Guest Author Bob Cooper on Retaining Talent

Reminder: Bob’s leadership book Heart and Soul in the Boardroom is now available in the MMP Store!

With the baseball season in full swing we get to see the importance of talent as related to results. Those teams that lack talent or lose talent due to injury find themselves trailing their competition. In business, maintaining talent is also a competitive advantage.

In the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” authors Buckingham and Clifton define talent as naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied. Usually, talents come so easily to us that we don’t recognize them as talents.  We assume everyone can do the same things.

The great insight about talent is the fact that it comes naturally.  Not everyone is capable of being a great baseball player, or a great accountant, sales professional, lawyer, teacher, or nurse. We can develop talent by providing additional knowledge and skills, but each of us are unique individuals with special areas of talent.

As a leader you need to be a talent scout. You need to understand the success factors for every position and seek individuals who bring this talent to the team.  You must not make the mistake of hiring someone who doesn’t seem to possess the talent, and hope to train them for success.  For example, if you are hiring a sales professional – how effective are they in selling themselves? How effective are they in influencing others? How effective are they in describing the sales process with specific examples?

Assuming you do a good job in attracting talent to your team, how do you retain this most important asset? The following are a few suggestions to maintain talent:

1) Never Take Talent for Granted – Many leaders make the big mistake of a common mind set – “everyone is replaceable.”  On the one hand, we all realize that a business does not stop because 1 or 2 people leave.  However, it’s not easy to replace talent, and why would you want to? Would the Miami Heat have won the basketball championship without Lebron James? What happens if your best sales rep goes to your competition? What about a top surgeon? What about an excellent receptionist?

2) Engage Your Talent – Talented employees want to be involved in the business.  Ask for their opinion, listen carefully, and always show respect. Allow staff to become involved in setting goals and objectives.

3) Turn Talents into Strengths – Provide employees with the opportunity to further develop their talents.  This may include additional on the job responsibilities with you serving as mentor, or additional education to build on their talent.

4) Allow for Mistakes & Focus on Strengths – Assist others to learn from their mistakes.  Your job is to continue to build on the employee’s talents. For example, if you have a supervisor who is excellent at all aspects of the job with one exception – they are not strong at budgeting.  Regardless of the amount of coaching or training you provide budgeting is just not their thing.  Don’t make the mistake of spending a tremendous amount of time on budgeting. Continue to use this individual’s talents to move the business forward.  It may mean that you assign someone from accounting to work closely with this supervisor to help them get through the budgeting process.  Don’t dwell on weaknesses – build on strengths.

5) Model Positive Values & Behaviors – You must model values and behaviors such as integrity, compassion and respect.  Talented employees want to work in environments where trust and open communications exist.  They want to know what is going on and how they contribute to the success of the organization.

I am often asked my opinion of an acceptable turnover percentage.  My answer is always – it depends on who is leaving and why? If a talented employee is leaving for the wrong reason (for example – being taken for granted, a boss who is a micro-manager, lack of trust, etc.) then it’s the organization’s fault. If the individual is leaving for a better opportunity – it still may be the organization’s fault.  I believe that it’s the responsibility of leaders to really understand and appreciate the talent throughout their organization.  If these individuals know that you recognize their talent, and will not take it for granted, you enhance the probability that they will stay on the team.

Leaders must show their employees that they see them as unique individuals with unique and valuable talents.  The security guard who demonstrates excellent customer service skills is critical to your success. The secretary who has great analytical and problem solving skills is invaluable.

Please reflect on the following questions.  Can you identify the talents of all of your employees? If not, why not? How easy would it really be to replace your talented staff? What are you going to do to ensure you keep your talented staff?

Great leaders never take their employees for granted.  They recruit and develop talented employees, allowing individuals to build their talents until they become strengths. They truly care about their employees and demonstrate their respect for everyone on an ongoing basis.

Establishing a great strategy is critical to long term organizational success.  Having the talent on your team inspired to achieve your goals is the competitive advantage.

RL Cooper Associates assists clients to identify talents and turn these talents into strengths.  For a listing of our services, including our books “Huddle Up,” “Leadership Tips That Enhance Staff Satisfaction and Retention,” and “Heart and Soul in the Boardroom” please visit us at

Bob Cooper, President
RL Cooper Associates
(845) 639-1741
Innovations in Organizational Management

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