Retaining Talent Starts at the Top

Retaining Talent

by Judith M. Guido

For those of you who have read my column over the years, you know that the four foundational building blocks of business are strategy, execution, people and cash. For you first time readers—now you are in the know. For any company to be tremendously successful, you must be good at all four of these business cornerstones and always evolving. While well-executed strategy is a critical and unique secret sauce that differentiates your company from the rest of the pack, and cash is the oxygen that must flow in and out daily for the business to remain healthy—it is your people who are the soul and brain of your organization.

So why is it that so many companies cannot keep or attract great people? Research shows that less than 40% of our workforces are engaged, motivated and happy, and therefore, they perform at a level below their capabilities. A big part of the problem comes from the top leadership and the bureaucracy created by leadership—either consciously or unconsciously. In my experience, I have witnessed both scenarios, and I have often said the bottleneck starts at the top…every pun intended.

In fact, the burden of bureaucracy seems to repel a team’s creativity and motivation. I do not know about you, but I’ve been-there, done-that. I remember that awful feeling when working with a leadership team neck deep in bureaucracy that drained the life and soul out of me.

Remember, people do not leave companies, they leave people. So, what can we do about it? Begin by taking an objective look at your leadership team, organizational structure and key processes in revenue producing functions like sales, estimating and billing.
Does your leadership have the skill sets necessary to take the company to the next level, and do they have a strategy designed with the input of the team? Do they solicit feedback and ideas from everyone? How many layers and ineffective processes have been created over the years within the organization?

Do not get me wrong—processes are key to your success. The problems occur when leadership has not unleashed the powers of their people so they can use their creativity and talents to evolve, improve and make things easier for everybody.
People have a strong internal desire to work with a team of people who share a common vision and who feel motivated, inspired and challenged to bring and showcase their skills and talents to work each day. A place where ideation versus conformity is encouraged. An environment where talent, risk-taking and contributions are rewarded versus your position or how well you play internal politics.

Most leadership teams do this unconsciously, believing there is great value in control and consistency. I encourage each one of you to sit down individually and as a team to address these issues. The goal is to build a company that focuses on maximizing everyone’s human potential and contributions. If you succeed, I guarantee that your greatest challenge will be having too many talented people knocking at your door. 

Judith M. Guido, MBA, is the chairwoman and founder of Guido & Associates, a business management consulting firm in the erosion control and green industry. Guido can be reached at 818.800.0135 or