Why You Lose Your Best Volunteers and Staff!

It hurts when people leave. It’s been said that people don’t quit organizations, they quit people.

There are a million reasons why, over time, we can lose talented volunteers or staff members. Sometimes it’s circumstantial. Other times, it’s just a natural pattern of growth and development. But not always, and probably not often.  In reviewing a recent article in Forbes magazine on why top talent leaves business, here are some trends that tend to surface as common reasons people become disenfranchised.

We Stop Leading With Vision – Vision matters. It creates momentum and excitement. When we lead with vision and with “why,” we’re doing something that makes people move from renters to owners. Vision births passion.

We Don’t Allow People to Unleash Their Passions – It’s vital to keep people engaged and to align their passions with opportunities. When people are passionate about something, they not only want to do it…they have to do it. When we miss the chance to align passion and purpose, we fail our best people.

We Control Rather Than Trust – Great people want to be trusted. They won’t be capable of sticking around if they feel they need to be micro-managed. Will they mess up? Yes. Will they do things different than we think they should? Probably. But growth – for them and for our organization – requires sharing not just the responsibility but also the authority. This creates leaders that will learn from you and your systems and help lead and coach other leaders.

We Lack of Creative Engagement – Creative people want to make things better. Our best people want to add value to our organizations. They love to challenge and questions. They seek opportunities to engage and innovate. We have to free our best people to soar and do their best work.

We Don’t Coach – Learners are leaders. We’re all on a journey and all want to get better, smarter, and more valuable. Make sure we’re creating a culture that puts a premium on coaching and learning.

We Stop Challenging – We’re responsible to challenge our best people. Challenge them to be their best, do their best, and to engage using their skills, intelligence, and resource. If people become bored and aren’t given challenges, they will go find someplace where they can be pushed to be better.

We Don’t Create Venues for their Voice – Make sure we’re giving our best people room to have a voice. Leaders can’t make their best decisions if they only have one opinion or one set of data. Our best people have valuable information and opinions to share. If we don’t listen, we’ll miss this important information.

We Cared more about the Result than the Person – People Matter. When people feel we care more about their product than we do about their person, we’ll lose them. It’s messy and takes valuable time, but it’s the best investment we can make. Put a premium on people and we won’t have to worry about the product…it will take care of itself.

We Never Shared the Love – Never take the credit, always take the responsibility. Sharing the credit and promoting the “team” builds value and trust. When we use people for our agenda, we destroy morale. When things are good, it’s all about the team. When things are off, it’s all about the leader.

We Over Promised / Under Delivered – Always. It helps people feel like they are winning and when we’re on winning streaks we’re much more content and engaged.

We Provided Responsibility, but not Authority – It never works. If quality people are held to a certain level of responsibility but do not have the necessary authority, they will vanish. People will gladly accept challenges when they feel they are empowered to lead.

We don’t have to pay attention to these opportunities. But if we don’t, someone else will and one day we’ll look around and wonder what happened to our most talented people and why they’re all working together, enjoying life, creating momentum, and changing the world in another organization.

What would you add to this list?

2 comments Add yours
  1. Great post, Stephen. I left the institution 3 years ago after serving as a volunteer music leader for 12 years.

    For me, it became too political and numbers-driven. It felt like I was an employee with another company. Only this one sold Jesus the product, not authentic relationship.

    It don’t know if I can ever go back. I’ve seen how the sausage is made and I’ve lost my appetite.

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