Flashback to the naïve days when I first became a manager. I hired a guy and he quit two weeks later because, he said, he got an acceptance letter to a top law school and decided to go. My boss called me into his office and started talking to me like it was my fault the guy quit. I couldn’t understand why he was making such a big deal about it. Stuff happens.

It took me a while to understand that my boss’s reaction wasn’t unusual. If you’re a manager, your boss is acutely aware of how effectively you hire and retain people. And when you lose an employee, especially a top performer, it looks bad. If you don’t feel a deep sense of personal failure when a person you hired quits, you don’t get one of the key qualities of a successful leader.

Caveat: Yes, there are exceptions. But if you’re not seen as a boss who retains good people, you’ll never rise in your organization.

Here are two guidelines that will improve employee retention:

  1. Recognize that your people stay because of YOU, not because of the company. You ARE the company in the eyes of your employees. They’ll stay or leave based on how strong a relationship you build with them.
  2. Be the “custodian” of your employees’ careers. Their #1 goal is to build their core competencies and advance. If they perceive you as someone who understands what they want and is actively working to help them meet their career goals, they’re unlikely to leave.

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