Why Your Best People Are Leaving

And how to make them stay (longer)

Reading time: 3 minutes

Welcome back to Refresh. Rethink. The newsletter by Leaders for Leaders

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Let’s dive into today’s issue!

There's little that can compare to the feeling when your top person knocks on your door and tells you that they're ready to move on. When I had just started out, I would try everything in the playbook to make them rethink their decision.

Once the other person has made up their mind, there's nothing you can really do.

I would try salary raises, better conditions, and more responsibilities. But after a few years, it dawned on me. Once the other person has made up their mind, there's nothing you can really do.😞

I had a talented guy on my team. A rising star, who started with us very young, and I had even promoted him twice in a short period.

But one day he came to my office and told me he took a project in another country. We had never spoken about that before.

🙄 I admit I even felt a little betrayed initially. Sad as well..

"Why is he leaving? What did I do wrong?

Once the emotions calmed down, I asked myself: "Why is he leaving? What did I do wrong? How can I stop this from happening again with others?"

It was pretty difficult to answer those questions back then. As a leader, I was still learning – it's a never-ending process, after all.

But after being in a similar situation many times, I see several reasons why great people leave.

I've also seen a couple of things that help retain great people. Let me share them with you.

Let them play their games and land their wins.

♟️ Imagine you're playing Monopoly with your friends. But instead of everyone rolling their dice, one person tells everyone what to do. How many spaces to move, what street to buy, what card to play, and how long to stay in jail.

How much fun would that be?

People want to play and make their own decisions rather than just carrying out orders.

Like my colleague, people want to play and make their own decisions (and mistakes!) rather than just carrying out orders. This is what makes the job fun for them.

Besides, high performance comes with high trust. Giving your people room for their way of playing the game makes them feel trusted. ❤️

Enjoying their job and feeling trusted makes a person want to stay. This sounds obvious, but most leaders (including me) have learned this the hard way.

However, even if we allow people to play the game their way, we should ensure it stays exciting! We need to tweak it to keep our best people engaged and motivated.

Change their environment often, even if just slightly.

I've noticed that talented people have many differences but have one thing in common. They get bored quite quickly.

You should not throw out a massive strategic pivot every month. Revolutions bring about chaos, but sometimes you want to make slight changes just for the sake of them.

Invite them to do things that don't match their job description

Make changes in the way you measure success. Challenge them by slightly adjusting your expectations. Invite them to do things that don't match their job description. Encourage them to change their own goals.🎯

When you change the environment of your people, so do the results, and often for the better. Al while they stay engaged and motivated.

But is praising results alone enough to keep people motivated?

Praise their attitudes, not just their results.

This one might be the odd one of the three I mentioned in this issue. But if you think about it, it makes sense. Let me share my perspective:

Our whole society is centered around results and getting praised for them. School grades, degrees, sales targets, and salary increases are all about numbers. 🔢

But what if a colleague is extra-miling for an entire month, but their KPIs drop due to some external circumstances? Do we, as leaders, ignore all that hard work?

The best people want to be rewarded not just for WHAT they achieve but also for WHO they are

The best people want to be rewarded not just for WHAT they achieve but also for WHO they are. For me, it was always challenging to find the right balance §between praising results and attitudes. But if you can find it, it can make your team more engaged and help you retain and develop your best people.

Losing the best people (or even one person) is never easy. And people will move on, eventually.

But by giving them play, changing their environment, and focusing on their attitudes, you take steps to make them stay longer.

You might have your truths, and there might be a dozen studies refuting every "claim" I made. But I'm not academic; I'm a practitioner, and I hope the things I've experienced first-hand might help others.

Till soon


If you need help retaining your best people, I'm here to help.

Through 1:1 consultations, we can work together to develop your leadership skills and create a culture of growth and development within your organization.

Book a free consultation today, and let's chat about your business