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The secret to retaining talent – draw out their untapped potential

The secret to retaining talent

There is no shortage of people looking to change jobs. In fact, it is getting so much easier to do so. It is estimated that there are more than 80 million job seekers in the United States today. The average person has changed jobs five times before reaching their late twenties.

Not too long ago, your career and your personal life were totally segregated.  It was solely up to you to figure out a balance between the two – not anymore.  For me, the challenge was balancing making money, finding meaning in my work, and having enough quality time with my family and friends.  I wanted all three.  Of course, this dynamic is ever-changing.  There are times when decisions in life force you to choose.  

This is where great managers can make a real difference in others’ lives and, in the process, retain their talent.  How?  By challenging their staff to create a mental model that represents their success in their current role while being a platform for their future success.  For those who have a very short-term perspective, this approach might not be appealing.  But as a manager, can you change their time horizon for success?  I think you can.  

My Story
Several years ago, when I was early in my sales career, my manager challenged me to create a model of how I might repeat sales success over the course of my career.  I had just been named National Salesperson of the year for a fast-growing software company and was being considered for sales management.  He asked me to prepare and present at our National Sales meeting.

I remember being very nervous.  There were many successful sales folks and sales managers that were more experienced than I was at the time.  Also in attendance was senior management.  My manager created this opportunity.  He believed in me and caused me to dig deep to find my north star in my sales career.  Creating images in my mind helped me draw out what I had yet to articulate. This exercise not only helped me clearly define what had worked to date, but also created a process I used to coach sales folks when I did get promoted to manager.

The 5 T’s of sales success

First, look at yourself.  What are you good at, where do you need to grow?  What are your natural talents, and what skills do you need to develop?  Be open to others to help you see your own blind spots.

Second, build trust early in the sales campaign.  Trust is built when your customer and your team view you as authentic.  Meaning, you are comfortable being who you are and that you genuinely care about your customers.  

Create a cause for your team that makes the journey fun.    For those of you who have played team sports or been part of a team with a specific goal, you understand that there is a special bond that comes from fighting for a cause together and winning.

Orchestrate the team that aligns customer needs with your solution and staff.  This is the art of selling.  It is based on synthesizing your customer knowledge, the competitor’s position, and the pressing customer need that drives their selection.  Then, matching your team members with your customer’s staff leads to success.

Finally, hang in there.  Outside of building trust, in my view, tenacity is the second most important attribute to ongoing success.  Teddy Roosevelt said it best, “It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong person stumbles. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, who comes up short again and again, who spends themselves in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fails while daring greatly…”

By providing me an opportunity to share my learnings, it helped me draw out my untapped potential and gave me confidence that management was vested in my career growth.  This kept me focused and with a desire to continue with my current firm rather than looking elsewhere.

Jim Switzer is a TAO Executive-in-Residence.

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