10 ways to lose top performers. Really lose ‘em.

A satirical piece on behalf of high performers who are not in a position to quit. Yet

Here are 10 ways to lose your top performers efficiently, so that better companies can pick them up.  :0 

Note – these are in no particular order, you know best what works most efficiently for you. Please remember that you are using these at your own risk. 

  1. Clarity and direction: Give no direction, no end in sight, just make people wait and ask endlessly to hear where you’re going… months and years of speculation is ideal. If this isn’t working, simply switch direction anytime people are starting to make progress. 
  2. Meaningful work: Ensure they are doing low value meaningless work that feels like running in circles for no reason, but just keep them “busy”. Applying additional pressure and timelines to this meaningless work is an added bonus. 
  3. Empower: Tell people that they’re empowered, but you make all the decisions or at the very least, override every decision they make; actively remind them that you know best. 
  4. Genuine appreciation: Give them very public glowing empty compliments on the work they deliver especially when it’s mind-numbing, pointless and (in the words of a higher performer) “a monkey could do it”. 
  5. Remove obstacles: Ensure to have layer upon layer of nonsensical bureaucracy and endless politics for them to navigate so they are maximally frustrated and you remove any hope of accomplishing anything. When in doubt, deny there are any obstacles, or create more. 
  6. Rewards and promotions: Promote your best politickers and coercers, reinforce that this is leadership to aspire to. Manipulation, hidden agendas, and mistrust are key. 
  7. Real involvement, co-create: Ask them for input on everything so they feel involved, but do it all for show. It’s ok to let them think their idea was brilliant, but your ideas are best and you don’t use any of their input, ever. 
  8. Value and trust people: Insist that you SEE these high performers working because you can safely assume that if you can’t see them, they are probably just staring blankly at the ceiling thinking of ways to destroy the place. 
  9. Engagement: Be sure that everyone knows that engagement has nothing to do with leadership, people just need to be happier – have a happiness (aka engagement) meeting and tell people all the reasons they should be happy. 
  10. Grow people: Advise people that you want to help them in their own development because it’s your job, but ensure to keep a lid on it. They can never outgrow you, and if it looks like they might, just double down on point #1 & 2 above.
  11. BONUS – Useful Feedback: Ensure to give useless feedback or none at all – let them guess – surprises are best at performance review time. Don’t ever ask for feedback or accept it; what could they possibly contribute to make you or your ideas better… if people risk everything to give you feedback, use it against them to ensure it doesn’t happen again!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the satire above… It doesn’t have to be this way, in fact it can be the opposite!

You’re losing top performers because they’re bored, spinning in endless changes in direction or swimming in a sea of indecision around them. They don’t genuinely feel valued either by their leader or by the organization and they don’t feel they can grow. They’re leaving because they feel their talent is being wasted. These are the leading reasons people actually leave. 

So much research shows that people DO NOT leave for money… but 89% of leaders still believe that people DO leave for money. It’s easier on our leadership egos to think that it’s about the cash, and it’s also easier to say in an exit interview. But… it’s not about the cash. 

Create the environment where top performers want to stay: improve leadership. Enable people to bring their best to work and succeed. Become a talent magnet by leading better and your top performers will attract more great people like them!

Don’t overcomplicate this – being a better leader is about being a better human. Start there.

The moral of the story: use the 11 bolded headings above in a positive way… to retain, not to repel. 

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