadership seminar and they still bailed. After doing the proverbial exit interview it came out that they were just bored and not excited about the job. JUST BORED!!! NOT EXCITED ABOUT THE JOB!!! I screamed to the top of my lungs….I felt I was betrayed. That was the problem, I managed/led the person based on my assumption of what success meant to them by showering them with things they were indifferent to. I pretty much practiced “selfish leadership” and ceased to inspire them. Inspiration is a “NON-tangible”….gift that keeps giving. To inspire someone is much stronger than motivating them because it requires selflessness, focus, energy, patience, and humility….traits often missing with today’s corporate leadership. When someone asks me how to keep top employees from leaving their company I immediately shoot back “How do you inspire them”?  


Below is an offering of ways to inspire top employees, while not guaranteeing these methods to be foolproof or roadblock preventions to departures they may provide alternative opportunities to engage your precious asset:

  • Foster Open Communication; establish an infrastructure that allows for open exchange of information and viewpoints. There’s an assumption that everything is okay in the world of a top employee.
  • Inspire Trust; establish trust, increase and regain trust, develop an integrity dynamic relationship with the top employee.
  • Lead by Example, perhaps the most important attribute a manager can demonstrate in keeping their top talent. Top employees still look to their management for leadership.
  • Establish an “Internal Mentor-ship Program” that offers both a professional & personal support infrastructure, and is an integral part of the “Succession Planning” process.
  • Encourage top performers to be mentors themselves, it’s been shown that an impact on others boomerangs impact back (causing inspiration).
  • Establish “Empowerment Projects”, where there’s an opportunity to work on initiatives outside present role but have a focus on assisting others.
  • Every employee should have a “Career Development Plan” not just the top performers, however top performers should be coached and expected to lead by example from their plan. The goal is to keep the top performer engaged.
  • Build a “Grow Skills Program”, a program that is built by the manager and top employee. Teaches “process building”, “collaboration”, “building competencies”, and strengthens the relationship between manager and top performer. A nice “connection program”
  • Set up “Exposure Meetings”, an opportunity for top performers to get “face time” with upper leadership. Corporate leadership should have better relationships with the folks who are driving profits….but those relationships have to be meaningful.
  • “Corporate Rotation Program”, many companies have a process in place where high potentials have the opportunity to experience others roles. This is an old standby that can be very effective in keeping the top performer inspired.

In most cases it’s not the “tangibles” that guarantee a top performers loyalty….it’s the “non-tangible” that can’t be bought….but takes a lot of your “INSPIRATIONAL ENERGY”!


Check out my recent 2015 Whitepaper “The Customer”….who is she/he? (Hint: Inspiration!)

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Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting




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