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Leadership Unlimited

Leadership Unlimited is a career column by Terry Wall, MBA '97. Terry is a recognized expert on strategy, leadership, and productivity, who will share his experiences and tips each month.

Alumni are encouraged to send comments, questions or suggestions for future column topics to

Four Best Practices to Destroy Employee Retention
October 2014

Gunther, an executive with a thick German accent, knows that employee retention is important in a down economy. He isn't lulled into the trap of thinking that with jobs in short supply, employees won't have anywhere to go.

As Gunther told me, "It's never the middle-of-the-road or your worst employees who cause problems by leaving. It's the star performers, the highly engaged employees who leave. That's why in a multinational, global company, we're ALWAYS focused on employee retention."

Gunther's right. But many companies don't get it, because they're too busy implementing the four best practices to destroy employee retention:

  1. Focus on the wrong things. Employees tend to focus on the things leaders talk about. If you talk about sales quotas, they'll focus on meeting the quota. Employees will then bring in bad customers, unprofitable customers, customers from hell. But they'll meet the sales quota.

    Profitability is another wrong focus. When you as a leader focus on profitability, employees will presume you're focusing on YOUR profitability, and employees don't care about that. Instead, focus on the grand purpose, on the customers. This engages the employees.

  2. Short-term thinking. Employees want to work for companies that take a longer-term, more strategic view. They want to see how what they do fits into the long term strategy.

    You should be thinking about the changing global market place, and how to plan for changes, so that your organizations, and employees, continue being responsive to the market, and to your customers.

  3. A "can't do" mentality. You know this one. We "can't do" a technology upgrade, which would improve customer service and make life easier for employees, because it's not in the budget (but a makeover of the boss' office or the executive cafeteria, we "can do" that).

    We "can't do" employee development because we're too pressed for time. We "can't do" better as a company because of (take your pick) the down economy, cheating by the competition, bad luck, etc. Employees see through this mentality; it's why they leave.

  4. Wretchedly poor communication. Many companies do this one so well they've got it down to a science. Some don't communicate at all. Others communicate the wrong messages in the wrong ways.

    Or, their communication is riddled with hypocrisy. They tell everyone about their "open door policy," but their doors are always closed, sometimes literally (I've actually seen this), other times figuratively. It drives managers and employees crazy...and right out the door.

So there you have the four best practices for destroying employee retention. Your job as a leader is to take a hard look at yourself, and your organization, to determine how many of the four best practices you're using.

Then, eliminate them from your toolbox. Delete them from your operating system. Employee retention is crucial, even in a down economy. Gunther obviously realizes this. You should too.


About the Author

Terry Wall

Terry Wall, MBA '97, accelerates success for individuals and organizations. For individuals, he accelerates success through coaching. For organizations, he accelerates success by building winning teams, working with management teams in groups. Either way, Terry teaches people how to improve how they manage and lead, so that they and their direct reports are more engaged in their work, more committed to organizational goals, and more productive in what they do.

That accelerates success. That improves profitability.

Terry specializes in strategic planning, leadership development, change management, corporate culture, and productivity improvement. He works in a wide range of industries, including service and manufacturing, non-profit, and large and small organizations. He is a skilled facilitator who provides coaching on individual, executive, or team levels.

A recognized expert on strategy, leadership, and productivity, Terry has a B.A. in psychology from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, and an MBA from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is a professional speaker, and a professional writer who coauthored a book on teambuilding, and has been published in many publications.

Terry Wall accelerates success, and improves profitability, for individuals, teams, and organizations.

Issue Archive

October 2009
4 Best Practices to Destroy Employee Retention

January 2010
What is Responsibility Based Management, Engaging Leadership?

February 2010
Do You Have a Leadership Deficit?

March 2010
Trust is the Foundation of Leadership, Teamwork, Sales

June 2010
Look in the Mirror First, but Beware of Blind Spots

August 2010
Five Strategies to Improve Company Profitability

October 2010
The Leader's Role as Teacher, and the Threat to Put My Hand in the Shredder

December 2010
The First 48 Principle of Conflict Resolution

January 2011
Talk Makes People Do Awful Things

March 2011
3 Reasons to Pursue Social Responsibility

April 2011
Visibility is a Great Leadership Strategy

July 2011
Casey Anthony and 4 Dysfunctions of a Team

August 2011
Choice is a Key to Motivation, Engagement

September 2011
Labor Day, and Engagement's Missing Ingredient

February 2012
3 Trends, 4 Questions for Developing Innovative Strategies

September 2012
Mastering the Art of Public Speaking

December 2012
Leaders Use Purpose to Increase Profitability

January 2013
Leadership Model Accelerates Success, Focuses on 5 Areas

February 2013
Look in the Mirror First, but Beware of Blind Spots

March 2013
The Most Powerful Phrase in Leadership

June 2013
Public Speaking As an Important Leadership Skill, and Three Improvement Tips

July 2013
5 Tips to Avoid Snore-Filled Meetings

August 2013
The Adapt or Get Zapped Approach to Innovation

October 2013
Relentless Communication About Purpose
Engages, Motivates Employees

December 2013
3 Rules to Uncover Your Purpose

January 2014
Increased Employee Engagement Leads To Improved Profitability

February 2014
Leaders Should Embrace Conflict

March 2014
To Promote Values, Preach What You Practice

May 2014
Avoid Death by PowerPoint Presentations

July 2014
14 Strategies for Better Time Management