The Responsibilities of Management Series, #4: Retain the Type of People You Want in Your Organization

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 17, Issue No. 12a
April 1, 2019

By Dan Coughlin


No matter how good you are at attracting, hiring, placing, and developing the kind of people you want in your organization, you will not generate sustainable success unless you can retain those people.

If you are simply the best developer of talent in your industry and you constantly lose that talent to other companies, then whose company are you really helping? The great payoff in terms of productivity, innovation, and growth happens when you have the type of experienced people you want in your organization to guide the company forward.

For that to happen with the type of people you want your primary approach needs to be built on retaining those people in your organization. If you have to constantly recruit experienced people from outside of your company, you will be paying an enormous fee to build the type of organization that you want.

How do you maintain great relationships?

Oftentimes the best way to gain a useful business insight is to step outside of your business life and look for parallel situations.

Think about the great long-term relationships you have in your life with certain family members, friends, and members of different community groups. What sustained those relationships for 15 years or more? Take some time to write down your answer.

Here are ten things that I think sustain close relationships. Think about how you can apply these with the people you work with.

Time Together

Friends make time for each other. They care about hearing each other’s stories. Do you make time to really listen to the people you work with? Think about how that can strengthen a person’s desire to stay with your organization.

Shared Experiences Both Good and Bad

When people go through a remarkably enjoyable experience or an excruciatingly difficult experience they grow closer as human beings. Those very real-life occurrences make their time together more memorable. Go through those moments together with the people you work with. Don’t go off to your silo and suffer alone or celebrate alone. It’s the real moments together that make it worth it to stay together over the long term.

Real Listening with Empathy

Empathy means to work to understand what another person is thinking and feeling, and then responding in effective ways. In your friendships you know when the other person is hurting or frustrated or excited because you listen with empathy. It shows great respect for the other person to listen so attentively, to reach out for confirmation on what the other person is thinking and feeling, and then to craft a meaningful response. Do you give that same level of respect to the people you work with? If you did, what do you think would be the impact on your relationship with those people?

Lots of Personal Messages

Your friendships are long lasting human relationships. You’re not spitting out memos. You are sending personal messages to that individual because you are thinking about the person as a unique individual. Do you send personal messages to people at work that are meant only for that person, or do you only send out missives that are the same for every person? Relationships are always about the person, not about the audience or the crowd or the whole organization. Do you say thank you to an individual for something specific that person did, or do you send out a congratulations to the entire company with a “Great job everybody” attached to it?

Genuine Appreciation

When you appreciate a friend, you talked about specifics, not generalities. It’s genuine appreciation for that individual. Are you genuine in your appreciation with the people you work with, or is it more of a to-do list item you are checking off?

Shared Admiration

You tell your friend what you admire about him or her. You let the other person say nice things to you. Do you do the same at work? Do you take the time to say, “I admire the way you handle difficult customers. Thank you for doing that.”? Do you let other people say nice things to you at work?

Comfortable in Being Together

With a friend you can truly be yourself. At work do you allow yourself to just be yourself, or do you always have to be “on”?

Fair Sharing of Costs

It puts a great strain on a friendship if one person feels he or she is always carrying the financial load by paying for every meal and every event. Or if one friend is always bragging about how much he or she makes, or how much he or she owns. Most people, I believe, don’t leave an organization because they will make a ton more money somewhere else. They leave if they feel they are being treated financially unfairly. Money does play a role in a relationship, and you should acknowledge that it is important. It doesn’t mean that you can buy a relationship. It does mean you can ruin a relationship if you are not sensitive to the importance of finances in a relationship.

Caring About the Other Person’s Successes

When a friend achieves something really important or the person’s child achieves something really important, you get excited for the person, don’t you? Do you do the same at work?

Being There During the Other Person’s Failures

When a friend goes through a miserable experience or failed in some way, aren’t you there caring about the person? Do you do the same for the people you work with?


People leave organizations for the same reason they leave friendships. And they stay for the same reason they stay in friendships. Are you investing in building lasting relationships at work, or are you treating people in a transactional way? If it’s the latter, then don’t be surprised when you are dealing with a revolving door of transactions as people come and go at a phenomenal pace in your organization.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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