How to Keep Your Best Employee from Quitting the Team

She’s your best employee. A person that managers dream about having on their team. She’s the kind of employee they would love to steal from you, too.

Kelly helps any co-worker in need, freeing you up to get your own work done. She takes any instruction or project and goes two steps further to make sure the result is beyond excellent. Her presence alone makes the whole office more positive and productive.

When Kelly goes on vacation, or calls in sick, everyone feels it. The whole office feels like they are on a sail boat in the middle of a lake when the wind stops.

Everyone asks you, “When does Kelly get back?

Imagine what would happen to your department if Kelly never came back. Imagine how you would feel if she walked into your office and told you that she took…another job.

I didn’t even know she was looking! Now what?

Employees will stay with a great leader

You can replace Kelly’s name if it helps you visualize your own indispensable team member. The point is, your job is easier because you have this person around. You can’t imagine the turmoil it would cause if he or she left for another company, or worse, another department.

But what’s stopping her from taking a better offer? How can you make sure that your best employee doesn’t jump ship?

In my 20+ years of being in the workforce, I can tell you the one thing that will keep any great employee from bailing out when the water gets rough: a great leader.

Teams don’t quit on great leaders. I’ve been part of teams that have endured month after month of overwhelming workloads, missed bonuses, and job instability. We didn’t stick it out for a paycheck. Those are too easy to replace.

No, when we walked in each morning and gave each other the raised eyebrow “what’s today going to be like” look, it was because we trusted the person who was leading us. Often, we stuck around because we wanted to help them succeed.


How your title can affect the way you lead

Let me first ask you this: does your title make you excited? Does it activate your enthusiasm to show up each morning and take on the challenges of the day?

I’m asking you this because the titles we embrace play a big role in how we lead. For example, consider the titles of “Manager” versus “Coach.” Who do you see when you picture these roles?

When I think of a manager, I think of the harried person who sighs every time I knock on their door with a question. I know they’re not upset at me, necessarily. But I can see that they’re so exacerbated by everything they have to “manage” that they no longer have any capacity to hide their exhaustion.

Managers have jobs that are often chaotic, stressful, and exhausting. In all my years of working for numerous managers, I have never wanted their job. They are so often caught between executive mandates above them, and individuals who may or may not choose to “show up” each day working below them.

Does this sound like you? If so, I’m honestly sorry. You didn’t sign up for this when you agreed to be a manager. You deserve a better experience.

Let’s consider how your role changes, though, when you stop thinking of yourself as a “manager” and step into the role of a “coach.” What kind of person do you picture when you think of a coach?

Coaching your best employee to build a winning team

Maybe it’s because we’re in the midst of football season, but I picture someone like Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks. Carroll’s smiling face has been a football enigma for years. While most coaches endure games with stern, serious faces, Coach Carroll has always looked like he’s having a blast. Because he is.

Pete Carroll loves his role as a coach and his enthusiasm carries over to his players.

During a 60 Minutes interview, Coach Carroll was asked to respond to a quote by one of his rival coaches that “all coaches are miserable,” to which Carroll replied:

“No. I never have been miserable. I keep thinking day to day, that somethin’ good’s just about to happen, you know. And so, that mentality, whether I’m in a game or coachin’ in the midst of the season, I don’t know how to think otherwise. And that doesn’t take you to misery.”

Pete Carroll’s assistant, Ben Malcolmson even talks about how the Coach is always surprised by a loss. He says that Carroll goes into every game expecting to win. That’s just his attitude.

Listen to the whole interview with Ben Malcolmson here.

Coach Carroll takes an approach to his team that is very unique in professional football. He truly believes that the health of the individual player is crucial to the success of the entire team. And while he has plenty of pressure on him to win every year, he doesn’t let that distract him from the value of the people who suit up for 16+ weeks. His philosophy works. Just a few short years after taking over in Seattle, Coach Carroll led the Seahawks to the team’s first Super Bowl victory.

A great coach wears the same grass stains as their players because they run on the same field. Coaches aren’t up in a press box watching to see if their strategy pays off. They make that strategy successful, interacting with their team face to face.

I think the biggest difference between a “manager” and a “coach” is where they emphasize their work. Managers focus on the tasks that need to get done. While coaches recognize that their employees are their biggest assets to getting those tasks complete.

Empower your people, and the whole team wins.

Change the way you think about your role

Words matter. They affect the way we behave and can even influence our physical brains. The word you choose to define your role will affect the way you see yourself, and will affect the way your team looks at you as well.

Are you there to coach a team? Or are you just there to complete a bunch of tasks?

Your best employee will happily leave any manager for a better paycheck. But she will gladly give up a few extra bucks in order to stay with a great coach. Embracing the right role for yourself will determine whether your best employee stays to help you win championships, or chases a better contract for herself.

Change the way you think about your role, and you’ll change the way you feel about it.

When you make that change, you’ll transform the way your team performs for you as well. Do you want to stop your best employee from quitting your team? Become the coach your team deserves.