Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Keeping the best

One of the keys to creating a successful organization is hiring and retaining the best talent available. During difficult times, management too often forgets that their people are their greatest asset.

The Wall Street Journal tackles the issue of retaining executives in a recent article How to Keep Your Best Executives. The key, according to authors Elizabeth Craig, John R. Kimberly and Peter Cheese, is this: “make it easier for them to leave.” In difficult economic times many companies focus less on retention and keeping their employees happy. That can be a big mistake. “That’s why it’s crucial that companies get serious about retention now. And that means giving executives opportunities to take on greater responsibility, broaden their skills and cultivate a network of relationships with their peers. These are the things that executives we have surveyed consistently say they want most from their jobs.” They cite three types of opportunities executives want most:

  • New Responsibilities: Provide employees with opportunities for new responsibilities. Increased responsibilities and the opportunity to work on challenging tasks rank among the top factors in career satisfaction.
  • Broader Skills: Skilled people are driven to learn more about other parts of the organization. They increase their value by acquiring knowledge from areas outside their main focus. Companies that succeed in growing their executive talent do so by providing opportunities for their people to grow.
  • Cultivating Relationships: Smart executives realize the importance of building their networks. “Networking is important to executives for several reasons. It establishes connections that might be helpful down the road in finding a new position, increases their visibility and lets them learn from their peers.” This could be seen as a downside to some who are afraid of losing good people as soon as they build out their skill set. However, perceptive leaders understand that providing opportunities for their employees to grow will ultimately help their organization prosper.

Though it seems like a paradox, the best way to keep your employees happy is to let go; let them grow. “Companies that apply these lessons will be in a better position not only to retain their most prized executives but also to attract new talent as the economy recovers.”


The Product Management Perspective: Like executives, product managers need opportunities to grow. Leaders who understand this find ways broaden the skills of their teams. Cultivating relationships and presenting new responsibilities will keep the team members happy and increase their commitment to helping the company succeed.