You've heard the saying before: "People don't leave companies, they leave managers." So, how do you become the type of manager that no one wants to leave?

Contrary to what you may believe, it can be done even if you deliver tough feedback, demand results, and don't always take their side.

Great managers know how to identify their star players, keep them engaged, trust them, and provide them with opportunity. They are both their coach and champion inside the organization. They even know when a person would be best served by leaving the company.

Give direct reports your time

Too frequently, managers underestimate the power of conducting weekly one-on-ones with their reports. When people work in open office environments, sit near their direct reports, or attend many meetings together, they may fool themselves into thinking that there is no reason to meet, or nothing to talk about.


Carving out time for weekly one-on-ones is the easiest way to build trust, provide feedback, and stay ahead of any issues that may arise for your direct reports. Managers who take the time to consistently schedule and meet with their direct reports every week stay ahead of the curve by identifying and fixing small issues before they become big problems, and fine-tune the efficiency of their teams.

Most importantly, weekly one-on-ones show your direct reports that you care enough about their development to put it on the same level as all of the other responsibilities that you tackle every week. What kind of message is it sending if you only meet when there's a problem?

Every manager has their own special sauce for what to ask during these meetings, but the basic framework for a 30-minute one-on-one generally looks like this:

  • 10 minutes to talk about areas where the direct report needs support
  • 10 minutes for the manager to give feedback and check in on goals
  • 10 minutes for professional development or any other items that don't fall into the other two categories

Once you start regular one-on-ones, you'll wonder how you ever managed without them.

Master the art of giving feedback

Valuing employees means giving them great feedback when they deserve it. Equally, valuing them as professionals means giving them difficult feedback when necessary.

The last thing any employee wants is a "gotcha" moment--when they presume things are going swimmingly, but then, all of a sudden, their manager drops the hammer on them. This only leads to employees becoming unhappy, losing trust, and wanting out.

There's a simple way to avoid this: by giving honest feedback in real time--not after the boiling point has already been reached.

A good relationship between managers and direct reports will mean that they're on the same page when assessing both shortcomings and successes. The constant, candid feedback loop--both positive and critical--gives everyone a very clear understanding of where they stand. Which is what everybody wants.

Have regular conversations about your reports' professional growth

People want to know that their work is valued. They also want to understand what professional development looks like for them in the long term--and that you care enough about them to help them get there.

If it happens that your company's needs don't match the career trajectory of your direct report, then it's best to be honest and help them create a plan for advancement outside the organization.

That will not only get a square peg out of a round hole, but by taking the trouble to help your employee grow outside your company, you're likely creating an ally within your industry's ecosystem that could pay off in the future.

Mostly, however, you'll find that honing your management skills is the best tool you have for talent retention. As we say at my company: "Advocate for your best people before they relocate."