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How to become a masterful leader and retain your top talent

How to retain your top talent

This is a guest post by my friend Coralie Sawruk, an expert in creating team dynamics which lead organisations to success.

What’s the biggest challenge facing businesses today?

Developing a customer-centric product? Increasing sales? What about navigating the rapid evolution of technology, and the impact it has on your product and customer experience?

Such an ambitious challenge requires top talent assembled in a team of creative techies.

Top talent attrition is a cost you can’t ignore

Outstanding technicians are scarce. Sure, you’ll find people all over the world for less than £10 an hour. But finding the ones who understand the connection between product and customer intelligence, and who can keep up with market change, is rare.

When you get hold of a good squad, you certainly don’t want to let them go!

Still, attrition is highest in technology companiesGenY, in particular, is likely to jump ship regularly.

The cost of staff turnover has a huge impact on small businesses. From the stress of sharing the workload between the remaining team to the hiring and training of new recruits.

But more than that, there is the knock-on effect on development, which slows down because you lost product knowledge capital.

When you’re a start-up, a good tech team is worth millions. Why? It’s the cost of months of delays to the delivery of your MVP.

For all these reasons, innovative corporations make the retention of top talent a priority. But when you’re the team lead in a small business, it all rests on your shoulders.

With such a tight-knit group, how can you become a team leader who attracts the best talent (and keeps it)?

Delegation is a continuous process to mature your top talent

Think of your team as a group of individuals undertaking tasks to achieve a specific goal. What makes the difference between “productive and happy”, and “disengaged and blasé”?

The nature of the tasks and their allocation.

An efficient delegation model is not merely a set of words on a job description. An efficient delegation process is transparent.

Roles and responsibilities are clear, and tasks are aligned accordingly. The team lead sets forth their expectations. Everyone knows what “good” looks like.

But it’s not always enough. You see, top talents set the bar high for themselves. They want to feel their unique contribution is part of a long-term development plan.

For a team leader, the power of delegation lies not only in the renewed time for strategic thinking and client contact. Your delegation model should become a tool for staff growth and motivation, in the long term.

The mindful team lead values individuals and their skills

The Maslow model of employee engagement tells you a lot about why people leave companies. A top talent needs appreciation. They want others to go beyond “what they do” and see their value as an individual.

Just last week, I was chatting with a Senior Executive I helped with a difficult regulatory project. After months of complex, political, challenging work, we had just received confirmation that the regulatory test was passed. Happy days!

But this is what she told me:

“At the end, I was expecting – at least – a thanks”.

See, appreciation impacts everyone. At every level.

A seasoned team leader knows when to recognise outstanding achievements. You want to make your top talents happy? Tell them when they did a good job. Show them how their contribution added unique value because of their personality.

Top tier athletes are coached on a “show and tell” basis.

It’s a powerful concept you can implement easily.

Show: “Huge thanks for achieving the data migration over the weekend. We couldn’t have completed the release on time for the financial quarter-end without you spotting that defect. Thank you.”

Here, you show appreciation for the job done and show how it contributed to the wider objectives of the firm.

Tell: “Wow…You brought such a positive perspective to the problem! I really appreciated your patience in articulating all the answers to Peter’s rant… It made all the difference in the end.”

Here, we are talking about their personal way of approaching a situation. We stress that it’s not about the solution, but how someone transformed it into a success story through their unique talents.

Powerful and specific appreciation strengthens the team’s cohesion, elevates performance and empowers individuals. These conditions are sure to decrease the risk of attrition in the workplace.

Your top talent craves change (if it’s driven by an inspired team lead)

IT businesses operate in a fast-paced environment. Change is the only constant and it comes in various forms.

You have the new, exciting innovative project; often a welcome form of change. You have imposed change, too, when economic conditions or customer decisions force you to take radical action.

Whatever the reason, a bad change transition can destroy your team and seriously damage your business performance.

For some people, being stripped of their routine is terrifying. For others, a routine is boring. As the team lead, you must be a good listener of all opinions and make sure the team sticks together.

Irrespective of the change you’re facing – outside the business (market, technology innovation…) or inside the business (pivoting, changes in the organisation…) – there’s one golden rule only…

Over-communicate.

Get people involved. Tell them what’s going on. Show positive outcomes for the long-term. Detail the benefits.

And do it again. Every day.

Your team is worried about moving from software to app development?

Explain why this strategic decision can make the company more profitable. Show how it can guarantee job security in the long run. Engage in a conversation about the best development method, and how it can stretch their skills further. And back up your speech with data.

When carefully managed, change can be an endless source of excitement for your crew – it is the fertiliser for innovation! When your top talents are on their toes and excited by what’s coming next, you ignite curiosity. And curiosity is a fantastic driver; it’s what makes them think “I’ll stay until the next project”.

Retaining your top talent is crucial for your small business to succeed. As a team leader, your involvement in staff motivation makes all the difference when it comes to talent retention.

A happy employee has a clear set of tasks, aligned to long term development goals. A happy employee receives appreciation for her work and her individual qualities. A happy employee lives in a culture of innovation where trust and communication are the core of any change initiative.

This is the proven motivation cocktail for your staff. But do you want to add other ingredients? Share your story in the comments below.

Coralie SawrukThis is a guest post by Coralie Sawruk, an expert in creating team dynamics which lead organisations to success.

Read more from Coralie at www.coraliesawruk.com

You can also find Coralie Sawruk on Twitter.

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Richard Tubb

I help IT companies grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. My clients are business owners of small to medium sized IT firms. at Tubblog
Why not find out more about how I can help your business. You can also check which events you can find me at or read one of my books.

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