Thriving Beyond the Worst of Times: Three Ways to Avoid Desertion

bigstock-Arrow-7209479“It’s all about values and principles. It’s not about the numbers.”

Leaders, perhaps the most ambitious, will tell you that this is their mantra—but when you take a close look at what’s really going on, let’s face it: it is all about the numbers. It’s about hitting goals, frequently even at any cost. The urgent sprint becomes the norm—the new zero point. Actually, it’s now a condition of employment. “You want to work here—this is how you behave.”

Frequently though, organizations don’t recognize the damages of a long-term, “success at any cost,” strategy. Short-term gains may come at the cost of long-term emotional loss.

This may not be a big problem for a business in temporarily lean economic times, when there aren’t many alternatives for people on the payroll. The employees are inclined to stay right where they are. Actually, they may not have any other options. After all, other opportunities are few and far between.

But what about after things start improving? As the human marketplace emerges from contingency plans and belt-tightening, leaders need to be especially aware of what’s going on around them. Previously loyal employees may be hearing of, or actually getting, other opportunities, internal or external. Regardless of where they go, you’ve lost them. And by the way, who do you think gets the most offers, your average producers or the very best?

Here are three ways to reconnect with your people and move forward:

  1. Encourage feedback from associates, and then act on it, even if it hurts. Now more than ever, don’t assume everybody is a happy camper. The fact that you haven’t heard any complaints is not necessarily good news. What you don’t know can hurt you. A common leader reaction when good people leave is, “I had no idea he or she was floating resumes out there.” That’s tragic when you think about it.
  2. Open your eyes and ears to discouragement and resentment. Emotions like these eat at people’s hearts and poison relationships. If you ignore this condition, it multiplies. When people are uninformed, they accentuate the negative—and the reality is rarely as bad as the scenario they create in their minds.
  3. Don’t try to use the same skills that were appropriate in different times. Don’t act like the Lone Ranger. Don’t singlehandedly swoop in to give your people a quick fix. Share news now more than ever. Talk about issues. Problems won’t go away on their own—you must address them. Delaying will only compound the situation.

Finally, as a leader, it’s very possible that you may have been feeling the same stress as your people.  You might have felt put-upon when a lot has happened that was out of your control. But whatever you do, don’t make excuses or offer evidence that you’ve been victimized like everybody else—even if it is true. Remember that you’re the one who chose to be a leader. Play the hand you’ve been dealt. Don’t blame others. After the crises, everybody must face a new reality. That reality starts with the person in charge. That’d be you.

About the author

Dr. Dick Ruhe is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies.

6 thoughts on “Thriving Beyond the Worst of Times: Three Ways to Avoid Desertion

  1. Nice article. I like how you called out the difference between short-term and long-term gains. America has become a very short-term society. We don’t make the 5 or 10-year investments and people are long-term investments. Thanks for the nice read.

  2. Great article, David! I can say from experience that your article is right on the money! I can speak to your question directly, “But what about after things start improving?”. Because leaders stopped leading and focused intently and mercilessly on driving short-term gain, regardless of the wake of bodies left behind, there is a shortage of the leadership capital called “influence”. Not influence in the authority or position context. Influence in the inspiration and buy-in context. This lack of influence has created an environment where leaders and organizations are bleeding their best people, with little capital, revenue or otherwise, to continue to manipulate them into staying. Those that stay are less than engaged! Thank you for a great article!


  3. Nicely written .

    It is simpler than this . I am coming from some simple Servant Leader attributes . If you have a component of humility this is a good place to start focus before you begin . If you have a larger ego think in terms of the sum of the parts exceed your knowledge and know if you want to be seen as silly then impose your ideas and go to step two about to be discussed .

    Secondly start listening more , listening that is for understanding , deep understand . If you do not so third party survey of the folks who do the job that delivers your product or service they will tell you what is really happening , what the needs are and were the bottle neck are , who does not belong we’re they are , we’re some people might be better used . Then of course there are the people and organizations that pay for what it is you are offering , ditto what was just said . Both these sources will drive you to excellence , you or your organization can take the information to move the simplification and speed , this will automatically reduces cost and improves service if you allow them .

    The above assume a few things , you have a good level of trust , trying something new may not work but much can be learn so celebrate the effort and understood there is no retribution . Accountability and knowledge are great for feed back and enhances the process along with the motivators that get people up early because they can not wait to get to work and by the way the best people will be standing in line to join and help have fun at your place .

    We had a non performing HS in our urban city ( 70 +- graduation rate ) , they introduced the concepts of Character Ed as represented by the 11 Principal of the National Schools of Character , teachers were standing in line to get into the school , graduation rates went to 92 – 93% the principal choose not to try and answer the 150 e mails a day from the central office , bad teachers were moved out — worst state in the union for labor management co -operation — they sent in non performing 10 th graders from the system each fall for three years and declared that the fall testing of the 10 th graders in some subjects were not progressing so you know what went next . The point is in a very short period of time a true leader with trust humility and openness concentrating on the work of serving young people was successful easily went into a charter or choice HS with more skills than they had before and tons of confidence to go to the next level of serving children in a community that has been under served .

    We live in a nation that needs this leadership , go for it it is fun .

    For a reference public Ed seej “videos “for business see

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