Too often leaders convince great people to join their company and then assume they are happy until the day comes when the superstar resigns.

When you find and hire true IT talent, that is the start of your “selling process,” not the end of it.

The word "selling" makes some people uncomfortable, but that is basically what leaders do. We are professional salespeople that identify ways our company, products and services can serve others. Then we engage with employees, customers, vendors, or other business-related parties to achieve mutually beneficial results. 

In regards to employee retention for MSPs, it is our responsibility to make certain every employee is fully engaged pursuing work that is personally fulfilling to them. When we fail, we lose top performers and it hurts our bottom-line results.

Quite frankly, when top performers leave for the wrong reasons it can also hurt their career. Therefore leaders need to make certain we are truly what I call "3strands LEADERS,” who are intentionally engaging and protecting the best interests of our employees.

The inspiration behind this “3strands” is from an old book of wisdom titled Ecclesiastes 4:12, which says: “Though one may be overpowered and two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

The first strand of 3strands LEADERSHIP is Systematic Power. How well you demonstrate Systematic Power separates people with leadership attributes versus people with true leadership skills

The core leadership systems leaders must master are how to hire, manage, develop, and retain top performing people on your team. Defining and demonstrating Systematic Power enables you to be a consistent role model who builds trust, inspires greatness, and provides meaningful careers. 

The second strand of 3strands LEADERSHIP is Meaningful Work. Systems without meaning have no lasting value. GREAT Leaders create self-motivating work environments for each individual of their team that link career tasks to their personal fulfillment. This is the most important motivator of all - the unique personal satisfaction each employee gains from achieving results.  

The third and final strand holds the other two together. It is Sincere Gratitude. This is how you confirm you value each team member's contribution in ways they appreciate. Tossing them a Starbucks card is appreciated by one employee, but irritates a different team member. You need to recognize employees based on their personal preferences. 

The MANAGEtoWIN mission statement is "No Bad Bosses." Our definition of a "bad boss" is a leader who is not effective. A "bad boss" is not typically an evil person, mean, etc. A bad boss is simply an ineffective leader.

Employee retention involves activities within the four basic leadership responsibilities. Truly great leaders consistently, systematically do the following:

HIRE the right people, or as Jim Collins would say, you get the “right people on your bus.”

MANAGE people effectively and efficiently to achieve results.

DEVELOP people to pursue meaningful careers.

RETAIN people by keeping them fully engaged in their work and on their team.

Too often leaders get confused and think employee retention is about programs, parties, pay, or even their performance as a leader. Although these areas contribute to the loss or retention of great employees; or the poor productivity of other employees; you must answer this question:

“Am I consistently demonstrating the skills of a true leader, or merely the leadership attributes of a “bad boss?”

THE REASON this is important: Employee retention is about how you make your people feel. Everything else is secondary.

Test your leadership skills against these seven disciplines. Truly great leaders do these things every week, if not every day.


1. Exert Systematic Power

Define your systems to hire, manage, develop, and retain top performers. Decide which ones play to your strengths and focus your time on those. Delegate the others to your team with accountability. Develop and evolve the systems on an ongoing basis.

Be so consistent that people trust you.


2. Create Meaningful Work

This is incredibly important to retain top performers. Engage people individually in work that is personally fulfilling to them. Keep them involved primarily in those tasks. Protect them from doing too many other duties that distract from the activities they do best.

Creating this type of work environment is self-motivating to each employee. They want to get up in the morning to do their work because it is not a short-term job, but rather a long-term, very fulfilling career.

Isn't that what you want too?


3. Show Your Sincere Gratitude 

Regularly communicate in ways each employee prefers that you value them as a member of your team.

I was interviewing a young man for a position with one of our Clients recently. In the MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessment he had completed, he had crossed off a statement similar to: “Sam likes to receive complements on the job." 

I thought that was interesting. I asked him, "So… you don't like to be complimented?" 

He replied with disgust, "Oh no, actually I do like compliments. But in my current job, our manager comes around once a week to give us a compliment. It's like he's checking off a list. It's totally insincere, and I absolutely hate it!"


4. Clearly Define Responsibilities 

Job descriptions are dead. People write them; review, sign and date them when a person is hired; and then place them in a file drawer never to be seen again. Job descriptions are static documents done more for legal reasons than to fully engage employees. 

We have developed an alternative, which we call an employee "Strategic Plan.” It contains more information than a job description and acts as a success plan for each employee.

It is a living, breathing action plan for success.

The key action areas of an employee strategic plan are T.A.R.G.E.T. Goals, behavioral expectations between the manager and employee, and a clear career path that provides them a vision for their future within your organization.


5. Set T.A.R.G.E.T. Goals 

It never ceases to amaze me how many employees do not have clear, measurable goals.

And, before you pat yourself on the back, too many leaders fail to follow-up with employees often enough once they have worked with them to define their goals. Goals without follow-up is like food that is not cooked before its expiration date. It rots. 

The best way to write clear, measurable goals is by following the acronym “T.A.R.G.E.T.™” from my books, The Company Culture Challenge and Success With People.  


                  T                To (the preposition)

                  A                Action verb

                  RG             Realistic Goal to be achieved

                  E                Effectively measure whether the goal has been achieved

                  T                Time or date for the goal to be completed


The due dates are important. One sales guru, T.C. Michalak, likes to say, “A goal without a timeline is not a goal – it’s a wish.” Each goal must have a realistic completion date and everyone, including yourself, must be held accountable to completing work on schedule.

Here is an example of a clear, measurable goal written in the T.A.R.G.E.T. format:

To increase consultant utilization rates to 78 percent for the quarter.


   To begin:                                             To

   Action verb:                                          increase

   Realistic Goal:                                      consultant utilization rates

   Effective measurement:                       to 78 percent average

   Time bound:                                         for the quarter.


DROP THE “TO”: If you want to make the goal statement more direct then drop the first preposition “To.” Then this goal becomes: Increase consultant utilization rates to 78 percent for the quarter.

Superstar employees want to achieve results. Work with them to define the results they are to achieve, and then help them complete the journey.


6. Perform Retention Interviews

You lose top performers when you assume they are going to stay. Truly great leaders avoid assumptions. They engage with people to confirm the facts and then act accordingly.

Retention interviews confirm employees are fully engaged and committed to your organization.

We recommend you schedule casual, off-site conversations - not meetings - with your employees to confirm they are fully engaged and see a future with your organization. These are conversations, not formally scheduled meetings. For instance it may occur when you're on a 30-60 minute drive to a customer or prospect.

Be prepared with the questions you want to ask, but never bring a list of questions. This is a personal conversation, not a formal one. 

Confirm they are doing work that is personally fulfilling to them. (I have a list of 15 or more example questions.) Encourage employees to provide candid feedback. There should be no reprimands or punishments for expressing their concerns, or a harsh tone of voice if they get emotional.

The leader has two primary responsibilities during and following retention interviews:

  • Ask questions and demonstrate great active listening skills; and
  • Follow-up promptly on any commitments made during the interview.

And of course, always thank the person for their candor at the end of the conversation.


7. Account for Sanctuary Time

Truly great leaders hold themselves accountable on a weekly, if not daily basis. I teach our Clients to schedule a regular weekly Sanctuary break for self-accountability.

Did you achieve what you set out to do this past week? What are your very top priorities this upcoming week? (There is more, but these steps are critical to achieving a Weekly WIN and annual T.A.R.G.E.T. goals.)

Sanctuary time is uninterrupted time. Email and instant messaging are off. No interruptions. No phone calls. Just focus your mind to work on your business, not in it.

Typical sanctuary time is 20-60 minutes. This is a key discipline, a habit, to be the leader you were designed to be. 


I help Clients every week design these 7 disciplines uniquely for their organization and their individual leaders. The results will astound you if you do this consistently every week, and a shorter version daily.

Retaining top IT talent is a struggle for MSPs, but that's where leadership comes in. When you keep the best, it's a lot easier to have a company that is the best.

Did you miss David's last blog post? Catch up with There's No Time to Lose! Why Every Leader Must be Punctual:!

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