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Creating Successful Leaders

It’s no secret that employee retention is a problem right now. With the Great Resignation (or Great Reshuffle, as some call it), individuals have more leverage than ever before and they are less nervous about quitting when they’re unhappy with their current work situation. That puts pressure on companies—and by extension, company leaders—to recruit and retain top talent.

But there’s no need to panic! There is still a clear correlation between job satisfaction and employee retention. Satisfied workers aren’t going anywhere, despite a tidal wave of resignations. And, fortunately, leaders have the power to influence retention. A recent report by Gallup finds that the number one reason employees leave a job is “due to a bad boss or immediate supervisor.”

So…how can leaders improve? How can they demonstrate respect for and recognition of team members? And, ultimately, how can they retain a talented and motivated team? Increasing pay and benefits may help in the short term, but those incentives only go so far. It’s better to focus on what makes people satisfied in their work.

In my experience, two critical factors pave the way to worker satisfaction: 1) giving people the right work and 2) providing stretch goals. Let’s talk about both.

The first factor involves assigning the “right” work.

I like to think about this factor as “getting the right butts in the right seats.” In other words, different people have different skill sets, talents, and interests. An attentive leader understands where each team member thrives, and attempts to align their people with the appropriate work. If someone loves to dig into the data and run analytics, give that person data-centric tasks. If another person thrives on teamwork and creativity, orient that person to work that involves creative collaboration.

Building an understanding of your team members’ strengths/weaknesses and interests/dislikes takes time. I encourage you to regularly meet with people in one-on-one settings and ask the following questions:

  • Which parts of your job are you liking right now? What’s working?
  • Which parts are not working?
  • What would you like to be doing more often?
  • What would you like to be doing less often or not at all?
  • What does your ideal day look like?
  • What are your personal goals in the company? And what can do to support those goals?

The second factor has to do with stretch goals.

When people are bored, they tend to quit. AND when people are overwhelmed, they also tend to quit. Stretch goals sit in the middle of boredom and overwhelm.

A stretch goal is a challenge you might set in front of an individual or team that stretches their abilities, but is still attainable. It’s a healthy challenge—an opportunity to grow and, perhaps, learn new skills (or tap into underutilized skills). When it comes to stretch goals, keep a few best practices in mind:

  • Use SMART goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)
  • Make sure the team/individual is supported with information and resources
  • Define what “success” means (if only part of the goal is achieved, is that still considered a success?)
  • Make sure objectives are clear (and make yourself available to answer questions in case they’re not)
  • Check in regularly about the stretch goal
  • Celebrate your milestones and wins!

By 1) making sure your people are doing work that aligns with their skills and interests and 2) providing regular stretch goals for your team, you will foster a supportive, motivating workplace environment. No one likes to feel like their talents are wasted. Get your team members in the right set of tracks and provide the fuel to inspire them to move forward. As a leader, you have that power.



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