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How to keep your best people (Hint: It’s not about the money)

Money might talk, but employees will more often walk without this key leadership component.

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  • | 1:00 p.m. July 21, 2022
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Darcy Eikenberg (Courtesy photo)
Darcy Eikenberg (Courtesy photo)

It’s happened to every business leader in Southwest Florida. A key person knocks on their door (virtual or real), and it’s clear before they say a word that they’re resigning. Alternatively, there might be no word at all — the team member might quit via text or email — or vanish without a trace.

I talked to a Southwest Florida executive recently who has experienced this weekly. “People will cross the street to work for someone paying just a dollar more an hour,” he says.

As an executive coach working with leaders on people development, I often hear turnover attributed to pay. It’s an old chestnut we rely on. But it’s not completely true.

Certainly, competitive pay that accurately reflects the value of the role in your marketplace is the cost of doing business today, no matter where you are. If your pay structures are out of whack compared to what’s available in the marketplace, you will lose. If your revenue can’t support the cost of delivering your goods and services, you don’t have a talent problem — you have a business model problem.

But there’s good news. If you’ve done your research, you've sharpened your strategies, and your pay levels are on track, your turnover issue might not be all about money.


Turnover is about trust

When we looked closely at what’s happening in this leader’s organization, we found his people weren’t leaving because of a few dollars here or there. Money just became an escape route, a socially acceptable thing to point to and blame.

In truth, his people were leaving because they didn’t feel included, listened to or able to do their best work. They felt like a commodity, taken for granted, expendable and unseen.

What’s at the heart of all of these elements?


For the past 20 years, global marketing firm Edelman has researched levels of trust worldwide. In 2022, they found nearly six in 10 people say their default tendency is to distrust something until they see consistent evidence, over time, that the action or person is trustworthy.

That’s no surprise to all of us living in a world of data breaches and ethical breakdowns. But it’s a shock when we realize the gap in trust applies to us as leaders.

We suffer from what the researchers call “the illusion of transparency,” which means we assume our intentions, ideas and needs are oh-so-obvious to others. But they never are.

This leader assumed people knew he was open to changing processes, workloads and goals. He assumed his team trusted him and would tell him if something had to change. But without an environment of trust, it was easier for people to simply resign — or disappear.

People leave when they no longer trust you and your company. But there’s a simple, cost-effective solution every one of us who leads people can put in place today.


The best way to build trust? Consistent conversation

Focused, scheduled one-on-one time with you, the leader or one of your well-trained, empathetic managers is the best gift you can offer your employees And yet, it’s often overlooked.

We have plenty of conversations about the work, reviewing to-do lists or updating plans. But we skip over conversations about the person — who they are, what they want and how this work gets them closer to their personal goals.

Here’s why a simple action like conversation builds trust.

Human beings are biologically built to crave feeling noticed and heard. When we provide space for more significant conversations consistently over time, we build better relationships and give people permission to make their invisible needs more visible.

Think you’re too busy to spend 20-30 minutes with everyone each month or quarter? Add up the time it takes you and your team to recruit, hire and train a new person. Factor in the headaches that emerge when the next person knocks on your door, ready to resign — or just disappears without warning.

Put it all together, and the ROI on consistent conversations pays off not just now, but for years to come.


Bonita Springs resident Darcy Eikenberg coaches leaders and managers on strategies to manage today’s constant change and prepare for the future with clarity, confidence and courage. She’s the author of “Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job” and shares workplace strategies weekly at


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