Can’t keep staff? Check your leadership style.



Revisit: December 2016

As I revisit my archives from 2009 I feel that the piece below is more relevant than ever.  The conversation that I described  in the January 2009 post continues as a serious issue that my clients experience. For example, this summer (2016) I was running a program on ‘coaching for performance improvement’ for a small business of 50 employees.  During a private coaching session on goal setting, an employee confided in me that he was not willing to ‘work his butt off’ everyday so that the boss could get rich. This employee was bitter that he drove to work every morning in his beat up, old car while the boss pulled up in his top-of-the-line Lexxus.  This employee was demonstrating a condition called ‘quit and stayed’ which describes an employee is a chronic under performer who, while physically present at work,  is contributing just enough to avoid being let go.

Spotting engagment

  • Engaged employees feel connected to their work, their colleagues, leaders  and goals of the company. They are the ones who are innovative, devoted and their energy inspire everyone in their wake and does everything in their power to propel the organization towards growth and success.
  • Dis Engaged employees have ‘quit and stayed’ .  They put in the time, but no effort, enthusiasm or energy. They do the minimum they need to do to avoid being let go but they will do nothing more. This level of disengagmenet can be hard to spot because they are like sleep walkers who appear awake, but who are really, sound asleep.
  • Actively Disengaged employees are chronically unhappy and frustrated at work . These are the ones who undermine,  intentionally or not,  the progress of others and drag atmosphere down to their level. It becomes easy for the dis-engaged to be negatively influenced by these folks and difficult for the engaged to constantly compensate for their toxic energy and under performance.

In my 10 years of coaching leadership I have never met a business owner who did not expect  employees to be engaged, who were baffled by the attitude of the disengaged and  resentful of the actively  disengaged. My vantage point as the coach allows me to see that the boss blames the disengaged and the disengaged blame the boss.

As a business owner, you may think that this problem does not apply to you. If that is so, you would be one of the rare leaders in Canada with an engaged workforce.

Through its research, Gallup found that   84 percent of Canadian workers are either not engaged or actively disengaged. That means only 16 percent of your entire workforce is driving your company forward, while the rest are either not helping our are actually hurting your company.

One of the most compelling view points on this matter comes from thought leader Aaron Hurst whom I heard speak when he was the key note for 2016 annual conference of The International Society for Performance Improvement.

In his moving speech, Hurst declared that our relationship with work is broken. This broken relationship is the source of not only disengagement, but also for our declining economy. As a society, he says, each of us as individuals has mistaken purpose with a the quest to satisfy insatiable hunger for  money and status . We burn ourselves out and we burn our employees out along with us. We create the perpetual downward spiral of dis engagement, underperformance and underachieving or worse, failing companies. As this phenomenon is not just at one or two companies, but in most businesses, it leads to the greater problem of a failing economy.

So what is that special magic of engagement?

Hurst says that the way to fix our broken relationship with work is to focus on purpose. Furthermore, he says that living with purpose is not an epiphany but a decision and commitment  that we make on a daily basis. Purpose as he describes it includes a commitment to fostering positive relationships, working in service to something greater than ourselves, investing in meaningful challenge and personal growth. For him, the concept leads to what he has coined The Purpose Economy.

As the Gallup research indicates, only 16 percent of the Canadian workforce is engaged. Bringing that point to the small busines reality, only 16 of 100 people on your payroll are carrying or compensating for all of the other employees.

The Purpose Economy leads to engagement, engagement leads to business success and business success leads to money and status.  Therefore, the omni solution for fostering an engaged workforce is committing to being and engaged leader. Business owners can sometimes overlook that the level of engagement that their employees demonstrate at work is immediately reflected in their own active engagement or disengagement in cultivating their own leadership skills which starts with your purpose. Why does your company exist? What need do you serve? What kind of a workforce do you need  to achieve your company’s purpose?  Who do you need to be as a person to lead that workforce? The answer begins with choosing to l live, lead a prosper with purpose.


orignal post: January 2009

Yesterday, I had a very interesting conversation with a small business owner. She had called me to see if I could help her build her business so we discussed some of the issues of what she thought was holding her back. In her opinion it was because she runs a service based business that relies on staff but yet, the turnover was high. When I asked why the turnover was high the response was that people don’t want to work, don’t want to take direction and just want to get paid good money.

This is not the first time I have heard small business owners express that there is a shortage of good workers who deserve the money they get paid.  I have to challenge that belief. I believe that most people want to work, they want a reliable job that they can stick with and make a valuable contribuiton to, they are happy to work hard and even happier to be challenged to improve and learn new things. When I hear that a business can’t keep staff my curiosity develops around the business owners’ leadership style. Business owners can attract and retain the top talent when they create a positive environment and show strong leadership. People need to be paid a fair wage for their work but will not jump ship for more money if their current working conditions are fulfilling. People want to feel connected to their employer, connected to the work that they do and connected to their colleagues and clients. My question to you as a business leader is, how are you going to make that happen?


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Author:  Corry Robertson

Sought-after coaching culture expert, Corry Robertson has been helping leaders uplevel employee retention and performance for over 20 years.


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