The leaves are turning in the Rockies – the bright colors certainly enhance the landscape. The changing season brings leaders an opportunity to help their employees review their occupation and evaluate how well their personal purpose and values match their current role. As the global economy slowly emerges from the difficulties of the past two years, skilled employees and leaders who are dissatisfied with their current company are – right now – considering job changes to improve their engagement (check out Inc. magazine’s recent article on this subject).

In the Ken Blanchard Companies‘  white paper, “The Retention Challenge,” Margie Blanchard poses what she calls “courageous career questions” that leaders should ask their direct repors on a regular basis. The conversation will certainly benefit individual performers, as answers to these questions can provide insight into how well their current company and role matches their passion and talent.

There is no better time and place than TODAY for leaders, at all levels of the organization, to proactively engage their employees in this courageous career conversation. Margie describes a conversation with a client who told her, “My headhunter is more interested in my career than my boss!” That’s not a scenario that serves you, your customers, your team, or your company well.

Courageous Career Questions

1.    What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months? What were you doing?
2.    What would you do more of if you could?
3.    What might lure you away? What would we need to do to keep you here?
4.    Are you being

•    Challenged?
•    Recognized?
•    Trained?
•    Given feedback?

5.    What would make your life easier here? Your job more satisfying?
6.    What do you want to be doing five years from now?
7.    What about your job makes you want to hit the snooze alarm/take the day off?

Job Design

These discussions will raise the opportunity for proactive job design (or redesign), where you partner with your direct reports to enable them to do more of the activities that inspire them each day (which will help them do those uninspiring but necessary activities every job has). If leaders can increase the frequency of inspiring activities, provide more flexibility with how & where work is done, and reduce the frequency of boring or high personal risk activities (personality conflicts are a classic example) in the workplace, top talent will demonstrate higher work passion, and be more likely to willingly stay and continue their strong contributions to your organization.

Leaders, it is human nature for you to assume that “everyone you work with” has the same motivations as you, is as ambitious as you, has the same professional aspirations as you. The reality is that people are different – and making assumptions about how passionate your people are about their work and team can cause top talent to leave when you least expect it.

The leader’s job is to not only manage processes and results, but to manage people’s energy – these conversations will help you do that more effectively.

Begin your proactive retention strategy today by scheduling “courageous career conversations” with your direct reports in the next week, then responding to what you learn with job design that builds work passion and enthusiasm for you, your company, your team, and your customers.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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