Bywater Consulting Group, LLC
Liz Bywater, PhD

April 2012



How to Lose Your Best and Brightest in Six Simple Steps

Okay, let's be real about this. You don't want to read about how to surrender your top performers to the competition. You're not interested in learning how to create a team of disengaged, demoralized, resentful employees who are just looking for the opportunity to go somewhere else - anywhere else - and soon.

And maybe you don't need to read beyond this point. Perhaps you're doing everything possible to ensure that your people are inspired, engaged, motivated and giving you everything they've got. If so, genuine kudos to you. Your organization is thriving, people are happy and things couldn't be better.

On the other hand, how do you know they couldn't be better? How do you know that your team couldn't be even more effective, efficient, productive, innovative, collaborative, motivated and loyal?

Check out these six easy (and sometimes unrecognized) ways to disengage your best and brightest:

1. Forget to check in with your team. Keep driving forward, issuing directives from behind closed doors, remaining blissfully ignorant of the concerns, challenges and frustrations your people are facing every day. Overlook the anxiety, stress and pending burnout that's lurking just below the surface. Assume that if there were a truly significant problem, someone would promptly bring it to your attention.

2. Keep key information to yourself. Make sure that no one is abreast of what's happening, because they just don't need to know. Make it clear that they need only focus on the work in front of them, without concern for the bigger picture. Closely guard information pertaining to significant issues within the company, in the marketplace and among your key customers. After all, these issues will just serve to raise anxiety and distract your employees from the pressing work at hand.

3. Be the smartest person in the room. Come up with all of the great ideas, make all of the decisions (even the little ones), halt the dialogue when people are just three words into their sentences - because you already know what they're going to say. Demonstrate little patience when others in the room need to catch up, buy in or simply participate in the discussion. After all, time is of the essence.

4. Keep people in the same roles, doing the same thing, for a very long time. Hey, they know what they're doing at this point. They're experts. Why rock the boat? You can always bring in someone from the outside to fill that important new role. Why create competition or jealousy from within?

5. Promote people right out of their area of competence. On the other hand, when you've got someone who's a superstar in her area, why not give her a whole new set of responsibilities for which she has no training or experience and little inherent aptitude? Doesn't development always mean promotion to a bigger, broader role with greater managerial responsibility? Can't anybody move easily from star individual contributor to first-rate people manager?

6. Tell them exactly how to do their jobs. After all, you know the outcomes you're looking for. And you know how to get the job done. So why not orchestrate the entire process? It's so much more straightforward that way. Take out all of the uncertainty of letting your folks do it their way, even if you sacrifice a little creativity and buy-in along the way. More direction from you means more control and greater predictability.

So let's be honest here. Do you see yourself in any of the above missteps? If so, take heart, you're in very good company. Even the best leaders sometimes make mistakes in their approach to leading their teams. Just remember, the competition is out there - and your unhappy employees will be actively looking for new opportunities. Take an empowering, communicative, respectful approach, and you'll be well-positioned to retain an impressively effective, engaged, high performing team.

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