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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

Keeping Your Team Happy: 3 Checkpoints

4 hands holding each others wrists to make a grid pattern, affirmative and connected

Keeping your team happy and productive isn’t always easy, but it is necessary.


It costs a minimum of $5,000 to rehire someone when they quit. And that’s for small businesses! Think $20,000 - $30,000 for larger organizations!


This is a cost you can’t ignore. Hiring, on-boarding, training, and developing a member of your team takes time, money, and resources. So if you’re going to hire someone, the goal is to keep them.


After immense amounts of research, I’ve found that only 20% of the workforce that leaves their job actually leaves because of money.


So, what is the other 80% leaving for?


They are leaving because they want to work somewhere they feel wanted, more challenged, and better managed.


In my experience as a leader, I’ve found that in order to keep employees on your team, and for a reasonable amount of time, there are 3 ways to do this: know your team, build trust, and create a model team.


Although it sounds simple, many business leaders fail to pass these three checkpoints when in a leadership role.


The goal is to achieve a high growth rate in your company and establish open and effective management so your team is satisfied, challenged, and growing with you.


If you can pass these three checkpoints, you’ll be well on your way to having a team that enjoys what they do, enjoys showing up, and enjoys growing your bottom line.

Be a Leader, Know Your Team


This sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many owners, CEO’s, or business leaders have no idea who is on their team, let alone their names!


To retain top talent, it’s important to actually get to know the people behind that talent. And, while you’re at it, get to know more than just their name! Get to know way more. What are their aspirations, goals, and dreams? What are their weaknesses? What are their strengths? Learn their spouse’s names, their favorite sports team, or their alma mater. Whatever it takes for you to actually learn who is working for you.


I sat on a board two or three years ago, and at the end of our week-long event, the head of the board took us all out to dinner. In the middle of the dinner, the president turns to me and asks, “Are you so and so’s wife?” He didn’t know who I was! I was embarrassed and even a little upset. I had contributed so much to his organization and he didn’t even know my name!


When you understand who your team is, it allows for more alignment in your projects. For example, if you know that someone’s weakness is writing reports, but they really want to learn to be better at it, then maybe you know the exact project to give them that will challenge and grow their skills so that they become a more well-rounded team member.


When you know your team, you are better able to utilize their talents and safely allow them to improve their under-developed skills so that they can grow and your business can thrive.


Develop Trust, On Ramp to Success


The more you get to know your team, the more you’ll be able to develop trust within it.


A team that trusts their leader can be unstoppable.


Think about when you’ve been in a trusting business relationship. How did you feel? Respected, valued, heard and seen come to mind for me.


Now, think about a time when you’ve been in a distrusting business relationship. How did that make you feel? Probably frustrated, belittled, or degraded in some ways.


We’ve heard many times that “trust is a two way street,” but I have a different take on it. When you’re a leader, trust is an on ramping process. You have to trust your team before they are going to trust you. This sometimes takes courage and vulnerability.


A great way to build trust with your team is to listen. Find the most knowledgeable team member in the room on the topic, project, or area of expertise at hand, and go ask them how you can improve your skills or understanding in that area. In this way, you gain valuable insight for yourself and you’re allowing your team members to share their expertise and open up to you as someone they trust.



If you have the courage to learn what you don’t know from others, your team will respect you as a leader and establish trust with you.


One of the best examples of a leader establishing trust with their team comes from my favorite mentor, Rudy Bonaparte. I worked for his organization years ago and one day he came from HQ in Atlanta to our office in Oakland.


I was so excited to meet someone I regarded so highly so when he came and spoke to me I was honored. He was kind, engaging, and interested in what I was working on. He asked me questions about my project and suggested I write a journal paper about it.


Six months later, Rudy comes back to our office, and when he sees me, he asks me about my husband, the project I was working on and if I had finished the journal paper on it.


I was blown away! How did the president of an 800+ company remember a conversation we had six months ago? I felt unbelievably valued and fortunate to be working for this man.


Turns out, Rudy uses notecards to learn and remember all of his employees. That way, he is able to have meaningful and memorable conversations with his employees every time.


He is able to instill trust with his employees and at the same time encourage them to take on challenges within the company.


“I want to know everybody because we are family and I have a commitment to those who decide to work at our firm.” - Rudy Bonaparte

Create A Model Team, Create Dedication


Once you’ve begun understanding who your team is and have built trust, then it’s time to visit the final checkpoint: create a model team.


If you want to retain and grow your team, creating a motivated, dedicated, and loyal team is essential.


It’s important that when you hire new employees they are given the opportunity to grow within an organization that they want to stay in.


Creating a model team requires leadership, mentorship, and guidance as you bring your team up through the organization.


To create a model team, you can give your team members what I call right and left lateral limits. This is something we use in the military and it can be directly applied to business leadership.


You first determine the scope of the project, task or assignment. And then you develop the right and left lateral limits, or parameters, that pertain to the project.


The individual is then given the responsibility, independence and freedom within the parameters to create a solution. This allows them to step into an authoritative role and encourages them to do what needs to be done within their defined sector.


As a leader, you define the left and right lateral limits as the requirements and given the relevant details, but you don’t determine HOW it’s done. With your trust, you can then allow the project lead to determine the best way to execute the project. Within giving requirements on HOW it needs to be done, the team member is to make choices quickly and still remain in their authoritative zone.


As a leader, you give the parameters and then you TRUST your team to design, create and innovate within those parameters.


This allows your team to come up with solutions that you may not have thought about. They will feel empowered to come up with the best way they can solve the problem and then be motivated to execute it.


Through establishing left and right lateral limits for your team, you give them the opportunity to grow and succeed.


As a leader, it is up to you to ask how you can help your team be more independent because the more independent your team is, the less time you have to spend managing, worrying, and decision-making.


Once you’ve established a model team, you are able to give larger parameters on larger projects and have full trust that the goal will be accomplished using the best solution.


Motivated, dedicated, and independent teams breed innovation and loyalty, which grows your team and your business.

Be The Leader You Want to Follow


As a leader in business, it is your job to get to know your team, build trust, and create an exemplary workforce so that your organization is one people want to stay in.


Getting to know your team can be fun and inspiring. Building trust in your team can be heart opening and connecting. Creating a model team can be intuitive and motivating.


If you can understand your team's needs, goals, and skills, you’re better able to leverage their talents to grow your business.


As an empathetic leader myself, I am constantly asking “If I were in that position, what tools and resources would I need to accomplish the job independently and successfully?” Because, at the end of the day, if you’ve hired the right team, then they care about how their jobs are carried out and are constantly improving their skills so that they can better contribute to the organization they are a part of.


A phrase we use in the military often is: “The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.”


If retaining an outstanding team seems impossible to you, I’m here to guide you through the process.


As a team leadership speaker, I can help to inspire you and your team so that you create an organization that is worth showing up for.


So that you build an organization that is excited to be there.


If you’d like to hear more, then book me to speak at your next event. As a team leadership speaker, I deliver a keynote that hits all 3 checkpoints and more so that you walk away knowing how to be the leader your team wants to follow.

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