Let People Know You Care by Asking Them to Stay

You’ve probably heard the recently coined term Great Resignation. It refers to how a record number of people around the world have voluntarily left their jobs since early 2020—the beginning of the pandemic. At last report, the movement is still going strong.

Many of these folks are looking for more than just a paycheck. They want authentic leaders who care about them—leaders who want to know what they think and what they need to do their best work. These people want to be included in decisions and to feel they are contributing to the greater good.

The Great Resignation has been a huge wake-up call for a lot of organizations with leaders who had no idea their people felt this way. Why didn’t they know? Because it never occurred to them to ask about people’s wants, needs, thoughts, or ideas until after their best people were gone. These employers are still running around trying to find the magic key that not only will stop the flow of people leaving but also attract and retain promising new hires.

Have the Conversations

If you really want to know what your people are thinking, schedule one-on-one conversations and follow this three-step process.

First step: Ask them what they think. Whether face to face or virtual, ask your team members questions such as how they feel about their job, what their thoughts are about new company initiatives or upcoming changes, or what they might need from you in terms of support to help them achieve their goals. This conversation is about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

These are crazy times. Your people need to know that you care about them and about what they think. When you ask them for their thoughts, they feel like their opinion matters.

Second step: Listen carefully to the answers. When you take the first step of asking people what they think, you have committed yourself to the second step: listening carefully to their answers and considering them. Don’t hesitate to ask other questions that may come to mind, including “Can you tell me more about that?” or “How would that work?” Take detailed notes—you may need them for the next step.

Remember to thank people after you hear their thoughts and ideas. The more open you are to listening to them, the more you will gain their trust and encourage them to keep sharing.

Third step: Consider what you’ve heard—and follow up.

Depending on what questions you asked and what answers you received, take action as needed. For example:

  • If the person has ideas or suggestions that are legitimate and that you believe may appeal to managers in other departments or higher level leaders, take steps in that direction. Be ready to encourage your team member and even to partner with them to help promote their suggestions.
  • If the person reveals that they are considering taking another job or even leaving the company without having a different job lined up, immediately schedule another meeting with them for a stay conversation.

Madeleine Homan Blanchard, our company’s Chief Coaching Architect, wrote about stay conversations in a recent blog post on this topic. In it, she says: “If employees don’t see and hear evidence that their boss and their company value them and want them to stay with the organization, they will assume their leaving won’t be a problem for anyone. This is just human nature: in the absence of information, people will make things up.”

The higher some leaders move in an organization, they more they think all the brains are in their office. You already know that’s not true. If your people believe you have their best interests in mind, they have every reason to give you their trust, loyalty, and best efforts. You may never know how many people you may influence to stay with your organization. And you may never know what future initiatives may begin with these four little words: “What do you think?”

“People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care” is Simple Truth #35 in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust, my new book with Randy Conley. It’s on sale now at your favorite bookstore or online retailer. Download an eBook summary for a preview here!