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Business Leaders: Catch and Feed the Best Fish

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 13 years ago
  • Author: Justin Thomason

Business Leaders: Catch and Feed the Best Fish

We had the privilege of hosting Dr. Earl Suttle at our Atlanta headquarters. @DrEarlsPearls, as he is better known, facilitated a discussion with many of our customers on Leadership: Catching, Motivating, and Keeping the Best Employees. My passion burns around this topic, so much that I even apply an Agile perspective to my own skills in hopes to grow, differentiate, and continuously improve. So, I thought I would share a bit of my philosophy around Catching, Motivating, and Keeping the Best.

Business Leaders: Catch and Feed the Best Fish


The conversation never ends when it comes to the importance of talent brand, the candidate experience, and perks & benefits – and I think all of that is great. However, when it comes to attracting true top performers, experienced employees who are really in the top 10% of what they do, I do not think most of that really matters. To me, it comes down to one of the three Ms – Manager, Money, or Mission.

Manager: We see this happen in our business every month. A well-respected AppDev Director leaves his Fortune 1000 gig to take a CIO role at a smaller up-and-coming organization. Well, you won’t believe this, but within six months the top programmers from his/her previous company and the brightest rookie from his/her monthly Meetup are all pounding out code at the new organization. Shocking, I know. My point is that the best talent will typically not leave a good situation unless they really know who they are going to work for. My leadership team is a great example. It is highly proliferated with people who helped build my career as I gave them an opportunity to build their own. They trust me and believe in me. That is the only reason I was able to “catch” them on this go-round. So hire the best people who trust you and hire everyone else before they know any better (new grads or experienced hires new to your business). Look for work ethic, aptitude, and attitude (my recipe for potential), and some of these will end up being your top performers in 2018 and beyond.

Money: Pretty simple. You’re a top Workday Implementation Consultant making 80 bucks an hour. And then Uber says they need your help on their implementation and offers you 120 bucks an hour for the next nine months. We all know how this story ends…

Mission: Sometimes a company’s mission is so groundbreaking or meaningful or momentous that people will overlook manager and money to be a part of the cause. This is not the norm but it does happen and when it does, I think it is pretty special. At MATRIX, we help people find great work and help our clients find great talent. We are Agile. We have a keep-in-touch commitment and a consultant care program that are cutting-edge. But, we also have about a thousand competitors. Let’s just say it’s rare for a company to be able to catch top talent because of their mission.

Motivating and Keeping

I am going to tie these together because I really believe that you can’t keep the best people without motivating them. In reality, companies often keep the people they don’t want because they are overly generous with perks and benefits. The bottom half of performers really don’t need to be motivated to stay at your company. But we are talking about the best. There is so much reading and material out there on this subject so I will just share a few techniques that have been successful in my career.

Listen: Your best employees want to grow and be challenged. And they will tell you what they need to feel challenged. Often, small amounts of added responsibility each year will keep people motivated. They see you are giving them an opportunity to do more and will be driven to not let you down. Implementing your employees’ ideas also inspires people to stick around. When you show people that you value their input, and trust that their ideas can improve performance, engagement and motivation increase. Lastly, don’t ignore requests. Sometimes, a top employee will ask for something that you know is not realistic at that time. It is critical to communicate through the process and be honest about timeframes. Feeling ignored will kill motivation and push top performers out the door, often blindsiding the manager.

Be a Leader: Have a vision and articulate it. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Manage up to create more opportunity for the people on your team. Plan ahead. If I want a high potential to take on a manager role in 2018, what seeds do I need to plant now and what must my high potential accomplish in 2017 in order for me to make it happen? Be very clear. Fall on the sword when necessary. Embrace conflict and handle it professionally.

Be there when they need you: Life has inherent seasons of craziness and throws us all unexpected obstacles. When your employees enter theses seasons, be flexible. These are the times to bend the rules. It will prove to your people that you care about them as a person and build loyalty.

And finally, what has kept you loyal to a manager or company? If it is important to you, it will probably resonate with others. How can you replicate those feelings in your own teams?

Best of luck in Catching, Keeping, and Motivating the best employees this year!