As a leader, we have so many balls in the air; we might as well be professional clowns juggling chainsaws. 

When it comes to our business, one of the most important jobs we have —a duty really — is to keep our team members around. 

We’ve all been there. You’ve been working on a massive project of some kind on changing the way your team operates for the better. Everything is finally going smoothly, every person on your team has bought in, and it’s going unbelievably smooth. 

Then, someone leaves your team. 

This happens; it can’t always be avoided. But now you have to train a new person and while this person is training, the efficiency of the team is less. It just is. Losing a team member isn’t something you need in a good business. It’s something that drags you down, so you need to work to keep your members engaged. This is something called team member retention, and right now, I want to talk about five simple strategies for keeping folks around. 


The steps

First, you need to know your purpose and the purpose of your team members. If you give yourself a good, honest look, you’ll have to admit you’re not the best at everything. It’s just impossible. Every person is here on this earth with their own experiences and natural talents. These talents and experiences leave every team member, including ourselves, uniquely placed to offer a specific service better than anyone else on your team. It’s your job as a leader to help them realize this purpose and step into it. 

I’m good at many things, but I’m not good at everything. You’ve heard the phrase: “Jack of all trades?” What’s the ending of this phrase, though? “Master of none.” 

I’m great at creating ideas and plans. I can lead through change in a meaningful way. But give me sheets and data and writing — nope, not my thing. But there are people on my team who thrive on this. I could cling to this idea that I need to be in charge of everything “important” and delegate “lesser” tasks to my team members. If I do, now I’m selling both of us short. 

Take a good, honest look at yourself and identify your particular strengths. Maybe you’re really good at keeping customers happy? If so, you’re ideally placed to lead a team or develop a plan for customer retention, which we all know translates into good reviews, which generates more customers, etc. Maybe you’re terrible with technology and your website needs an upgrade? If so, don’t be stubborn and do it yourself. Look at your team. Someone may have the unique skills to help you. 

When team members fulfill their purpose and play to their strengths, they’re happier. When they’re happier, they stay. Not only this, but the job gets done better than it would have otherwise. Look at yourself and each member of your team, and think about what their purpose is. 

Next, you need to deliver truth. You need to act with integrity and speak honestly. I’m not saying anywhere you need to sugarcoat things. If you have a team member dropping the ball, tell them. You don’t have to be mean about it — be constructive, but be honest. If you believe in the importance of work-life balance, live it and let your team members live it.

We may not always agree, but we respect people who live with integrity. We respect people who are honest with who they are and what they believe. This doesn’t mean you need to force your truth on others, but in everything you do, show you’re a person of integrity. No one wants to work with a dishonest person, and over time, you’ll see team members leave jobs they love because they can’t trust their leader. 

Third, you must be transparent. Now, don’t go and start confessing every mistake you’ve ever made or complain about your home life. That’s not what a transparent leader is. I’m talking about showing who you truly are. In some ways, this is tied to delivering truth. If you’re a quiet, reserved person at home, don’t force yourself to be a loud, bubbly leader. Yes, many leaders are this way, but when you put up a shield or put on a show, it comes across as insincere or fake. There are many types of leaders, so embrace who you are. Don’t hide. 

Have you ever heard someone complain about their boss setting rules, but not following those rules themselves? Maybe a boss told someone they can’t take personal phone calls on company time, and then stops to talk to his wife later that same day. I bet I’m hitting home on this one. This is, sadly, much too common in the world. Double standards, hypocrisy or whatever you want to call it, it all comes down to setting the example. 

If you want your team members to stick around and rise to the job or purpose they have in your company, you need to be the best you can be first. No one wants to work with a hypocrite. If you want your team members to stay and engage in their jobs, you need to show you’re engaged. If you want team members to go above and beyond for customers, you need to do it, too. Don’t fall into the “boss trap” of thinking that just because you make the rules, they don’t apply to you. This is a slippery slope to losing some good people. 

Finally, you must show gratitude to your team. Every step of the way, every good thing they do, be honest and express gratitude. Some people say that gratitude is the first step to happiness and satisfaction in life. Well, work and life and related things. Feeling appreciated helps in so many ways: 

  • Reinforces the positive work people are doing; 
  • Makes people feel more invested in their work;
  • Builds a connection between leaders and team members;
  • Invests loyalty with the leader and company; and
  • Gives more job satisfaction.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had jobs where I would have killed for a “thank-you” or a “well done” from my boss. I’m not saying you need to go over the top, but make it clear to your team members how critical they are and how much you appreciate their work. If you’re going to start only one of these strategies, do this one. Trust me; showing gratitude will go a long way. 

You want to keep people around, if only to save the effort, time and money of training new people. Know your purpose and the strengths of your team members and allow them to reach their own. Deliver truth and exemplify integrity. Be transparent and set the example. Show gratitude to those who work with you. 

Do these five things and your company will get stronger with all your team members who stick around for a long time.