Are all the leaders on your team equally skilled? Who do you think of first when you have something critical that must be handled brilliantly and immediately? We all have our preferences as to who we trust when the pressure is on. This makes it even more important to keep those leaders on your team. Losing one great leader like that might be the equivalent of losing two or more of your average leaders. What can you do to hang on to these high performing leaders?

Develop them before you need them

The best senior leaders always have their eyes open for talent and potential. They create development plans and systems so those with an interest in leadership can get a taste in advance. Among the many benefits of a leadership development program are:

  • People see you’re interested in them and their futures with the company, leading to higher morale and lower attrition;
  • Those with ambition and an interest in investing in the company are rewarded with greater responsibility;
  • Test driving the leadership role ensures understanding among those who pursue promotion and lets those who aren’t a good fit weed themselves out;
  • Allows you to see who’s on the right track and who needs guidance to pursue a different path;
  • Gives new leaders confidence when they’re promoted, because they’ve been preparing for the role.

Appreciate them

You’ll seldom hear someone say they’re thanked too often in the workday. Climbing higher on the career ladder leads to more criticism and less praise. It often seems nobody notices when you get it right, but nobody misses it if you get it wrong. The stakes are higher, and stellar performance is just what’s expected. It’s table stakes in the leadership game. You know it from your own experience, so keep it in mind when you’re dealing with your staff. Notice when they get it right. Thank them. Work side by side with them from time to time so they know you understand what they do and don’t feel you’re above doing it yourself.

Reward results, not face-time

Your best leaders may not be the ones who spend the most time in the office. On the contrary, they’re likely the ones who regularly leave the office at a reasonable time and take their allotted vacation days. It’s often your more insecure leaders who are making a point to work crazy hours and never want to be out of the office for more than a day or two at a time. You know what results you’re looking for. Make sure you know who’s providing those results and acknowledge their contributions.

Spend time with them

It’s easy to let your best leaders run on auto-pilot. They know what they’re doing, they’re getting results, so you don’t want to get in the way. You have plenty to worry about coaching your less skilled leaders. They’re the ones on the edge of creating havoc among the staff. It’s true you need to focus on the leaders who need help, because they’re creating risk for your organization. But you also need to take time for the best leaders on your team. Scheduling weekly or biweekly one-on-one meetings with each member of your leadership staff will ensure the stellar performers aren’t cheated out of time with you. Your meetings with them will be different. They’ll be coming with solutions and ideas, in addition to areas where they need your help and support. They may have thoughts on how they can help you in your role—this is where succession planning starts. Don’t give in to the temptation to skip these meetings; they provide value to you and each member of your staff.

Protect them

To allow your best leaders to do their best work, you may have to help clear some obstacles out of their way. If your boss isn’t supportive, don’t pass that on to your staff. It’s up to you to manage up the line and prevent issues there from distracting your people. If other department heads are creating difficulties for your group, it’s your job to eliminate those problems. You can ask your leadership staff to deal with them, but if other department heads won’t deal with your people, you’ll have to step in. Involve your people as much as appropriate, but sometimes the conversation needs to be just you and your peer behind closed doors.

Share the right information

The more information you can share with your staff, the better their decisions will be. Again, complaints about your boss or your peers aren’t productive and should be kept to yourself. But share anything else you can, about financials, company direction, competitive pressures, and more. You may get to feeling comfortable enough with your best leaders that you want to talk to them about their peers who aren’t doing as well as they are. This can work in very limited circumstances, where someone with good skills in an area can help somebody who’s weak in that area. But always limit yourself to that specific instance, and never discuss one leader’s overall performance with another. If you’re wondering if what you’re saying is appropriate, picture that other person sitting silently in the corner of the office. Would they feel uplifted by your conversation? If not, stop.

In summary, to keep your best leaders:

Develop them before you need them

Appreciate them

Reward results, not face-time

Spend time with them

Protect them

Share the right information


Originally posted on The Taylor Reach Blog:


Graffiti Feedback: Engaging your Employees by Listening

Peg’s Page

You know how time moves faster when holidays are coming up and you have a huge to-do list? It was that time for me about 15 years ago when I realized I hadn’t figured out the holiday parade theme for my contact center. In our small city in the hills of West Virginia, we were the largest private employer, and our participation in the parade, which took place around Thanksgiving, was nearly mandatory.

Looking for a different way to gather our employees’ ideas on the subject, I put up, in the main hallway, the largest piece of poster board I could find with the question:

What do you want our parade theme to be?

I received a number of good answers, we chose one of them, and many of our 600 employees participated enthusiastically.

But in addition to parade ideas, I received something I hadn’t expected. A few people had thoughts on things they’d like changed, and they wrote them anonymously on my holiday poster board. I had a robust open door policy, and I was out on the contact center floor visiting with people every day, so why were they writing on the board?

It seemed there was an appeal to making suggestions through anonymous graffiti. So I answered them on that same board so everyone could see my replies.

Then I put up new poster board with this sign:


Peg’s Page

Suggestions? Ideas?
Changes you’d like to see?
Please write them here and I’ll respond.
No need to sign your name.
Please be respectful.



This was the beginning of a tradition I carried on throughout my career. Each time I would explain it to a new set of supervisors and managers, they’d be appalled. What was I thinking, asking for a free-for-all of feedback? “Everybody is saying these things in the break room,” I told them, “Now they can say them to us.”

And say them they did! I got suggestions about cleaning and painting and lunch vendors. I got ideas that saved the company money. I got complaints about pay and about other departments not pulling their weight. Every day, sometimes several times a day, I’d read and respond on that same board for all to read. Front line people loved it. More than once when I left a center for a new one, I’d have someone say, “You need to take Peg’s Page to your new place—it’s great!”


These Japanese characters stand for Kai and Zen, meaning Change and Good. Kaizen was introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in the mid-1980s.

The Kaizen Institute ( says:

One of the most notable features of kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time. However, this has been misunderstood to mean that kaizen equals small changes. In fact, kaizen means everyone involved in making improvements.

Masaaki Imai says “Kaizen means ongoing improvement involving everybody, without spending much money.”

Peg’s Page was kaizen at its most basic: Front line people articulating obstacles to optimal employee engagement and customer experience, and senior leaders removing those barriers. Over the years, many thousands of dollars were saved as a result of improvements originated on Peg’s Page. Even ideas without direct payback had benefits, in better morale, more effortless customer experience, a more comfortable place to work.

Always Go to the Source

In later years, Peg’s Page moved into the 21st Century, and the comments and responses were available online for all to read.   But I never gave up getting the original suggestions on paper and responding to them there. If people really want to be anonymous, there’s nothing like a blank sheet of paper with a marker attached. Sometimes my response was just “Come see me please” because the issue needed a face-to-face discussion. Often I was answering a question from one that was in the heads of many. Always I was showing the front-line people that they mattered.

The Peg’s Page feedback loop led to kaizen: many small changes accumulated over time.   It did this by getting feedback directly from those most involved and affected. Always go to the source.

At Ayers & Company Consulting LLC, we have years of experience going to the source to improve employee engagement, customer experience and process. Please contact us to learn more:; 276.492.6462.