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How to keep your key leaders


By: Ross Paterson
Last month, we worked with a construction client on a reset and refocus planning session for the 2nd half of 2021. As the owner described some of the dilemmas facing the team, a strong senior project manager was looking down and shaking his head. I noticed but did not pull him into the discussion. I asked the owner to pay attention to this high-potential leader to keep him engaged; we were building the plan around him.


Fast forward to July, that senior PM has a new job, a new title, and is at a new company (probably got a big raise too). GHOSTED!!! SMB owners, there are tens of thousands of dollars in hidden costs and lost opportunities when our key leaders depart unexpectedly. Not to mention sleepless nights and high-stress days while we cover big holes in the line-up.


How do we keep our key employees?

  1. Don’t neglect them. Frequently when the pressure is on and other teammates are struggling, we unintentionally pile a bigger load on our top performers. They may not say anything to you until you get a professional 2-week notice. Ghosted!
  2. Talk to them about their career goals. Are they learning and growing? What do they want to do next? Strong leaders absolutely have answers to these questions. If the recruiter calling their cell phone is the only one who knows the answers, consider yourself… Ghosted!
  3. In regular 1-1 sessions, show your top performers how the business’ vision and your plans will help them achieve their answers from #2. No clear vision? No plans for their growth? Ghosted!


Younger teammates may leave looking for greener grass; you should expect some of this youth-driven turnover even if you are doing 1-3 well.


Play offense by having weekly 1-1 conversations with your key leaders, especially the great ones. Play defense by building a virtual bench and recruiting resources for your vision before you need them.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog on How To Build A Virtual Bench.