Part of my work involves leading teams of highly qualified, technical experts who have significant experience within a very targeted niche. If any one of them left, it would be disruptive and very time consuming and costly to replace them.
When this realization occurred, I felt vulnerable. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized how little I knew about each of my team members in-terms of what's truly important to them. In the absence of knowing that, I figured my odds of experiencing turnover would be greater. With this in mind I proceeded to schedule 1-to-1 meetings with each team member. After setting the stage, I asked them following questions, with desire to learn what's truly important to them, and what they were feeling and thinking in-terms of where they are and what they are doing.
- What do you want out of your life and how do you see this position helping you?
- When you think of your work, your career, what's most important to you?
- What do you like about your work, and your being part of this organization?
- What don't you like?
- What would make your job more enjoyable for you, and support you in your goals?
- What would cause you to start to think about moving on?
- Going forward, how would you like me to support you?
- I want to get experience in managing people
- I no longer want to manage people
- I want to learn new things
- I want to teach
- Recognize me privately, not publicly
- I want to go part-time
- I want to do more research
- "What a fascinating approach to find out what makes me tick. I am totally honestly impressed! I have been employed since the age of 13 and can remember being asked directly such questions only once before; it was during a job interview rather then after being hired."
As a result, today the team I sense is much stronger, happier, and working better together. In addition, I am personally more at peace knowing we have a solid team in place. Of course, I continue to check in with each of them to see how they are doing for I see my role as to help them succeed and provide them resources they need so they can do what they do best.
If you're faced with good people leaving, I encourage you to give this approach and these types of questions a try, and then share with us what you learn. I believe you'll be glad and will be better off for having done so.
All the best to you.