Keys to Retaining Your Team’s Top Talent

20150419 Lead Inside the Box Book CoverToday’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (you can get your copy by clicking here).  (You can learn more about Mike and the book at the end of the post.)

Here’s Mike:

Erin joined your team about a year ago.

She came in with many other candidates for a job opening and she impressed you in the interview. She was far and away the best candidate. You knew you would be lucky to get her to join your team.

Since her first day of work, she has lived up to the high expectations she set in her interviews. She took over ownership for an important process on your team, and has not only mastered it quickly but she’s demonstrated the initiative to improve it. She reduced the time it takes to deliver her service while improving her output’s quality. Since she reduced the time she needs to complete the main job you hired her to do, she’s been identifying new projects she can take on to help the team.

Erin is the first to offer to fill in when someone else is out of the office, as she views that as a great opportunity to learn about other business areas. You feed off of her enthusiasm and enjoy working with her. If everyone on your team was like Erin, you would have the most amazing team in the company.

Erin is a joy to lead, but she presents you with a big leadership challenge. Her talent makes you realize she could move on to bigger roles. In fact, Erin has made a good impression with your colleagues. You’ve heard several of your peers have tried to recruit her away from your team. “Rising Stars” like Erin are fantastic team members – while you have them.

Approaches for Leading a Rising Star

For Rising Stars, follow an approach where you “Promote Internally.” The word “promote” has two meanings in this situation. No matter how much a Rising Star likes their current role on your team, you have to realize they aren’t likely to remain in it for long. They’re going to be looking for their next big opportunity soon – if they’re not doing so already.

It’s a huge mistake to be selfish and stifle a Rising Star’s aspirations to keep them on your team. One of your roles is being a career coach for these team members. Ask Rising Stars what their career goals are and advise them on what it will take to get there. Prepare them for their next move by helping them acquire the new skills they’ll need at the next level. Set a personal goal to get them promoted to a larger role that will take the greatest advantage of their potential for advancing their careers.

You owe it to your organization to find roles for Rising Stars that meet their career growth needs. Those roles should be within your organization. This is where the word “promote” takes on another meaning. You must not only be willing to let a Rising Star go to a new area in your organization – encourage them to do so and facilitate the move.

If you tend to hoard talent, talented people, especially Rising Stars, will seek new employment elsewhere. Your efforts toward moving them on to bigger roles are not only good for your organization – they can pay dividends for you personally too. Being a Rising Star’s mentor can be a good thing for your own career and doing so can help you build a talented team.

Educate Rising Stars about positions available across your organization and get a sense for what types of roles interest them. Advertise your Rising Stars as people who should be candidates for big roles other leaders are looking to fill.

Since talent attracts talent, ask Rising Stars to recruit their potential replacements. You can benefit from this approach of finding great new roles for Rising Stars. Talented people are often looking for their next great development opportunity.

If you build a reputation for helping talented people come into your organization, grow, and then move on to bigger roles, other high potential people will notice. Before you know it you’ll have a steady stream of high performers knocking on your door asking if you have any open roles on your team. They’ll do this because they’ll know they can come to your team for developmental opportunities. Not only will you not hold them back but you’ll guide them to their next great role after your team.

This dynamic will make it much easier for you to fill open roles on your team and reduce the amount of effort you expend recruiting. You’ll have a more talented candidate pool to choose from because the high performers and Rising Stars from other organizations will be the ones looking to fill the open roles on your team.

Once they do join your team, you’ll have productive team members delivering great results which, in turn, makes your results look fantastic. While in the short term it hurts to lose a Rising Star to a new role, long term it’s a great method for building a high-performing team.

Another leadership approach to use with Rising Stars is to acknowledge their reliable performance and reduce your time supervising them. This has two big benefits:

– First, it frees up “leadership capital” you can invest in other team members who require more attention.

– Second, by giving Rising Stars more autonomy, you’ll give them more room to build their skills. They’ll likely appreciate the increased freedom and trust you’re demonstrating you have in them.

The best way you can develop a Rising Star’s skills is to give them the space to run on their own to learn by doing. Who knows – they might teach you a thing or two.

Do you have a Rising Star on your team?  How do you approach leading them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  If you want insights into how your behaviors drive your team members’ behaviors and how to lead them more effectively, take our Lead Inside the Box Assessment! It’s free and it’ll give you great insights into how to improve your team’s performance!



– Mike Figliuolo is the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results and the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.  He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm.  An Honor Graduate from West Point, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro.  He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.