How often do you ask your people, “Where are you trying to go? What’s your vision?” and, most importantly, “How can I help you get there?”
I think it’s incredibly counterintuitive for leaders to not ask these questions. A leader should want to support their employees in achieving their dreams. Yet, there seems to be a fear of asking an employee, “What do you really want to achieve?” The assumption is that their answer may not line up with the business. Maybe they want to go and be a pastry chef. And, that’s okay.
I once hired a 24-year-old “kid” in our marketing department. He was amazing, and super talented. He brought something to the company that we’d never had before. I started talking to him, and I soon realized that I wasn’t going to be able to keep this kid at my company for very long, because he’s an entrepreneur at heart. He wants to learn. In a few months or a few years, he’s going to leave this position and do something bigger with his life.
So, I sat down with him and I asked, “What can we do to help you get to where you want to be?” I knew that at some point, he was going to be off on his own, and I told him, “I want to help you get there. And when that time comes and you are starting your own business, you know I’ll be here for you to talk to.” That young man worked so hard for our company. He appreciated the fact that the CEO just told him that he’s going to support his dreams, and help him grow as a person and an entrepreneur. And you know what? I still talk to that kid! I’m still in contact with him, and he’s doing great things.
The point is, you can’t keep all of your talent. So, you want to make sure that you’re developing them, and helping to engage them by putting a system in place where they can learn and improve. Engagement, when you think about it, isn’t about foosball tables or pinball machines. Engagement comes down to two things: one, you need to openly and honestly encourage your people to grow; and two, you have to have an accountability system that keeps track of their progress, so they can celebrate their victories and learn from their difficulties.
It’s okay to work toward dreams that include talent leaving your company, because you get the best work from people who are excited to learn, advance, and be held accountable for growth toward their dreams. By supporting their dreams, you’re also building your own.