Why Can’t You Retain Top Talent?

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“Being the best at whatever talent you have, that’s what stimulates life.” – Tom Landry

The competitive nature of today’s global economy stipulates that you have and retain the top talent in your organization. We acknowledge that to do so is as great of a challenge as it has ever been.

A recent article in USA Today highlighted how American workers are on the move. They reported that “27 percent of employees switched jobs in the 12 months ending in the first quarter according to payroll processor ADP, the most since the firm began tracking the figure in 2014.”

Courtesy: USA Today

So what is a leader to do in order to retain and recruit top talent for their organizations? We have identified several characteristics that may shed some light on why your top talent may be headed through that revolving door. We believe as you take care of these leadership issues you can build the type of team that people would want to work for and think twice about leaving. But first, why are they leaving?

Lack of clear expectations

Nothing will frustrate your top talent more than a lack of a clear set of expectations and vision. Without it, your organization is adrift and your people struggle to find their way. Employees have to fight extra hard to succeed when they do not clearly understand what is expected of them in the first place. The constant feeling that they are not performing at an acceptable level, even if they don’t know what that level is, will send top talent running for the door.

Lack of investment

Your top talent needs to know that you are totally invested in their success. The buy-in is a two-way street and it needs to be demonstrated in tangible ways that reinforce your commitment to their success. Your investment in them shows that they are valued and that you are confident in their ability to make a meaningful contribution to the organization. When top talent feels that you do not value them enough to invest your time and resources in them, they will begin to seek an employer who will.

Perceived lack of respect

The culture and morale of your organization rest on foundational leadership principles. Namely among them are trust and respect. Top talent is especially attuned to the respect or lack thereof, that you have for them. These employees have devoted much of their lives to developing the skills, knowledge, and experience that make them so valuable. If the people in your organization perceive that you do not respect them, then it only stands to reason that they will be a part of a future exit from your organization.

Lack of a clear path forward

We want to be very clear about this leadership principle. Unless your people have a clear path forward, it will be clear to them that they are in the wrong place. In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell writes, “You can find smart, talented, successful people who are able to go only so far because of the limitations of their leadership.” It could be that the top talent in your organization is leaving, not because of a lack of opportunity, but because of a lack of leadership and a clear vision as to where they are going. It is incumbent upon you as the leader to provide it.

Lack of authentic leadership

Nothing will demoralize your people or your team members more quickly than a phony leader. Besides, too much is at stake for a leader to be anything other than genuine. Authenticity is the foundation for trust. No one wants to work for a leader who cannot be trusted. If you lack authenticity, employees will start to question your motives; they will perceive that you have hidden agendas that are not in their best interests. If the top talent within your organization can’t find authentic leadership where they are, they will look elsewhere for it.

We all have the desire to succeed; we want to know that our contributions are valued and that we are making a difference. Top talent has sacrificed far too much to achieve their level of skill to compromise on the leadership environment they work in. Provide them with the clear expectations they need to be successful. Invest your time and resources in helping them achieve great things. Leave no doubt as to how much you respect and trust them and their abilities. Provide them with a clear path forward and the means to follow that path. And, be an authentic leader, someone that top talent can look up to and emulate.

Your organization can only rise as high as your top talent. Isn’t it time to start retaining those employees who have the potential to add so much value? What adjustments will you make to your leadership today?


© 2017 Doug Dickerson and Liz Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at stincelliadvisors@gmail.com.


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Getting Comfortable With Failure

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I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison

As a leader, chances are, you’ve had a run-in or two with failure. If not, be patient. I say that not to be pessimistic or to discourage you. I say that to challenge and prepare you for great adventures that lie before you.

Failure. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word? Unfortunately, some people make the mistake of applying false labels to people who fail. They see them as failures rather than a success in progress.

In his book, Chase The Lion, author Mark Batterson gives an inspiring description of what it means to fail. He writes:

The cure for the fear of failure isn’t success. The cure for the fear of failure

is failure in small enough doses that we build up an

immunity to it.

God is in the business of helping us overcome our fears, but

He often does it by bringing us face to face with our worst fears.

He graciously brings us back to the place of failure, and then, He

not only helps us pick up the broken pieces but He also puts them

back together again.

That description, especially as it applies to the fear of failure, is an important lesson every leader must learn. As a leader, you will have to face down your failures, and confront them if you want to grow to the next level.

Regardless of where you are in your leadership journey, and wherever that path leads you- be it in business, sales, technology, management, customer service, etc. you must find your cure for failure and build up your immunity to defeat it. Here are a few ways to do it.

Develop a resilient attitude

Developing a resilient attitude is hard work. But most of that battle is won when we change our attitudes.

It reminds me the story of the two shoe salesmen years ago who left for the Caribbean  islands from Chicago. Upon arrival, they discovered that no one wore shoes. One salesman phoned back to the home office and notified them that he was returning to Chicago, “no one here wears shoes,” he said. The other man phoned back to the home office with excitement, “Send more shoes, no one here wears them!” Both men saw the same thing. One through the lens of a negative attitude, the other through a positive one.

The difference between your success and failure will often be determined by your attitude. Develop resilience in this area and you will develop an immunity to failure.

Develop the right perspective

While attitude has to do with how you see yourself in your present circumstances, your perspective is how you see yourself through it. It’s all about thinking long.

Look back on your own history for a moment. Think back to a time when you were going through a challenging or difficult time. Chances are your attitude at the time may not reflect your perspective on it now. The difference is time and distance. It’s much easier to look back at a difficult time you’ve come through than it is to see light at the end of the tunnel when going through it.

Never allow your present fears or failures to cloud your perspective. You will come through your difficult times and with the right perspective you can see them for what they were–stepping stones to your success.

Develop resilient courage

The formula for courage looks like this: A (Attitude) + P (Perspective) = C (Courage). Your ability to face down your fears and recover from failure takes courage. What will set you apart from your colleagues and give you the advantage over your competitors is courage.

“We don’t develop courage by being happy everyday,” writes Barbara De Angelis, “ We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity”. And this is the place on your leadership journey you must arrive at. It’s when you survive difficult times that you grow strong as a leader.

Resilient courage is developed over time. It’s a process. None of us like failure and we all wrestle with our fears. But failure doesn’t have to fatal or forever. It’s simply a marker on our road to success. Don’t give up!


© 2017 Doug Dickerson


Favorite quotes on failure:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.- Og Mandino

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. – Michael Jordan

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails toward success. – C.S. Lewis



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Are You a Leader on a Mission?

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My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. – Maya Angelou

On the morning of September 22, 1989, I got in my car and took about a 20-mile drive to the townhouse where my family and I lived in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the morning after Hugo, a Category 5 hurricane, passed through the night before.We had moved inland the day before so as to hopefully avoid the brunt of the storm. I went to see what, if anything, was left.

To this day, I will never forget what I saw as I approached the front door to our home. It was the rear bumper of a car. It was on our front steps leaning against the door. It had a bumper sticker on it that read, “I’m on a mission from God”.

I’m not sure what the mission or the message was, but I was grateful that we suffered only minor damage and had fared much better than most.

While most people’s experiences in leadership may not resemble a hurricane like Hugo, the bumper sticker does provoke an interesting thought. What is your mission or purpose as a leader? What type of impact are you making?

Your life in leadership is not meant to be lived in a vacuum where you are only in it for yourself. Take a few moments and ponder these questions about your leadership. Discover for yourself what your mission is as a leader.

What am I doing as a leader that adds value?

As a leader, you are either adding or subtracting value to those around you. Are your contributions, however great or small, making a difference in the lives of those whom you work with and for your organization? Think about it and take stock of what you are doing. Are you only in it for what you can receive or for notoriety?

If you are going to be a leader on a mission and make a positive difference in your organization then you must be a leader who is intentional about adding value. If not, you are only subtracting.

What am I doing as a leader that will outlast me?

One of the greatest things you can do as a leader is to devote yourself to causes greater than yourself. It’s when you get your eyes off of yourself and onto causes that can change your world that you begin to feel the impact of your leadership. You can best fulfill your mission as a leader when you make your mission less about you and more about others.

If you are going to be a leader on a mission it’s important that you identify what those causes are and how you can do your part to leave the world a little better than you found it.

What am I doing as a leader that fulfills me?

Your fulfillment as a leader is not found in selfish acts or by embracing a ‘what’s in it for me’, attitude. Your mission in leadership is not a call to self-importance but a call to a life of selfless serving. The reason most people in leadership are unfulfilled is that their focus is inward rather than outward. What direction is your focus?

“The two most important days in your life,” Mark Twain said, “is the day you are born and the day you find out why’. And this is the secret to understanding your mission as a leader.

When you discover your ‘why’ and understand your mission, then your life as a leader will be the most rewarding experience of your life.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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What’s Wrong With (Always) Being Right?

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Doing the right thing isn’t always easy-in fact, sometimes, it’s real hard- but just remember that doing the right thing is always right. – David Cottrell

In my many years in leadership, some of the most annoying people I come across are those whom, no matter the circumstance, are always right. They always have a ready excuse, an ‘out’ when things go wrong, it’s never their fault. They are always right. Chances are you’ve met one or two of these people along the way yourself.

Then you have the ‘know it all’ – that one person who’s the in-house ‘expert’ about everything. They would choose an ‘I told you so’ moment over ever admitting they were wrong about anything- even if it adversely affected the organization. (If this type person exists in your organization they are toxic, and you must deal with them).

Here’s the rub- people hate being wrong. I get it. We like to be at our best, do our best, but at the end of the day, we are mere mortals. We screw up. And we don’t know everything. So how do you guard yourself against ever developing this kind of an attitude? Here’s some food for thought.

Acknowledge your limitations

You bring a certain depth of skill and knowledge to your workplace. It’s great that you are highly trained in your area of expertise and contribute to the good of the team. You do your best to add value to your organization.

But a dose of reality is necessary if you desire to be an effective leader. While your expertise can be strong in one area, chances are you are not an ‘expert’ in every area. That’s why you have to listen, collaborate, and tap into the skills of your colleagues and defer to them. A lack of self-awareness on your part doesn’t change what others know and what you fail to admit. You don’t know everything so quit acting like it.

Focus on doing right, not always being right

When you make the shift from always ‘being’ right to ‘doing’ right, it will significantly change your leadership. It will change the way you look at things – and it will actually be a liberating force in your life. The self-imposed pressure of always being right frees you up to do right. It’s a game changer in many regards.

Let’s be real – it’s when you focus on doing right that you will experience growth in your leadership. It’s a mark of maturity. With nothing to prove and no compulsion to always be right, you can now focus on more important things like being a servant leader instead of protecting your ego.

Be humble and teachable

Personal growth and development will rarely happen within the ‘know it all’ or ‘always right’ bubble or mindset. There’s no room for it. Not because there’s nothing more to learn, but because this person believes that he or she is already there. It’s a dangerous mindset to have as a leader.

In Proverbs 19:20, the writer says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future”. For the sake of your own personal development, and those whom you lead, be teachable and walk humbly. None of us have arrived and there’s a lot of people depending on us to realize it.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Are You Really a Team Player?


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A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other. – Simon Sinek

For many of us, the idea of being part of a team is something we’ve identified with from an early age. Many of us were introduced to the concept of being on a team from our Little League days, or choosing teams with our neighborhood friends for an afternoon of backyard football, or whom we wanted to play with at recess.

While our current understanding of teams and teamwork may not mirror those early days,  it’s not a concept that is lost on us now. We all want to be on the winning team and we all want teammates that will give us that competitive advantage. And we can still play favorites.

As leaders, how we model teamwork is important. Unlike the backyard football game, the stakes are higher and more is riding on the outcome. What kind of a team player are you? Here are a few questions to ponder. After some honest reflection, decide for yourself if you are really a team player or an imposter.

Does my attitude benefit my team or undermine it?

Teams that succeed do so with players who have a positive attitude. There’s just really no other way around it. Is your attitude one that lifts your team or tears it down? Is your attitude a reliable one that others can look to and emulate and from it gain the confidence and courage they need in a moment of doubt or uncertainty? Or on the other hand, do you entertain those with a bad attitude by lending them a sympathetic ear? Remember, what you tolerate you promote, and this is especially true as it relates to attitudes.

Am I looking out for my own interest, or what is best for the team?

This is an age-old problem for many teams. If you are only looking out for your own interests and your own agenda, and not that of the team, can you really say that you are a team player? Babe Ruth was right when he said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” If you are promoting your own interests over the team, it’s likely you really aren’t a team player.

Do I celebrate the successes and accomplishments of my teammates?

One of the hallmarks of a successful team is realized when fellow team members can celebrate the achievements and successes of one of its peers. At the end of the day they understand that when he or she wins, the team wins. If you are blinded by petty jealousy or insecurities you are really not a team player.

Am I open to new ideas and change or am I a hindrance to it?

Teams that succeed are growth-minded and are always looking for ways to improve. They realize that they can’t rest on yesterday’s win, and they must be open to new ideas. If you are always resisting change and your mantra is “we’ve never done it this way before,” then chances are you are really not a team player you’re simply standing in the way of those trying to move forward.

Am I intentional and consistent about adding value to my team?

A team player is not one out to protect his or her own agenda or playing politics, and not saying one thing in public while undermining and scheming behind the scenes in private. Are you looking for ways to add value and lift others? Are you willing to put others ahead of yourself for the good of the team?  If so, chances are, you are a team player.

Are you really a team player?

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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The Power of Selective Discipline

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What’s done can’t be undone. – William Shakespeare

In his book, The One Thing, Gary Keller writes about a disciplined life in one of the chapters. In it, he expounds on the concept of selected discipline. In doing so, he points to Olympic champion Michael Phelps.

From age 14 through the Beijing Olympics, Phelps trained seven days a week, 365 days a year. By doing so he gained a 52-training day advantage over his competitors. He spent 6 hours a day in the water training-mastering the discipline of one habit that ultimately earned him Olympic gold.

The story of Phelps is quite inspiring.That he would channel so much time and energy into his life’s passion for swimming at such a young age is impressive. It also caused me think about how we as leaders develop our own patterns of discipline and personal growth. Here’s a thought that Keller expressed that is worth mentioning:

The payoff from developing the right habit is pretty obvious. It gives you the success you’re searching for. What sometimes gets overlooked, however, is an amazing windfall: It also simplifies your life. Your life gets clearer and less complicated because you know what you have to do well and what you don’t. The fact of the matter is that aiming discipline at the right habit gives you license to be less disciplined in other areas. When you do the right thing, it can liberate you from having to monitor everything.

In my early years of leadership, I was thoroughly indoctrinated with the concept and ideas of living a well- disciplined life. It’s a virtuous goal of every leader, right? But the notion of selective discipline was refreshing music to my ears and to my sometimes less than disciplined ways.

To obtain this noble virtue as a leader, like you perhaps, I wore myself out trying to measure up to what at times was just an improbable reality. It was frustrating. The fallout? Becoming the jack of all trades, the master of none. Keller adds, “You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.” How refreshing!

Selective discipline brings a measure of healthy simplicity to your life. Here are a few suggestions on how to make that happen.

Embrace your ‘one thing’

Selective discipline in your life begins when you identify what your ‘one thing’ is and direct your energies towards it. It’s as simple and complicated as that. But you will burn yourself out and have less energy for what truly matters so long as you don’t know what it is.

Embrace your selective discipline

Discovering your one thing is liberating. Knowing your purpose gives life meaning. But now comes the channeling of that discipline to take you to new levels of growth and potential. Sadly, you can know your one thing and still not live up to your potential if you don’t form the proper growth habits.

Embrace the sacrifice

The formula will look like this: SD(Selective discipline) +S(Sacrifice) = Success. Unless you are willing to sacrifice the good for the great you will always flounder. It’s time to focus, embrace your one thing, and channel your energies to become the person God created you to be.

The sacrifice won’t always be easy. Muhammad Ali put it this way, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”. And this is the reward of embracing the sacrifice- knowing that your success would not have come about any other way.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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Is Your Leadership Adrift?

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Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship. – Omar N. Bradley

One of the dangers I have observed over my years in leadership is the leader who tends to stray off course. It’s an easy trap to fall victim to and I have been there myself a few times.

It tends to happen when we are not focused on our “one thing” and are chasing rabbits down trails where we have no business going. And because we are distracted and we didn’t say no when we should have, we drift off course. It’s usually never intentional, but we are adrift nonetheless and we need to correct our course.

Writing in his book, Simplify, author Bill Hybels poses an intriguing set of questions that started me thinking about this. He writes:

Are you in the right race? Or have you accidentally drifted into a race that is mostly in vain? Are your best efforts going toward a race that results in fleeting applause?  Or do you strive for material gain, which rusts, rots, and depreciates? Or for passing pleasures that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the eternal scheme of things?

Those are some powerful and thought provoking questions. Staying on course requires intentionality on your part as a leader. What does being adrift look like as a leader? How do you know if you are adrift? Let’s explore five possibilities.

Your leadership is adrift when you try to run someone else’s race

When the race ceases to be your own you are adrift. This happens when you are not being true to yourself. Each of us has our own race and our own lane in which to run it. Quit trying to be the person in the lane next to you and be the person God created you to be. When you do this you will stop drifting.

Your leadership is adrift when you mistake all that glitters for your true north

As the quote above mentions, you must not set your course by the lights of the passing ships, but by the stars. Leaders who are adrift are frustrated because they didn’t keep their sights set on the star that is guiding them in their race. Forget about the other glimmering lights and get your focus back to where it belongs.

Your leadership is adrift when you fail to set proper boundaries

Leaders drift when they think they can be all things to all people and fail to set realistic, proper, and necessary boundaries. Without boundaries, there is no buffer in place to steer you back on course. You have to establish boundaries and stick by them. Otherwise, you will be drawn off course by every glittering light that comes along.

Your leadership is adrift when you chase applause and approval

This is one of the easiest traps to fall for as a leader. Afterall, who doesn’t enjoy the applause and approval that stokes our ego? But if this is your motivation for being a leader you are setting yourself up for disappointment and you will always be adrift. When you focus is on developing your character and integrity you will never have to worry about approval.

Your leadership is adrift when there is no accountability

Accountability is crucial to your success as a leader. It’s also what will keep you from drifting. When you have someone that has permission to speak truth into your life that person(s) can be an invaluable benefit to you as a leader. Do you have such a person? If not, let me encourage you to find one. The writer in Proverbs 22:15 said, “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.” (The Message).

As a leader, there is nothing more frustrating than being adrift. The good news? You don’t have to be when you know the warning signs. Stop drifting and get your focus back on what matters most.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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