Beyond Thank You: 5 Keys to Attracting and Keeping Great People

Beyond Thank You: 5 Ways to Value Great People

So you want to attract and keep great people. Who doesn’t?

The church in which I serve relies on hundreds of volunteers each week to do some incredibly demanding roles. How do you keep great people engaged?

Whether it’s staff or volunteers, you want to keep people engaged, motivated and committed to a common cause. While there are a variety of ways to do that, there’s one truth underneath it all that often gets missed.

Here’s how I believe people behave:

People gravitate to where they are valued most.

Think about it. You do this.

Your best friends are the people who make you feel valued.

The family members you talk to most regularly are the ones who make you feel most valued.

You’ve left jobs because you didn’t feel like you were valued.

You willingly give your time to organizations or causes where you feel like you are appreciated and making a contribution.

If you do this, why would your team be any different?

So as a leader, how can you make sure you are adequately valuing people?

You might think the key is to say thanks a lot or simply pay people. Well, maybe not.

Thanks. I believe that saying thanks should be the daily currency of every leader. Never underestimate the power of a hand-written thank you note or the power of looking someone in the eye and commending them for something specific they’ve done. Do it daily. But people still walk away from their jobs and roles after being thanked for what they’ve done. So thank people, but don’t stop there.

Money. Even for paid employees, once you reach a certain salary level, money alone is not a motivator. If your entire strategy is based on compensation, you will not make people feel valued. Many well-paid people hate their jobs. And it’s of zero help when dealing with volunteers.

So how do you really value people?

I think there are at least five things leaders can do to help people feel like they are valued. And they’re free. All they require is your attitude and heart as a leader.

Here are five things leaders do to value people:

1. Listen. Everyone wants to be heard. One of the best ways you can value people is to listen. Ask them questions. Don’t jump to conclusions. Look them in the eye. Maintain undistracted focus. Take notes. Use your ears far more than you use your mouth. This can be a behaviour you learn. I know because I’m a natural talker (plus I have convinced myself I can solve anyone’s problem in 20 seconds).  Practice the skill of listening. People will feel valued, because you actually are valuing them.

2. Trust. Trust people. Sure, I know you’ve been burned before. Join the line. I’m not talking about blind trust, but I am talking about trusting people when they’ve shown even an inkling of character, skill and aptitude. Most people want to be believed in. You do. And when you trust people, the good ones will rise to the occasion. They might even rise beyond it. And the others, well, you can deal with that when it happens. In the meantime, don’t punish the good people because you’ve run into a few bad ones. Make trust, not suspicion, your default.

3. Respect. When your talent or contribution is not respected or valued, it’s hard to want to stay. So respect the leaders you lead. Give them your time, your attention, your ear, your heart and you gratitude. Men, in particular, crave respect.

4. Expect. This one’s a bit counter-intuitive, but make sure you have high expectations of the people you lead. Higher standards motivate people. It calls out their best. Very few high capacity leaders want to give their lives to something uninspiring or insignificant. High expectations usually yield higher returns.

5. Empower. Give them something significant to do. As my friend Reggie Joiner says, people will not believe they are significant until you give them something significant to do. So empower them. Give them something real. If you only have small tasks, you will attract small leaders. But if you start to give away significant tasks and authority, you will attract the best and brightest leaders.

People gravitate to where they are valued most.

If you value them, guess where they’ll likely hang out?

What would you add to this list?

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  • WasaCresswell

    Love what you have written here Carey – because it is the stuff that not only helps to build functional organizations, it helps to model functional, healthy relationships grounded in the values that Jesus tried to teach us.

    I’m going to throw a challenge to you though. Your language reflects the fact that you are the “boss” – correct? Does that mean that when there are big decisions to be made, it is you who needs to make those decisions? Or do you have an organizational system in place that enables you to share the leadership with others? I ask this because I see so many organizations and churches where lip service about “ownership of the process” is paid to the process of decision making. Without some (“flat” or “circle”) processes in place that allow for real ownership and “storytelling”, it is impossible to REALLY believe that the stakeholders own the vision.

    It’s a subtle, but significant difference – that is too often misunderstood for the sake of efficiency. I’m not saying that efficiency and being able to move “flat” or “circle” process into decision making process isn’t important, but to skip over this step, ultimately undermines the resilience of the organization and forgoes the opportunity for participants to engage in deeper, personal growth.

    From all that I have read of your work, I imagine you will recognize right away what I am getting at. It would be great to hear more about how you make decisions at your church and what systems or governance structures you use to enable ownership of the decision making process?

  • Chris

    Great advice! A simple way to remember this? I’d turn it into an acronym. Interesting to realize when you rearrange it as Listen, Expect, Empower, Trust and Respect, you get LEETR (leader).

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  • Ace

    Want to manage out your bad people? Do the opposite.

    • Carey Nieuwhof

      Or just go direct and ask them to move on. That also works.

  • Jonathan

    I think a key to attracting and keeping volunteers is first a foremost a clear vision. A vision that is livable by people and is repeated often to keep the significance of what they are doing at the forefront. As my campus pastor says, “We are the CRO’s; the Cheif Reminding Officers of the vision.” When volunteers catch a vision, they bring others with them.

    • WasaCresswell

      Yes – so well said!

  • Pauli

    Superb Idea & really a great advice for not only to deal with Attrition but also to the negativity which exist at the workplace.

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  • kmizen

    Excellent!! Thanks for sharing. I know that I know these things but its a great reminder. Especially in a season of losing volunteers… I can do a better job at evaluating how I’m doing as a leader.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Great advice Carey. I’d also add that great leaders honor their people. They raise them up in front of others and tell of the great work they’re doing. What’s better than public praise?

    • cnieuwhof

      Public praise and affirmation is huge Joe. Thanks!

  • Stacey

    Brilliant!!!! Personal touch and sincerity!!

  • Tammy Helfrich

    Great post. Appreciate your applicable thoughts here.

  • Brent Dumler

    ‘Saying thanks should be the daily currency of every leader.’ Great quote! It should be automatic…like saying ‘hello.’ But I agree that this practice alone will not retain great people.

  • cnieuwhof

    Thanks Daniel. Appreciate the encouragement!

  • Daniel Decker

    Excellent post. So many quoteable lines… more more than quoteable lines, very practical and applicable ideas. Thanks.

  • Bobbi

    Love this Carey!! I am blessed to have several staff people on my team who are rock stars at these things and the fruit is amazing!! I would also add to this a #6… Let Them Go! Sometimes life happens and leaders really need to step away but feel guilty or not “allowed” We make a point to tell our servants from day one that if they need to step away for a season…that is ok…when we listen to them, and discern that they need time…we offer it. Most times they just feel appreciated “heard”and cared for…and tell us that serving is something that breathes “life” into them…other time they feel appreciated, “heard”…and value that you care enough to let them go. The joy comes when they return!! And most time they DO return!! When we remember that we serve them…and they don’t volunteer for us…there is a great return on the investment!

    • cnieuwhof

      Bobbi…such a great point. You reminded me of what our volunteers said the other day…that putting an end date on volunteering actually generates more volunteers. Such a great point. No one wants to sign up forever. And ironically, if you let them go, many of them simply want to come back, just as you say.