Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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5 Reasons Why the Great Attrition is Great for Your Business

You are a great leader and you run a great business.

But some of your people have recently quit, and you are wondering if you are as good a leader as you think. You are wondering if you said something that made someone so angry that they quit. You are wondering what could have made them stay.

In conducting hundreds of exit interviews for over twenty companies in the past year, I have found three realities.

  1. You cannot change the past, but you can focus on improving the future.
  2. First-line supervisors are the #1 reason for employee dissatisfaction.
  3. Leaders have blind-spots, and we need to regularly assess our blind spots to improve. I have a new tool to assess leaders’ blind spots and it is free for this week:

Here is what leaders of agile organizations know.

1. Once people have made the decision to leave, help them leave.
Once your people have shifted their mindset away from your vision, they stop being productive.

Their focus is on their next job and next opportunity, even if they have not found it. You want productive people collaborating with you, not people who are searching and updating their profiles on LinkedIn during your company’s time.
I just updated my profile. Connect with me here:

2. You WANT fewer people working, not more. Every employee should generate a significant ROI. If that is not happening, you need fewer people.
The big question is, how you can use this sense of urgency to have everyone work smarter, not harder? Think about how to improve process and procedures.
Are there outdated policies that are getting in the way of progress?
What can be streamlined?
What can be automated?
What can be eliminated?

3. Get smart and strategic.
What is your vision moving forward?
Where do you want to be in a year?
What will you say is better in a year because you have this challenge?
What outcomes are you working toward?
What really needs to happen and what is just happening because you have been doing it for 20 years?
Find the sacred cows, and well, you know….

4. Rehiring your workers who quit on you during the pandemic because they thought the grass was greener somewhere else is a lot like remarrying your ex-spouse. (And yes, before I get hate mail from people who are remarried their former spouses, consider that statistically, the success rate in their favor is not particularly good.)

Some of your employees may have had to take a leave of absence from your organization because they needed to care for a sick family member, or deal with children who were homeschooling. That is a different situation from your employees who simply decided they wanted to try a different opportunity, then decided that their new job is worse than what it was like working for you, so they missed you, and asked to come back.

I was talking with a business owner, Ginny who had an employee, Janice, who left in the middle of the pandemic to start her own business. Ginny wanted to be supportive of Janice. Ginny had mentored Janice for five years, paid for her bachelor’s degree, and celebrated her marriage.

Janice decided to open a business that competed with Ginny, but that was not really the issue. In the past 15 months, Janice realized that running a business was far more difficult than she thought. Janice’s new business failed. And after three months of then looking for another job, she went back to Ginny and asked for her old job back.

Ginny considered hiring her back. The media is full of news reports of businesses who are operating without the employees they need. Everyone seems desperate for people.

Ginny called me to discuss what she should do. “Part of me wants her back. I trained her. I invested so much time and money in getting her ready for this position. She was doing well. I know she can do an excellent job.”

I asked Ginny, “What are you going to do for the people who did Janice’s job the entire time she was gone?” How do they feel about her returning? Do they want her back? Do they feel as though she learned something positive and has something to bring back to the organization, or are they angry that she abandoned them when the organization needed her?”

I have seen some organizations lose their loyal employees when they hired back former employees, especially when they gave the returning employees a pay raise to entice them in the process. This was a direct slap in the face to those employees who stayed with the organization the entire time. As a result, those loyal employees felt disrespected and undervalued, and they wound up quitting.

5. Make sure you have a competitive work environment to attract the right talent. Now is a wonderful time to re-look at your business’s entire compensation package.
Salary attracts people to your job.
Benefits entice them.
Flexibility keeps them.

However, many employees do not realize the full components of their compensation packages. Now is a great time to review all of the benefits you actually offer all of your people. This needs to be done on an individual basis and as part of your one-on-one career discussion meetings that are employee-focused and positively planning for future leadership opportunities.

This great attrition can be a great attraction when leaders approach the changing workplace environment in the right way.





  1. Lisa

    Excellent advice!

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you, Lisa!

  2. Nick

    Smart, timely and thought-provoking insights…and a fun read on top of it. Thanks.

    • Mary Kelly

      Love your sweet comment, Nick. 🙂


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