Tool, Talent, or Treasure? The Key to Keeping Talented Staff on Your Team

June 1, 2022

As an executive leader of one of the largest staffing companies in the church and non-profit space, I’ve learned some key things about people and why they are dissatisfied with their work. Speaking with transitioning employees is what we do, and it may surprise you why most people decide to leave their current job for another.

Although people are more inclined to faithfully serve an inspiring mission that has meaningful purpose and fair compensation, these factors alone will not keep them engaged for the long haul. Though some employees are loyal to their employers regardless of the circumstances, most have a limit as to how much they will tolerate before moving on.

So, what is it that perpetuates this revolving door in so many churches and organizations? It’s not the job itself. Most people enjoy what they do. It’s typically not the location or facilities that bother them, or even the people they work with. Most people leave their jobs because of a compromised culture wherein people don’t feel valued. Regardless of what is said by leadership, ultimately, it comes down to what people feel. Do your employees feel valued?

In order to be successful leaders in any organization, we must learn a basic principle: People matter most! If those you lead don’t believe that they matter to you, it’ll only be a matter of time before they make their exit.

Though it’s easy to make excuses and cast blame for your “people problems,” solving the retention challenge is ultimately up to you. It typically doesn’t cost you money, but it may cost you the emotional investment of learning to view people differently. Once you change how you view people, behavioral changes will follow. How you lead and manage plays a significant role in creating meaningful and inspiring work that is full of purpose and passion. Simply put: Build a culture where people matter most! This is the secret to recruiting and retaining the very best people.

I’ve learned by engaging with hundreds of frustrated employees over the past decade that there are essentially three ways that people are made to feel when it comes to their jobs: like a tool, like talent, or like treasure.

When they feel like a tool:

  1. You plug them in to a rigid job description
  2. You see them as disposable
  3. You don’t engage with them personally
  4. You see them only as a means of feeding the bottom line
  5. You avoid fair compensation

When they feel like talent:

  1. You see them as a trophy
  2. You are interested in how they make you look
  3. You elevate them based on performance alone
  4. You eliminate them when you find someone better

When they feel like treasure:

  1. You craft their positions by recognizing their unique contribution (and what they truly enjoy)
  2. You are genuinely concerned about their personal and professional well-being
  3. You listen to them and ask questions like, “What’s holding you back?”
  4. You allow them to contribute ideas beyond their role that may improve both culture and missional results
  5. You enjoy them and will invest time in them personally
  6. You honor them both privately and publicly
  7. You invest in their personal and professional development
  8. You promote them when appropriate
  9. You compensate them fairly

As you concentrate on valuing the people you lead, realize that this process begins, first and foremost, with your own self-awareness—who you really are at your core, how you’re doing personally, and what you care about most. There are no shortcuts to loving and valuing people well. You can’t pretend to care if you really don’t. I recommend that you begin by asking yourself the following questions. Take the time to consider your most honest thoughts and feelings as a starting place.

  1. What undermines my ability to feel love and respect for the people I lead?
  2. What am I afraid of when it comes to asking personal questions to those on my team?
  3. What do I need to eliminate from my life that undermines my ability to slow down and see people as treasure?
  4. What is missing in our staff culture that undermines an enjoyable workplace?
  5. Who is best to process this with?
  6. What is one small step that I can take to better value the people I lead?

Believe me when I say that I understand the challenges you face as a leader. Leadership is full of pressure points that bring out both the best and worst in us. Taking time to evaluate, reflect, pray, and seek advice from others is crucial to healthy leadership—especially when learning to genuinely put people first.

By: Monty Kelso

Slingshot Group

We take the guesswork out of nonprofit and church staffing.

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