Top 10 professional life coaching myths

Here is a wonderful article by Robert Pagliarini in CBS which touches upon the major life coaching myths and demonstrates the value life coaching brings in helping others achieve their goals.

Life coaching is all the rage. Harvard Business Review reports that coaching is a $1 billion a year industry, but just what is a personal coach, professional coach, or life coach and why are so many executives and individuals using them to catapult their careers, break free from 9-5 jobs, and to create better, more fulfilling, richer lives?
First, what is a professional coach? The International Coach Federation (ICF) — the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches — defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Second, who’s using coaches? In a 2009 study of the professional coaching industry by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), they found that coaching was used by 90% of organizations surveyed and that even in the economic downturn, 70% report that they are increasing or maintaining their commitment to coaching. Coaching is clearly popular, but what does a professional coach do?
As with any growing profession, there can be a lot of confusion. To help distinguish fact from fiction, click through the pages to read the top 10 personal coaching myths..

Top 10 Professional Life Coaching Myths

Myth #1: Life coaches are professionals who can help you achieve your goals.
Fact: Some, but certainly not all coaches are professionals who can help you reach your goals. One of the problems in the coaching industry is that anyone can call themselves a professional coach, life coach, personal coach, etc. Jennifer Corbin, the president of Coach U, one of the largest and oldest coach training organizations in the world, has said, “Technically, anyone can hang up a shingle as coaching is not regulated. Many people ‘coaching’ have no idea what coaching is as they haven’t been trained or haven’t been coached by a professionally trained and credentialed coach. There are ‘schools’ that will offer a credential after three hours of training and people read a book or watch a TV program and decide ‘I’m a coach!'” As a result, the quality of coaches vary dramatically. I strongly suggest working with a coach that has been accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). The ICF provides independent certification that is the benchmark for the professional coaching industry.
Myth 2: Executive coaching is a nice employment perk.
Fact: Coaching is as much a perk to your employees as are their computers. Employees may view coaching as a value added benefit, but the successful organizations see coaching as something much more than a perk. Done right, professional coaching can drive sales, employee engagement, creativity, workplace satisfaction, and bottom line results. Wellness programs have been shown to provide approximately a 300% return on investment (ROI). In other words, companies who spend $1 in a wellness program (e.g., exercise clubs, personal trainers, smoking cessation workshops) earn $3 as a result of decreased turnover, fewer sick days, reduced health insurance costs, etc. It’s no wonder wellness programs have experienced such tremendous growth — it makes financial sense.
The ROI from professional coaching is even more astonishing. According to a Manchester Consulting Group study of Fortune 100 executives, the Economic Times reports “coaching resulted in a ROI of almost six times the program cost as well as a 77% improvement in relationships, 67% improvement in teamwork, 61% improvement in job satisfaction and 48% improvement in quality.” Additionally, a study of Fortune 500 telecommunications companies by MatrixGlobal found executive coaching resulted in a 529% ROI. The CIPD concludes “coaching is not just perceived as a nice-to-have intervention.”
Myth 3: Personal coaches can only help you reach personal goals / Professional coaches can only help you reach business goals.
Fact: A good coach is someone who is an expert at helping others create positive change in their lives. For some clients, the positive change they most want may be focused on personal goals such as relationships, time management, work-life balance, stress reduction, simplification, health, etc., but other clients may be more interested in professional or business goals such as leadership, getting a promotion, starting a business, etc. An effective coach works with the client to help them live a better, richer life – regardless of their type of goals
Myth 4: Professional coaching is for “problem” employees.
Fact: Coaching used to be a euphemism for “you’re doing lousy work, but before we can fire you we need to show that we’ve done everything we can to support you so we don’t get hit with an employment lawsuit.” No more. According to Paul Michelman, editor of Harvard Business School’s Management Update, “whereas coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting top producers. In fact, in a 2004 survey by Right Management Consultants, 86% of companies said they used coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organizational leaders.”
Good coaching focuses on an individual’s strengths and aims to help the client achieve what they want more of in life and at work. The goal? To help the client identify and achieve their greater goals and to help them live a better life. A good coach isn’t there to “fix” anyone, but to help the client navigate toward a more engaged and compelling future.
Myth 5: Personal coaching takes too much time.
Fact: Professional coaching is a high-leverage activity. Clients can achieve remarkable progress toward their desired future in less than an hour per month of coaching. There is a wide spectrum of how coaching is delivered. Some coaches prefer to meet one-on-one with clients in an office, but most recommend telephone sessions for the ease of use, minimization of distractions, better privacy, greater efficiency, and for (yes, apparently) better connection to the client. Best practices in coaching call for between two and four sessions per month that last at least 20 minutes and up to 60 minutes. A sweet spot for many coaches and clients seems to be three sessions per month for 20 to 45 minutes a session – a miniscule investment of time for the results achieved.
Myth 6: Life coaches are like having a good friend to bounce ideas off and to keep you motivated.
Fact: Your coach may be friendly, but they are not your friend. Your coach is your advocate. They want the best from you. They will work with you to help you reach your goals and to succeed. Your coach will hold you accountable and challenge you to grow and do more than you think you can do. They may push, pull, and stretch you in ways that may feel uncomfortable. And unlike a friendship, the coaching relationship is unilateral – it is exclusively focused on you and your goals, not the coach, his family, his golf handicap, or what she did over the weekend.
Myth 7: Executive coaching is only good for upper management / Coaching is only good for entry level employees.
Fact: Coaching is good for anyone who is motivated to create a better life. Initially professional coaching or executive coaching was for upper management, and some organizations still focus their coaching efforts on their top performers. For example, a column by the Economic Times titled “A Personal Coach” says coaching is “designed to help senior leaders create and execute breakthrough ideas, develop strategic pathways and set milestones. Companies across the board are similarly opting for coaching to help their high-potential executives perform in larger, rapidly-changing roles in a globalized world.”
But professional coaching isn’t just for the executive suite. The CIPD research study shows just under 5% of coaching is restricted to senior executives. Now, more and more companies are recognizing the powerful benefits of providing coaching to rank and file employees. For example, online shoe and clothing company, known for their outstanding commitment to creating a culture of unparalleled customer service (they even teach this through Zappos Insights), has a full-time goals coach who works with any employee – not just management – on helping them create better lives.
Myth 8: Professional coaches tell their clients what to do and give them advice.
Fact: Bad or inexperienced coaches tell their clients what to do and are constantly giving advice. Good coaches do not. Most clients realize they don’t need another parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker telling you what you should be doing. Instead, coaches help their clients explore and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are and the client’s vision for their future. Coaches are experts at the process of changing behavior, which is much more valuable than giving instructions.
Myth 9: Executive coaching is expensive.
Fact: Coaching can cost a great deal of money. Harvard Business School’s “What can Coaches do for You?” research whitepaper reports some executive coaches cost up to $3,500 for an hour of coaching. While this is an extreme, most personal coaches charge a monthly retainer between $500 to $2,000 a month. What this means is that either there are a lot of really stupid people wasting their money on coaching each month or they are getting results worth at least the cost of their coach. I have trouble paying $12 a year for a magazine subscription I don’t read, so I’m guessing coaching is paying off. According to the ICF Global Coaching Client Study commissioned by the International Coach Federation, individual clients reported a median ROI of 3.44 times their investment in coaching. Bottom line, coaching is an investment that can produce monetary rewards above and beyond the cost.
Myth 10: Professional coaching is spiritual and relies on “harnessing the energy in the universe.”
Fact: I have no idea what “harnessing the power of the universe” means, and my guess is that most professional coaches don’t either. When I first started researching coaching, I was under the impression coaching involved lots of chanting, incense, meditation, and other spiritual practices. While there are many great spiritual coaches that may incorporate these practices into their session, most coaches are practical, professional, business people who are focused on tangible results, not airy-fairy mysticism. You can leave your granola and Birkenstocks at home.

Link to the article:

What is the relationship between leadership and coaching

I never get tired of asking questions – explains exactly why I am  a Coach.

Here`s the latest I asked over LinkedIn : What is the relationship between leadership and coaching?

This is what well meaning folks had to say:

– Leader is the person who take the lead of a group try to gave them the agenda, qualify the doubts and finally motivates the group to perform an act keeping in mind the time frame as well results pertaining to it.


Coach is person who motivates and enlight the path as well faclitate towards our goal.
Like Dhoni acts like a coach in team as well leader to call the challenge and making final win to it……


-Leadership is the person that goes way beyond the followers. Then, the leader coaches a follower to achieve leadership status.
Clarification added:
The relationship is determined by whether the leader has someone(s) to coach. You have to evaluate your team – some folks are not “coachable.” A good leader will coach. And a good leader will eliminate the ‘non coachables.’ Guess my perspective is from being a Leader. I coach who can learn – I get rid of the rest.


-All levels of management involves coaching and mentoring others. Maybe the question should be “What is the difference between mentoring and coaching?”

One of the most important business functions is to prepare for the future combining a clear vision and a succession plan. The Leader of any team must identify their successor and mentor/coach them in areas they believe to be weak.

I don’t think there are clear relationships between Leaders and Coaches. Some great leaders are not great mentors/coaches and some are.


-I believe the role of leadership is to create clarity for the organization. Who are we, what do we want to accomplish, how are we doing.
True leadership also develops a legacy for when they leave the organization, a template if you will. That is the “coaching” element.
I am at the stage of my career where I believe that in addition to providing clarity to the organization one of my most important contributions is the selection and development of the next generation of leaders. That will not be accomplished by training alone, it requires mentoring and coaching.
Leadership isn’t about what you take with you- it’s about what you leave behind. I believe a leader’s greatest aspiration should be that those you have mentored and “coached” contribute at a level that you didn’t achieve.


-Hi there,
I had some views to share on a similar topic. Hence my thoughts here:
A Leader and Coach are 2 distinct roles behind a good team.
Leadership means a direct involvement – So he/she has to be a performer. Leader must be capable of directing and decision-making.
A Leader must also be a good coach. He must be able to lead by example and demonstrate his lead by dominating in some way. But a Leader’s role in coaching may be limited, as he can be a coach only upto his skill or expertise levels. Besides, a Leader has his hands full working on the strategem and tactical aspects. A good Leader must be good at or know about most of the things he expects of his team.

A Coach – the role implies a guiding and demonstrative approach. He/she is a dedicated and specialized member – studying the team members, to identify their strengths and weaknesses and improve their game. A coach must have some expertise and experience to delivery the knowledge, and get it practised. While a coach must have leadership skills to demonstrate the good advice and get it followed, he/ she should not be subject to pressure of performance on the field.

So in my opinion, while there are some overlaps in the roles, but some lines must be drawn; the Leader also acts as Coach, but dont make the Coach the Leader.
Clarification added :
Get some more inputs,

and this is tangential to my above line of thought though…..



-A good leader knows how to coach his or her team to be good followers


-I believe in order to be a good leader, you have to be a good coach first. People will follow who they believe have their best interest in mind. So to answer your question, leadership and coaching are tied to the hip.


-Here’s the cynic answer:

Leader – someone who keeps aware of which way the herd is moving and maneuvers him/herself to appear to be in the front.

Coach – Person who used to be called “a consultant” until business stopped paying for consultants.


-A coach is responsible for training his players to win, one battle at a time.
A leader is responsible for choosing the right battles.


– I believe the commonalities are represented by three prerequisites to both leadership and coaching:
–self discipline
–self awareness
–a desire to bring out the best in oneself before attempting to lead or develop others.

Where leadership and coaching might possibly diverge is in the delivery or manifestation. One can be a leader without being in a position of authority. Leadership is best demonstrated by self action rather than words.

Coaching, on the other hand, is focused or intentional conversation designed to help the coachee honour and build on their abilities to achieve desired outcomes.


-Leadership inspires and motivates people to work towards a vision; coaching provides guidance and assistance on how to get there as efficiently and effectively as possible.


-A leader identifies the mountain to climb.
A coach motivates the team and devises strategies as to the best way of climbing that mountain.
The best coach and the best strategy would be of no use if after climbing the mountain the most efficient way you look around and sigh, ” ah! we climbed the wrong mountain”
Leadership first and then coaching.
Financial Plan first and then budgeting.
What to do in life first and then goal setting.
Destination first and then set GPS.


-A leader selects the place to go to and takes people on that journey – a coach ensures people can make that journey.


-A leader and a coach are individuals but leadership and coaching are processes. The former process is within an individual per se, the latter process, drawing it out from one or more individuals.

A leader and a coach may or may not not be the same person but leadership and coaching are the same process, that of guiding. Guiding oneself or others on relevant values, initiative, qualities and skills.

A leader and a coach are in the forefront (or ought to be) but leadership and coaching are processes in the backdrop.

Combining these to answer your question on the relationship between leadership and coaching, both are synonymous guiding processes in the backdrop.


-A leader can be a coach, but a leader generally leads a group and is a big picture thinker and motivator. A coach can work a person through the daily habits it takes to be successful.


-Leadership and coaching are distinctly different roles.

The point at which they diverge is; who sets the goals?

Good coaching is non-directive. The client sets the agenda; the coach draws from the client what they already possess (but, perhaps, don’t know it) in order to realise the goals previously identified. Sometimes, through the process of coaching, the client will shift the goals. That’s OK. The coach will continue to support the client.

As already indicated in other answers, a leader sets the agenda. People may elect to buy into that agenda to a greater or lesse extent. A leader may train followers how they can best support the goals that s/he set. A leader may attempt to re-ignite flagging entusiasm for the mission. However, if the person concerned diverges from the what the leader wants, then the leader is not interested and the relationship begins to decay.

One caveat worth bearing in mind is that “leadership” is a role, not a person. So, an individual may be a leader in one context – say, a team sport – but a follower elsewhere – say in politics.


-Daniel Goleman has an interesting take on this issue. He describes 6 basic styles of leadership, including coaching:

1. Coercive – demanding compliance
2. Authoritative – mobilizing people towards a vision
3. Affiliative – building relationships and promoting harmony
4. Democratic – promoting consensus through participation
5. Pacesetting – setting high standards by example and demanding the same of others
6. Coaching – delegating responsibility and developing people for success

According to Goleman, coaching is one of the most effective leadership styles – but also one of the most neglected:

“Of the six styles, our research found that the coaching style is used least often. Many leaders told us they don’t have the time in this high-pressure economy for the slow and tedious work of teaching people and helping them grow. But after a first session, it takes little or no extra time. Leaders who ignore this style are passing up a powerful tool: its impact on climate and performance are markedly positive.”


-In my view, Coaching is sub-set of Leadership.
Every Leader is a Coach par-excellence.
A true leader’s presence itself works as a Coach.


-It really depends what you put behind the words.
In my world, the leader sets directions, objectives for all to follow (Push mode); the coach will help a individual (Pull mode) solve a personal problem (how to achieve an objective, give some sens to an action, enable potential, manage difficult situations, be responsible, better self-esteem).
However both are necessary in an organization.

-The best leaders are also effective coaches – at all levels.

There are very good coaches who – for a variety of reasons – are limited in the ability to lead. This is often due to a limited strategic vision.

Organizations need leaders. Organizations need coaches. It is the best of all possibilities when the leaders are also effective coaches.

-Behind every successful leader there is a coach.
But every leader hides his coach.
Leaders do not admit they have coaches but the truth is every leader is coached. The coach becomes invisible after the leader becomes successful
Successful leaders hide their coaching.
Without coaches there are only failed leaders


(Names, positions and companies of respondents have been withheld for privacy. Original post can be found on LinkedIn. )

Why is it that companies fail at such crucial tasks as retaining valued employees, developing teams that serve the best interests of the organization…………….(posted by me on Linkedin)

Why is it that companies fail at such crucial tasks as retaining valued employees, developing teams that serve the best interests of the organization, and creating an environment in which individual employees can apply their talents toward the overall organizational goals?

I would invite you to state what according to you are the top 3 most common / obvious mistakes that companies keep making over and over again in this context.


 Arun Sinha
Coach: Perfect Approach. Recruiter:CXO’s. Leader:Corporate Operations.Management Mentor:Mavericks.

They Forget too soon:

1) The more you give the more you get. They stuff up their own pockets sooner than later. Money is like manure. Conifined to one selfish solitary corner it heaps up but it begins to stink!
Spread over a field tilled by team members it yields golden harvests.

2) Business is People and the best work for the best.

3) “Money makes a mare go”…not a self respecting professional. He goes on his own before you bat an eye lid.

Terry Tudor
Intuitive Strategist and Business Director

leadership or lack of
don’t know how to have effective conversations
poor conflict management

 Mohit kant
Associate- Business Intelligence at Hill & Associates

3 Mistakes Companies make

1)Inability to appreciate talent, ideally managers should follow 7:1 rule, 7 Positive Feedbacks for 1 developmental feedback. Most managers fail to do that.

2)Not providing monetary benefits to the one’s who deserve it. Ideally if you work hard you want to be rewarded. Many a times good work goes unnoticed.

3)Internal Politics, Intenral Politics is the chief cause for high attrition. Ideally companies should try to foster an environment where competition is friendly and not cutthroat.
 Simon Kuah
Consulting Manager at JCG Search International

y personal answers to the above question:

1) Proper Channel of Communication – There is no proper channel for talented staff to voice out their concerns and queries that needs clarifications. Sometimes, it is the lack of ‘it’ (channels) that most companies fail to have that force a talented work force to leave as they do not feel valued.

2) Management – When you have a management who is more sales focus and target oriented, they tend to forget ‘WHO’ brings back the bacon and this is a mistake that most companies forget, and especially when the Management did not appreciate or reward the staffs/ teams.

3) Sincerity – Little activities or any conversations that takes place within the office environment will play an important part contributing or having a deciding factor in which whether a staff leaves or not. Human is a different race totally from animals. We have emotions and we are sensitive, we know what is sincere and what is not. If a greetings or conversation is always about asking SALES SALES and MORE SALES, we will only feel that the conversation is only for the sake of striking up a conversation without any purpose nor meaning.

In my personal opinion, all the above mentioned contributes to the fact that some companies fail to retain their staffs. In fact, my above 3 points is only a small tiny portion among the many that others may have in mind. We cannot always have the most ideal situation and working in the most ideal environment, but what I do know is that we can try to make our work place a better place to work in RATHER than thinking that since others in the same industry has always have HIGH Turnovers and hence, its not surprising to have the same in the current place you worked in. YOU don’t follow the trend, YOU create the trend.
 Jim Dougherty
Operations Manager at Oak Patch Gifts

Shalini, I think that a large part of retention is communicating with employees and developing a business relationship where you are attuned to dissatisfaction. Higher pay and different responsibilities don’t amount to cause, they are simply the effect of something more insidious that in a lot of instances can be mitigated. That said, a colleague that has a great opportunity elsewhere is a tribute to the development of the organization – and no company has an org chart flat enough to satisfy all of their high-pot’s needs.

As for developing teams that serve the best interests of the organization, I’m not sure that you can say that there is one clear answer – different folks do things differently. What you would categorize that way another may not. I don’t think there can be an ideal in this regard. Open, honest communication towards the team objectives could be a helpful strategy of keeping everyone focused and enabled, regardless of the team structure. I would also submit that open, honest communication can help focus employees towards their shared goals as well.

 Charles Patrick Garcia
● ● Capital Raising for the Global Hispanic Markets
● ●

A company’s view of people is an unmistakable reflection of its organizational character. If it sees people as selfish, lazy, and unmotivated — that’s the kind of people it will attract. If it believes in the potential of people to do great things, and has competent leadership, its people will rise to the occasion.

A great company believes in its people, and that people at all levels of the organization can and should be high performers. Those who fail to live up to those expectations don’t last. A great company refuses to limit their velocity to the speed of the slowest player on the team. Instead, a great company strives first to hire people of character, and the performance tends to take care of itself.

People tend to be most creative, effective, and connected to their work when they are challenged without being defeated. People flourish when they are given clear goals, unambigous feedback, and a sense of control.

Saying that we are a team is easy. Actually functioning as a team is difficult. Making employees feel important to the team and business takes time. It often starts with how the employer views employees. Are employees working managers or managed workers? Employees as working managers suggests that each person in the business has ideas on how to improve the business. Even those people incapable of understanding much about the business beyond their own jobs may have ideas about how to do their jobs better. Useful suggestions often stay hidden inside employees’ heads when they do not feel they are an important part of the business.

Teams are built through carefully integrating new employees with established employees. Managers can improve commitment to team building by rewarding employees for their contributions to team efforts. Rewarding only individual efforts sends a strong signal to employees that the business is a collection of individuals rather than a team.

In light of this, in my opinion, the top three common mistakes are:

1. Delegating to the HR Department the task of building a great place to work. The leaders of great companies think about this every day.

2. Having a worldview that employees need to be controlled because they are basically selfish, lazy, and unmotivated. Leaders of great companies believe in the potential of people to do great things, and spend a lot of time recognizing and rewarding employees at all levels of the organization for outstanding performance.

3. Creating incentives that rewards and recognizes individuals rather than teams.
 Subbu Iyer
Business Transformation Leader & Enterprise Architect


I would like to answer your question in two parts.

Please refer / read / download the recent whitepaper I have written on Human Capital Management (HCM) which is available on my site You can also directly copy papste the following URL on your browser to access the white paper.

In this whitepaper, I articulate the answers you are seeking for from an organization’s perspective.

The second part of the question I would like to answer as follows:

1st Mistake: Organzations do not integrate Enterprise Strategic Planning / Business Planning with Talent Planning. They only pay lip service to people being assets without understanding / addressing how assets should be treated. They talk assets while people are treated as commodities.

2nd Mistake: Organizations let mediocrity permeate willingly. The managers feel threatened by superiror intellect, integrity and prevent good talent from entering the organization. This is a process failure as the leaders begin to believe that their best ideas / concepts cannot be fulfilled and therefore even the good ones get settled / lulled into the mediocrity. The adventurous one leave for another pasture, hoping for a better experience.

3rd Mistake: Pretension. When the above two are pointed out, orgaizations and the people pretend it is not happening to them. They deny it and continue to perpetrate the same mistakes with renewed vigor. The cause being, they see no incentive in being aligened or feeling passionate for a greater cause when status quo is rewarding enough and they have no reasons to worry when challenges are quelled by the act of politics.

The remedy: Implement a process where you take out the individualty and make the process accountable. Align the process to the enterprise strategic outcomes. Treat people as people – they need to be recognized from the three dimensions of Professional, Personal and Emotional. The outcome of a successful Human Capital Management Process is a learning organization. That is investment in growth.
 Gunnar Ahlberg
Management Consultant

1) Basically I believe many leaders fail to create conditions for employees to succeed. There are several reasons for that but we are driven by our “ego” (in many cases unconsciously) seeking to positioning ourselves, gaining social status. This creates a credibility gap and an atmosphere with little room for development.

2) Too many leaders “climbed to high” on the ladder. Stress (read fear) causes their “ego” to take control and they will create disharmony in the organization. There will be no room for development.

3) Many leaders do not allow “bad news” to come and will end up having reports disconnected to reality. When reality finally catches up such leaders practice a “blaming policy” as long as they can, there will be no room for development.
 Tarun Mishra
Independent Think Tanks Professional

It’s a great question. My thought on this problem is as follows.

Most of the time people are evaluated at the level of skill. On the other hand Organization has certian business outcome to achieve.

Between the employee’s skill and organizational goal lies a black box which is not clear in most of the employee’s mind inclusing mid-management and some top management.

In my opinion, one of the solution to fight this problem is to unbundle the black box and make everybody understand that individual’s strength lies not in the skill but something else.
 Deepak Gupta
Over 30 years of International Experience with P&G in Transforming Organizations and Supply Networks

Companies fail because their leadership is unable or unwilling to play the role of a coach! The single biggest factor in an employee decision to look for other opportunities is not compensation, but their direct manager. When and where this relationship is strong and the trust high, retention increases exponentially. This trust also impacts other key retention drivers — learning and growth, and career guidance. When employees find a leader who not only understands and values them, but also cares and invests in their learning and personal growth, they don’t need to look for opportunities outside.
 Sanjeev Himachali
HR Professional, Researcher, Motivator, Thinker, Career Coach and Human Relations Counsellor

Shalini, thanks for raising such an important issue. I point raised by you, “Why is it that companies fail at such crucial tasks as retaining valued employees, developing teams that serve the best interests of the organization, and creating an environment in which individual employees can apply their talents toward the overall organizational goals?”…does not happen all the time. Retention strategies differ from industry to industry and from culture to culture. It is also important to understand as whom do you consider the “key person”.

“Cost of Retention” is the one factor that actually determines and answers the issue, if the management will retain that “key” employee or it will let him slip. Hence, the companies that have accumulated great wealth and those that are industry leaders do not let their “key employees’ and “strategist” slip in the market. In Indian Context, you will not find “key employees” and strategists of companies like Reliance and ICICI available in the market. The cost of their “key employees” is so high that a mid-size or a small-size company cannot even afford to have those employees in their board. Reliance go by their wealth and ICICI go by their scope of growth. In these companies the margin of error for an employee is too little. Hence, most of the time the so called “key employees” of such organizations are SACKED for non-performance rather than these employees resigning for a “better opportunity”.

I think this will give you some insight.

Thanks and Regards
 Vikram Deo
Senior Research Analyst; Blogger; Mobile Phone Enthusiast

According to me companies fail because,

1- The relationship between the company and the employees should be of give and take. If the employees are giving their 100% and the company is realizing this but doing nothing and filling its own pockets then the company is bound to fail and vice versa.

2-Transparency from the company’s side is one of the important factors that motivates an employee to work for that particular company.

3-Money, yeah it matters a lot to any individual.

Vikram Deo
Not Another Mobile Phone Blog –
 Awie Foong
Senior Research Associate at Watson Wyatt

Managers failed to motivate employees to stay because they are
1. Self hugging: they think that whatever is good for them should be good for the employees too. When those matchings aren’t exact, employees would complain of the lack of efforts, and managers would complain that the employees are not appreciative and asking for too much.
2. Managers often do not know what is best for the organization, until it passes them by. The few companies that are able to do so become extremely successful.
3. When managers think about the best environment, they don’t take into consideration the characteristics of their employees, which is a consequence of being self-hugging.
Leadership Consultant, Executive Coach, and Educator
The simple answer to this question? Lack of a sound leadership culture in the organization.

It’s been said in the thread repeatedly (and others) that poor leadership contributes to a variety of problems, but the fact is that without competent leaders focusing on the needs of the individuals in the organization, they will fail at your two tasks. Poor leadership inhibits and shuts down genuine communication, destroys trust, and reduces teamwork and cooperation to an empty, dilbertonian effort.

One of the by-products of poor leadership is a widespread level of fear — the reason why communication falls apart. Employees won’t be honest with their managers, and in the most dysfunctional situations, they won’t be honest with each other. There are organizations where the information flow “up” is stunted due to pressure and intimidation, something which happens often in many companies. But there are also other organizations where dishonest and manipulative managers heighten the level of distrust and create an environment where little real information is exchanged anywhere, although there may be much communication — these organizations have backdoor discussions, hushed conversations in the halls and breakrooms, and the bcc network rivals the open network. People don’t trust their leaders and they don’t trust each other, so when the management tries to assert a teamwork policy or best place to work initiative… well, you know what happens.

So, the things companies do to perpetuate this?
1. Not value a culture of leadership — All leaders in the organization need to create the communicative-trusting-cooperative environment; if not, they need to be gone. The damage they do to that culture is too extensive, even if there are a couple of “good” leaders present. I know one organization that openly justified poor leaders, including one totally lacking ethics, by saying there were other “people” leaders that made up for those deficiencies. Right.

2. Failing to take leadership development seriously – too often, leadership development is NOT to develop leaders, but rather give the appearance of developing leaders… for a variety of reasons. The result are programs and initiatives that just go through the motions. The commitment to develop leaders is really a commitment to develop the organization, and it goes beyond a program and goes to the heart of the organizational culture. The existing leadership at all levels have to be willing to examine their own leadership and embrace (rather than off-load) complete responsibility for developing its leadership culture. Of course, few organizations are willing to do this (if that wasn’t the case, you wouldn’t be asking this question).

You asked for three things, but these two are at the heart of the matter. An organization without a leadership culture (or a morally bankrupt one) will never consistently retain the best talent or have genuine communication or teamwork. Thanks for the opportunity to respond,
 Hemant Karandikar
Strategy advisor & CEO Coach

A valued employee will not leave if you have “valued” him correctly. That is one problem. But good people tend to leave and mediocre tend to stick around because
-people can not deliver work commensurate with their input efforts. This causes frustration in capable people
-the reasons for above can be: spending effort on rework, doing somebody else’s work caused by poor processes
-“managing” tends to average out things this means compensation levels, policies. This is bad for good people.
-even in case of companies willing to discriminate strongly performers and mediocre people there aren’t clear parameters for the discrimination.

All in all lack of leadership is the main reason is other things being similar.


 Bhanu Potta
Program Manager – Knowledge Management Program at Perot Systems


Good question. You already have many friends in LinkedIN responding to this. I concur with most of the opinions. I will bring out some new perspective that I do not see in the responses you have till now.

Talented Resources will outgrow their current roles in no time. Organizations must reckon this as a fact and work to create newer challenges so as to effectively engage the talented resources.

Talented Resources will eventually outgrow their current Organizations too. Organizations must reckon this as a fact and plan early to let go such resources and put in a proactive knowledge and skills transfer program before any such exit. Organizations may also innovate on how they can stay connected with such recourses and bring them on board later on when the organizations has grow up to accommodate the talent.

Good Luck.

Bhanu Potta
 Najatullah Siddiqui

Financial Analyst at Hewitt Associates
Hi Shalini,

per me 3 most common mistakes are:

1. Compensation: employees are not paid as per their market value. In appraisals, companies most of the time fail to fairly rise pay of the employees.
2. Growth Factor: vertical movements & other developmental opportunities available within the organization are not equitable to talent & merit, somewhere seniority & other prejudices & bias give a valued employee a way out to the company and join hands with others to get what they are valued for.
3. Rewards & recognition; at times companies fail to recognize the talent of the employees and thereby fail to create a motivation for work.

There are other factors as well, however these three mentioned above, per me are the most common factors because of which companies fail to retain valued employees.

 Harish Nair
Founder , Ragnar & Rearden Consultants

Hi Shalini,

I believe one needs to take a holistic rather than a static view of this phenomenon…else its easy to get into a rather dehydrating blame game. We need a more inclusive and realistic view of the situation…that senior management too are employees of the structure called companies and therefore are as likely to be impacted by the same organizational dynamics which affect key employees and makes them look outside.

So its not a management versus employees problem. If you frame this part of corporate life, the way you have then it suggests employees are powerless and unable to influence this aspect, which in my view is not entirely correct.

I believe this phenomenon is the outcome of the interactions between management and employees, between aspirations and their satisfaction, between perceptions of opportunities available outside to employees and those available inside, between personal ego’s and relationship management skills of both parties and ability to manage the prevalent political ecosystem are key variables in this equation…

Now to answer your specific questions.

1. I believe that most companies [managements]start with and work with the right intentions of building great teams that work together seamlessly and produce excellent output. Most managements are also aware that if their best people are not managed well and their aspirations taken care of, or frustrated they may as well lose them. However, here is where the time constraints and organizational constraints kick in. Excellent performers also carry the baggage of exceptional aspirations and demands which given the structure of the organization may not be able to be fulfilled atleast in the timeframes that they want. So they rather leave.

2. Most top performers do very little aspiration management of their selves, leading to a deceptive self image and highly lucrative perception of opportunities outside. Add to this a bad immediate boss and the person will leave. In fact bad bosses are the single most important reason why people leave jobs. Good performers more likely to, given their high self image.

3. A poor HR department, which ties down itself to HR Administration rather than actual management of its talent pool. Weak HR also has very little influence in the board rooms and its somehow becomes the mandate of the CEO and the board to manage key employees. So while the Leadership Team has the responsibility of retaining Key Talent, it’s an enlightened and self empowered knowledgeable HR leadership that can help keep the flock together. My point is that wherever there is a weak HR team and leader, more people would be inclined to leave at the slightest provocation. HR not able to be the smooth bridge between key employees and the Leadership also adds to the problem.

In Summary, I think that its important NOT to view this as a company versus employees problem. Its important that people do need change to keep up with their aspirations and ambitions as well as companies need to let them go so new and fresh ideas can be brought in. Its good for the economy and the overall market too. All in all it’s a good problem to have in some cases. If all stakeholders that is managements, employees and HR Heads work on this together with empathy, understanding and clarity, this would not become an epidemic crippling the organisation.
I apologise for the lengthy answer…
Best Regards,
Harish Nair
 Mahima Chawla
Sr. HR Generalist at Accenture Consulting

I my view, following are the few things which organisations fail to do:

– Have an open channel of communication. Create transparency.

– Recognise and encourage good performers.

– Invest in developing/acquiring good leaders – “people don’t leave
companies, they leave managers”.

– Create an environment of trust and mutual respect
 Archana Jog
Manager HR – Vedic Lifesciences Pvt. Ltd.

1. Lack of proper channel to communicate. – I feel, the companies need to have an easier communication channel. Information about these proper channels should be clearly specified to the staff. If a certain staff or group of staffs is looking after a certain support function or part of a certain support function, that has to be CLEARLY defined. The authorities and scope of responsibilities should be clearly defined and COMMUNICATED to the particular group as well as others.

I have seen a lot of times, people do not know their own scope of responsibilities as well as authorities and that creates ambiguity.

2. Transperancy in policies – While, company rules and policies apply to all evenly, they are ambigious most of the times. I have seen specially in the small and middle size companies that EVERY ONE feels that the other is getting certain favors from the top. Also most of the times, appreciation towards good work, development plans of the organization, future expansion plans or changes which might take place in the near future, the reasons for the changes taking place, changes in policies and reasons for the same are not communicated to the staff. A change is introduced and thats that. these things should be penetrated to the bottom of the hierarchy and not just to a certain level of employees.

3. Not only monitory benefits – Companies should of course appreciate good performers and also OK performers. Not with the same awards but different awards for good and Ok performances. I am currently working on a performance system based on teh school grade / marks sheet which clearly tells who’s good at what and competencies are clearly defined. These people would obviously get monitory benefits / awards but more than that some more innovative ways should be thought of depending on motivating factors for each of them.
 Bronwyn Dredge
Principal Consultant

The organisation’s managers being unable to see anyother perspective but their own – not able to stand in someone’s shoes and therefore unable to emphasise and sometimes even acknowledge an issue.

Employees being marginalised unless they actively spend time on networking – not what everyone likes to do, but something everyone needs to be encouraged to do, and understand the benefits of doing so, and the impact of not doing so.

Inconsistent messages and behaviours – everyone gets sick of the guesswork
 Srinivas Vedula
A clear thinker and strategist Heading SBU for Renewable energy, Green Initiatives, Green Lifestyle

The valued employees in your organization are also valuable to your competition. You retain some you lose some to competition. Attrition gives an opportunity to the management to set right their recruitment strategies and infuse fresh minds. Your investment in human capital should be based on the principle of leased time- Treat your employees well as long as they are with you. No employer employee relationship in this world is permanent. Everything has a beginning and ending.

Talent is permanent and is in born. Talent of an individual always need not be work related. Few talented people when they realise the true potential of their talent will switch their profession. Good leaders start their own. Few change course of their career. Few remain and grow with the organization.Human beings are not machines to give always 100% results day in and day out.

Last but not least- If a company is repetedly committing 3 common mistakes, they soon go out of business. There is no need to bother about that organization.
 Gurprriet Siingh
Organization Development, Leadership Development, Organzation Culture, Capability Building, Talent Development


I’m trying to separate cause from effect here, so I might say some things differently.

I think the primary reason is Insensitivity or Dehumanization or mechanization. Organizations, as they become larger, need to and end up resorting to processes and techniques and systems. Processes that are meant to “support” i.e communication forums, performance management systems etc. become processes that “drive” and when process takes over, the “human touch” if I may use a cliche gradually disappears.

As a result, each successive leader’s responsibility to understand his people, to sense their needs gradually diminishes to a low point. Their dependence on the system/process that is supposed to take care of peoples’ needs increases to a point where they then expect the system/process owner to be responsible for sensing and responding to their peoples’ needs. As a result, the HR Department today ends up receiving flack for lack of talent pipelines, employee engagement lead back to HR KRAs etc.

In this dehumanized state, focus on people gradually reduces and focus on processes takes over. There is a composite Employee Engagement score, but my supervisor doesn’t know if I am happy.

There is a salary survey and your organization is in the top 85 percentile, but there are 2 managers who’re not paid to their expectations, but no one knows!

We’re looking for a solution to a particular problem in a plant, we’ve hired consultants to help us. One of our workmen has submitted an interesting solution through the suggestion process. No one knows.

And I could keep quoting examples.

What makes this process work faster these days is our dependence on technology. All processes that can be tech enabled are quickly adapted to technology and another human interface is eroded. Once upon a time, when you asked for leave, your boss would engage in a dialog with you, and would end up finding out that your mother is sick, or that you’re going to be spending time with a wife who is due to deliver. Today, you logon to the HRIS and log leave, more often than not, a dialog like this never happens.

All this erodes the “stickiness” or commitment of an employee to the organization.

Repeating another cliche, people are not connected to their designations or roles or walls or infrastructure. They are connected to other people who they work with.

The insensitivity that pervades organizations today spreads not just vertically but horizontally as well to the peer group, although less so.

There is an additional behaviour that comes along with this and that is the Inertia/Hostage behaviour. Organizations become hostage to their systems and processes. Everything that is logged in the policy framework will be followed. Anything else will lead to a frozen state or a state of waiting till there is enough deliberation leading to a policy/process. I call this the “We don’t do it like that here” or “We’ve never done it like this here” syndrome.

This process then speeds up the dehumanizing process and leads to the various symptoms that have been described in other cases.

Hope this helps!
 Korin Kendra, Ph.D., PMP
Senior Manager with broad-based experience in organizational design, business development, and operations management

Organizations today are focused on the bottom line as a means to compete in the Global Market place. What they may not realize is that their people provide them a competitive advantage.

Instead of aligning their resources to support their goals and objectives they view them as overhead and a major cost driver resulting in lower performance due to high levels of turnover.
 Mark Hinderliter
President, The AbeL Group, LLC


There are many layers to this onion, but the top three I see are as follows.

1. Beancounter mentality. This overemphasis of cost control has created the obsessive drive to create lean organizations. Many are too lean, where too few people are doing the work. People simply are doing too many jobs, and at some point, they feel used and abused, and leave.

2. Too little recognition. Managers don’t have the time or the skills to properly recognize their employee’s efforts and achievements. Employee’s come to the conclusion that their efforts are not appreciated, and leave.

3. Companies don’t invest in the development of their people. In the effort to squeeze profits, companies are cutting back on training and development. Employee’s come to the conclusion that their growth and development is not important to the company, and leave for one that does.


 Rob Robson
Management Consultant and Sport Psychologist

Senior managers often fail to appreciate how important it is for employees to enjoy working – not just for its own sake, but as a way of stimulating creativity and even productivity.

They also focus in on extrinsic reward and spend a lot of time looking at reward packages, when a lot of employees just want to be paid a decent salary and shown a bit of appreciation.

Finally, and probably the driver of an awful lot of their problem, is that senior managers don’t make the effort to get to know employees, don’t talk to them, and therefore don’t understand them.
 Octavio Ballesta
Management Consultant ♣ Corporate Strategist

Dear Shalini,

Organizations, teams and professionals are empowered when CEO and Senior Management understand the convenience, relevance and pertinence of encouraging a corporate culture driven by innovation and an open mindset, where the employee instead of being valued just like a commodity that can be hired, reused, relocated and finally fired out, is considered like the most valuable asset that in function of his/her talent, competences, attitude and knowledge is developed, encouraged and systematically trained in being proactive, positive and committed in reaching the goals defined for the organization in a supportive and collaborative workplace’s environment where he/she are rewarded, recognized and motivated as empowered workers and overachievers professionals

Based in my experience these are the 3 common mistakes that companies keep making in the tasks of retaining and developing teams:

Failures in the staffing and recruitment process: Typically, a recruiter searches the best candidate possible to fill any given vacant position. In some occasions the promised possibilities of an advantageous career development, competitive training, professional challenge and corporate culture are greatly exaggerated, allowing in consequence to a poor correlation between new employee’s expectations and the workplace’s reality which produce some months after of being hired this employee, a great disappointment and discomfort.

In companies which culture, values and policies are very conservative and traditional often they hire talents with aggressive personality’s type A, who are passionate professionals with a creative mindset and with true willingness to innovate. This profound discrepancy can produce countercultural employees who feels that the organization is imposing over them barriers that inhibit their freedom of innovate, create and at last and not least important, their opportunity to succeed.

Micromanagement Practices: When an organisation has developed through the years a conservative corporate culture as happens in many companies belonging to the manufacturing industry, the micromanagement style could be then a preferred style of management. Managers who micromanage pay excessive attention to the details; they are obsessive about quality and precision and exert excessive control and pressure over their subordinates. Although these managers can fulfill their business goals, is characteristic that their subordinates suffer progressive disengagement, despondency and demoralization affecting employee’s morale and increasing rate of attrition.

One of my past bosses was a very analytical and talented engineer with enormous difficulties to integrate and lead effective teamwork, due to his excessive control of anything that other team-workers and I were doing. He reviewed my work proposals over and over, day after day, only to correct minimum details. At last, his difficulty to delegate effectively, his excessive control to the details and his exaggerated demands of a perfect-quality work overwhelmed unnecessarily the work capacity of the teamwork and contributed decisively to undermine employee morale and to increase the turnover rate.

Resistance to change: When transformational projects are developed and Change Management facilitation is dismissed or ignored most of the employees are severely affected for the uncertainty, doubt and fear about that the new business perspective could pose over them. This fear is particularly strong and can be paralyzing in massive processes of reorganization where an outsourcing, downsizing or a corporate merger becomes in real menaces to the stability, permanence and development of many of these workers in this company. In such perspective the company although could ensure its own survival and in the long term reach business agility, indeed is paying a high cost because of the disengagement, discouragement and demoralization of the majority of its employees.

 Allen Laudenslager
Independent technical documentation professional

Your question assumes that employee retention is seen by management as adding value to their business.

The current view is that employees are “interchangeable parts”. It kind of reminds me of a phrase I heard in the Army “get me three warm bodies”.

Below a certain level, senior management and the HR departments treat the employees as easily replaceable and to some degree it’s true because in the US we have been loosing jobs faster than we have been creating new jobs at the same level.

Corporate decisions are made by people and to paraphrase my favorite writer:

People will do what they do with success and pleasure.
Success is getting enough of what they want and pleasure means that it isn’t harder than they judge necessary.

So we as workers see not being retained as a problem but the companies don’t. As soon as it “hurts” too much, they will change their practices and put policies in place that retain people.
 Mallikarjun Das
Director, Madison Media Research Centre at Madison Media

Part of this paradox lies in the fact that cause and effects for these tasks are separated in both time and space. Policies undertaken to retain valued employees, developing teams that serve an organization’s interests etc would have outcomes after long delays. Does management have the inclination to invest in long range remedies, or are they looking for a ‘quick fix’?

Additionally, the policies required to realize the outcomes you mention could depict ‘worse before better’ behavior. In other words, one might actually see a temporary worsening of the situation before a systemic improvement occurs (for instance, policies to retain valued employees could cause some disgruntled souls to quit leading to a temporary manpower crisis). Is the management courageous enough to weather this storm and reap the rewards later? Or would it buckle to these pressures?

Thirdly – the bane of event thinking. Often to enable retention of employees, creating a great working environment etc. means changes in the organization at a structural level – involving multiple functions. These cannot be achieved by organizing frivolous, one-off policies. Most companies seem to treat this in a ‘problem-solution’ mode. “We are losing too many good people. So how do we retain talent”. The question is more fundamental – these policies should happen at the structural level of the organization’s business system

Adaptive Expectations – Most organizations also show this remarkable property that was introduced by the economist, Herbert Simon. If the organization feels that it is not achieving its goals, then often the goals are lowered! This is something that can often happen on areas with lots of intangibles such as people management. If we lose a key employee, it is often easy for the organization to justify this by saying ‘he was not that good’. While the immediate impact of this can be mitigated, over a long range, this policy starts manifesting itself in cancerous fashion in an organization – good people leaving leads to other relatively good people leaving too. Those who remain, then define the rules of existence on that piece of corporate land – which definitely would not attract good people!

 Terrence Seamon
Facilitating Change – Achieving Results

1. Promoting the “wrong people” into managerial roles

2. Not training those promoted into managerial roles on “people skills”

3. Not supporting and measuring those promoted into managerial roles
 Ron Graham
LION; Engineer, Educator, Editor of “Rhetoric for Engineers” and “start me up!”; advisor to student entrepreneurs

The organizations I’ve worked with who are *worst* at retaining good people tend to have these problems:

First, the organization is so “customer-focused” that its management places very little value on its employees and a lot more on its customers. I have worked for places that valued their PCs more than their people. This should be no surprise: the customers pay, the employees take, right?

Second, the organization allows seeds of mistrust to be planted between employees. This is easily done: we only need to be told we are “family.” It seems like every time management tells me the workers are like “family” I immediately find out it’s a dysfunctional family. But divide and conquer, right?

Finally, the organization gives each employee responsibilities we don’t know we have until we fail to meet them. More often than not, the thing I’m beat up for not doing is something I could easily have done had I known I was supposed to.

I can say that most organizations are not like these. But unfortunately, I have worked for more than one that are. <snif>
 Ken Foster
General Manager at ctc TrainCanada

Many employers are under the false impression that better pay will make it attractive enough to retain their best people but studies have shown that pay ranks fairly low on the job satisfaction scale. Employees rate things like job clarity, support, advancement opportunity, personal growth and recognition rate higher than monetary compensation. On-going training and development coupled with the opportunities for advancement are big incentives to stick around but they are meaningless if the other aspects of job satisfaction are not there. No one wants to work in an unhappy work environment where they are unsure of their role in the company and not recognized for their efforts.


 Elaine Springer
Wisdom Teacher – Dedicated to helping people evolve and making the world a more beautiful place

Thank you for your question, Shalini.

I would suggest reading the book, What Happy Companies Know.

It describes how the new science of happiness can change a company for the better.

Much success to you.


 David Collett (david [AT] davidrcollett [DOT]com)
C# / ASP.Net Web Developer

I think this question is based on a false assumptions.

Retaining valued employees, developing teams and creating environments where people can grow are not crucial tasks in business.

On the idea of retaining staff, staff turnover allows for the introduction of new ideas in to the organisation, prevents individuals from obtaining too much power, and allows management to maintain control over their underlings through fear (ie anyone no matter how valuable can be fired).

Same with teams. If a company develops a team to the point where it makes lots of profit from it, it will become dependant on that team. And this can lead to a case of the tail wagging the dog.

And finally, on the idea of creating empowering environments, the purpose of businesses is to make money, not allow people to explore talents which may not be related to the bottom line. Allow people to explore themselves is a waste of time from a business perspective.

So my answer is, companies don’t do these things because they are not crucial tasks. It’s a bleak answer, but it’s as simple as that.

If you want these things, look elsewhere.
 Bob Garrett 3600+ Looking 4 employment LION

money or lack of it
 Doug Hering [LION]
Creative and Fun Strategic Leader with expertise in financial management, customer service, and inspiring teams
Not wanting to spend money on salaries and bonuses
Taking good employees for granted
Not taking the time or spending the money to train people in True Teaming.
 Kishore Luthra
Sr. Software Engineer at Schneider Electric


The one who asks a fundamental question is who has the real curiosity for truth and will eventually have the has the real answer.

This is the beauty of fundamental question “Why…..” and similarly of the fundamental answer “Because…..” (Well my “Because..” may not be whole truth and is limited to my point of view but someone else “Because..” may be ).

You can have all kind of policies, processes, guidelines and rules but if you don’t have honest people there will more manipulation than implementation to artificially satisfy the goals which keep the distorted system happy in its current state, which is why we fail.

In most management theories this simple concept is forgotten.

So, to me the fundamental answer is “Because……We are dishonest, both to ourselves and to others”.

Here is 6th Standard essay on “Honesty is the best policy”, not for you, but just for the sake of 6th standard kid inside me

Honesty to others is what correctly identifies the deserving person when implementing the policy of recognition. It is what makes you give credit for others efforts and contributions on success & it is also what makes you accept your mistakes and taking collective responsibility instead of doing blame game on failures. It is what makes you stand for the right cause and against the ill cause.

Honesty to yourself is what tells you, when you are biased, either accepting some wrong point of view or criticizing some right point of view. It is what tells you that you don’t really understand and appreciate the circumstances others work in. It is what tells you that you also need to improve and are not always right. It is what tells you that when you talk of clearly communicating the goals you also have to let others clearly communicate the obstacles to have a good strategy for achieving the goals.
What makes you dishonest may be insecurity, greed, fear, ego, or simply forced circumstances, but the more it impacts others, the more you are guilty of making your own individual growth higher priority than the cause of collective growth and it is what makes the companies fail in most crucial tasks.
 Jan Simpson
Director, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

When it comes to talent – every company begins to grow they hire new CFOs and VPS who evaluate talent and let peeps go becuase of cost cutting 0r my favorite – when they have someone who is very talented that they started at the bottom or mid level – don’t promote them – then when they hire those idiot VPs – the great ones leave and take the talent – that is why- there are a lot of really good VPs – but there are many more that just are horrible – so top three reasons:

1. Management drives them away
2. Caps on commissions (that one is really stupid)
3. Bad product releases and they can’t make a sell due to product bugs and their are scared their reputations will take a hit – so they leave.

Just my humble opinion.
 Tim Tymchyshyn
Chief Bottle Washer in The Wholly Church of Evangelistic Unwired

1. was that for us
2. what did he say
3. oh no

the last three most common saying on the flight recorder of a downed plane
maybe business should open their flight recorder
 Michelle Bowman
Director of Marketing

1. From my experience, companies typically don’t reward those areas such as talent management (being sincerely committed to mentoring and improving the skills of your staff).
2. There may be lip service to communicating across the organization effectively, but it is a low priority for most companies. Effective internal communication to employees who in turn understand their role in contributing to company goals is essential to successful businesses.
3. Not rewarding great performers with other incentives beyond salary. HR teams are not yet creative in their offerings / assistance in helping managers reward staff. Let’s put the “H” back into HR! There are many ways an employee can be acknowledge for great work.
 Pete “NetDoc” Murray
Owner and Visionary for
NetDoc’s Top 3 errors committed by large corporations (service industry)…

Number Three…

A total preoccupation with production… Customer’s loyalty have NOTHING to do with how much you can produce. Find out what they REALLY want and focus on that instead!

Number Two…

Their reliance on systems to drive sales rather than relationships! The main selling point in any service industry is SERVICE! True service is unique to the customer needing it.

Number One…

Their inability to make work FUN and CHALLENGING at the same time. Your workers want satisfaction and you won’t keep them if they aren’t having any fun meeting the needs of your clients!
 Amarnath Bose
Principal Architect at Tech Mahindra

Shalini, going by the passion in the answers and the number of them, your question definitely has touched many of us.

The top common drawbacks in my view are as follows. There obviously is strong positive correlation between the points I mention which I have tried to list in decreasing order of impact.

(a) Short term focus; lack of will in investing for future returns
(b) Lack of leadership; constructive conflict and diversity
(c) Impervious to technical career aspirations
(d) Poor / non-existent, ritualistic HR. Poor communication
(e) Poor succession planning

It will be great if you could send the conclusions of your reaseach to us, possibly by replying to this Question.

Thanks for this very pertinent question.
 Terri L Maurer
Planning and Strategies Consultant; speaker, trainer, author.

1) I think many companies have become so used to the….”there are always others we can hire” mentality when the Baby Boomer generation at it’s size of 78 million or so was the main group in the employee mill, they don’t see the chasm that is coming up as all the Boomers enter retirement.
2) They fail to see the true ‘value’ of employees, continuing to just see them as a ‘business expense’ and working to keep that ‘expense’ as low as possible, letting long-time, loyal, intelligent employees leave…or firing them…in order to bring in fresh, cheaper employees who have to start the process of learning and contributing from scratch.
3) Teams are assigned based on any number of arbitrary criteria, instead of through analysis of potential members to be successful and work together cohesively.
 Dattatreyulu Jammalamadaka
Director (operations) at Singareni Collieries Company Limited

this question bothers every organization now a days. More than companies and their leaders, it is the employee largely responsible for the turnover be it in public or private sector organizations.
1. very very high aspirations
2. many choices available
3. absence of qualities like loyalty, long term employment
4. growing rich faster than the neighbor
5. least appreciation for hard work
6. more concern for personal life than profession
I don’t know many HR professionals may not agree with me. But this is how I feel.
 Blaine Millet
President, CEI – Driving Performance through building Loyal Relationships – Customers, Employees, Stakeholders

SIMPLE – they either don’t understand the Promises the employees want so they aren’t able to keep them or they simply don’t care about these Promises and break them all the time. We are experts in Loyalty – Customers and Employees and see this all the time.

All employees come into an organization with a set of Promises that they “believe” the organization is making them, such as money, office space, quality of work environment, challenging work, etc. Management isn’t clued in enough to understand what these are and therefore they don’t take time to understand them. At the end of the day, the employee feels like the company has not “lived up to their Promises” and decides to defect and seek other employment. This may or may not be the direct disregard from the employer but it certainly appears that way to the employee.

Without the proper understanding of what Promises are being made and implied by BOTH employees and employers, there is no chance to build Trust between them and in the absence of Trust you have defection. For example, you decide you aren’t going to keep your Promises to your spouse for a while – do you think she will Trust you more or less? I know, tough question. Work isn’t any different.

Understand the Promises your employees want – tell them which ones you can keep and which ones you can’t, continually check in with each other to see how each other is doing and you will build a foundation of Trust and Loyalty adn can avoid the heavy turnover and defection of your key employees. Hope this helps…


 Ravindran Gangadharan
Technologist – Enterprise Information Systems

It is due to the hypocritical and self-contradicting nature of an organization’s values and vision. In the circle of org values -> employee behavior -> org behavior -> org vision -> org values there is always a bit of friction that impedes the evolutionary process. I once had a manager who always found me guilty for any dissatisfaction I had to express. Finally, when I quit it was easy enough for him to say – “you always were in two minds about staying in this company”, which goes to prove the underdeveloped nature of a leader’s psyche.

To state 3 mistakes most organizations make it helps to see what its leaders can do right –

1. Accountability – A leader is accountable for the culture of his team. He is responsible for guarding and nurturing the behavior of his subordinates and how they relate to each other.
2. Appreciation – A leader puts his attention on the great achievements of his team and is quick to acknowledge and take responsibility when things go wrong. He serves to inspire.
3. Integrity – A leader acts for the collective good. There are no favorites, but only team members who have sniffed the right ways of growing in the organization.

If you negate the these three factors you will know where most go wrong.
 Paul Pot
Team Leader Network at BinckBank N.V.

Hi Shalini,

It all comes down to proper use of ears.

If the next upper layer management does not care/want/is able to listen, they create an environment where people do not care for the product/colleagues/organization.

The effect of people management is underestimated – it will create an environment in which employees will grow – thus the overall result grows. They need to explain the why’s and the how’s and listen – and show that they listen.

my 0.02$
 Daniel D. O’Hara
Principal, The Jubilee Group

Dear Shalini,

To answer your question about why companies fail to retain valued employees, I would say the following are some reasons:

1) The employee doesn’t feel appreciated, valued, or compensated adequately,
2) Poor communication,
3) There may be a personality conflict,
4) Favoritism or nepotism,
5) Desire for change.

Best wishes,

Daniel O’Hara
The Jubilee Group
Experienced Customer Support / Client Services / Help Desk Manager
1) Not having the right people in the right positions (see the book ‘First Break All the Rules’ by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman)
2) Failing to regularly and honestly communicate with their employees (one-on-ones, employee satisfaction surveys, etc.)
3) Rewarding “good” employees, properly disciplining and/or terminating “bad” employees and motivating ALL employees
 Kevin Horst
Trainer, Pre-Sales, Support, Curriculum Design

I would recast this question as: Why is it that companies fail …..retaining SOME valued employees….etc. The reason I changed it is that often, SOME valued employees are very happy and productive where they are. Those who aren’t, complain, and/or exit. Their claim is that they are serving crucial tasks and that they served the best interests of the org. Maybe. Maybe not. Just because they say they are, means little to the organization itself.

As for why those employees left, or those teams don’t function, it can be a wide variety of reasons. Recognition for efforts and reward for same are important. Support, both in terms of supervisory, time, or financial resources are key as well. Realizing they are at the end of their frustration or that the project/team/task they are on is a dead end, AND they have alternatives outside the org, the so called ‘valued employees’ move on.

I don’t know if it’s much as a “mistake” as it is a natural lowering of priorities over time, or a distraction that has more of a short term impact. There is of course pure management evil that chases out the good and the bad, though not the desperate.
 raghav r
HR Advisor / Consultant, RPO, Start Up HR, Onsite and Offsite HR

3 things companies

– take people for granted (they will not move etc)
– poor listening skills
– failing to understand individual aspirations

Founder HRinIndia
 Miriam Y
Graduate Advisor at CSUF

One person’s talents may be a threat to boss
The connections of certain employees may be imposed

Managing Superstars (answer posted by me on Linkedin :27.2.2008)

Terrence Seamon
Facilitating Change – Achieving Results
Managing Superstars
Do you have any superstars working for you? What makes them “superstars?” What, if anything, do you do differently when it comes to managing them? Why?
My Answer :

Hi Terrence,

Superstars are those employees who have the drive, determination, passion, and energy needed to move huge projects forward. But they’re not like other employees. You need to lead them differently if you want to take advantage of all they have to offer. You also need to watch out for characteristic quirks that can undermine their success: They sometimes set unrealistic expectations, work insane hours, and take risks to succeed at any cost. Without some savvy supervision, many can lose perspective and become obsessed, dysfunctional, and ultimately unable to perform.
Step 1 – Understand their personality type : in order to get the best out of them.

2.Lead them by Inspiring them and never by Commanding.
Involve them in making decisions and planning whenever possible.Provide them constant EMOTIONAL COACHING :praise them for the work done well.Though they pretend to ignore the pat on their back,they definately know their worth and won`t` respect you if you don`t acknowledge their contributions.

3. Tap on their creativity:To keep superstars from getting bored, managers need to create an atmosphere in which the employees can explore their own ideas.
Google, for instance, allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time each week on pet projects — which may or may not turn out to be profitable for the company.

“As a manager, you need to keep an open mind,” says Don Kosak, chief technology officer at search engine Lycos. “Remain receptive to new ideas because many times your overachievers will take problems and come up with solutions you never anticipated.”

4.One way to keep superstars happy is to determine their long-term goals, figure out ways to tie those into current assignments, and find projects that make them shine. During weekly team meetings, Pfizer’s Kern keeps staffers focused and interested in tasks at hand by associating the current project with their long-term career goals. Kern also holds periodic “folder reviews” with individuals who overachieve, using the time to coach the overachiever and talk about his or her career goals.

4.Make it known to them that it is safe to fail:Let them know that failure isin`t the end of the world.

5.Teach them to be Team Players:this is difficult but important…. Superstars aren’t perfect at everything they do — most usually they have an area of great strength that overshadows another area of weakness. By pairing people well, you help them overcome those weaknesses. Even mavericks who like working solo will notice that their work improves with the right match.

Develop a coaching culture. One method to get a superstar to participate in a group setting is to ask him or her to mentor or coach another employee and provide ongoing feedback.

IBM’s Top Talent Mentoring Program provides one-on-one coaching for employees who demonstrate the potential to become leaders. The company pairs a manager or executive within the company with an employee to learn their goals and identify opportunities for advancement. Then the executive provides regular feedback to help fine-tune skills such as leadership style.

Thanks for the wonderful question.


The `HERO LEADER` (posted on Linkedin by me on :4/2/08)

We all are aware of this vicious circle.However for the sake of getting everybody on the same page let me recapitulate it once more:
The circle begins with a crisis which leads to the search for a new CEO in whom all hopes are invested.The new CEO acts proactively and aggressively,and makes some dramatic short term improvements such as cutting costs and improving productivity.Everyone then falls in line to please the new CEO,who does not suffer fools gladly ! Employees comply rather than work hard to challenge the status quo,and a new crisis inevitably occurs.This vicious circle does not result in new thinking or organisational learning or renewal,or even growth and in turn feeds our desire to find new hero-leaders.
The Question:Do you agree here with Senge that little significant change can occur if it is driven from the top?and Top management buy-in is a poor substitute for geniune commitment and learning capabilities at all levels in an organisation?

 Harish Nair
Founder , Ragnar & Rearden Consultants

This was selected as Best Answer

Hi Shalini,

In the context of building a learning organization, Peter Senge has correctly identified the pattern behind the search for hero’s, the hero worship and how they leave the organization much weaker in its ability to affect structural changes long after they have gone.

All our movies, mythology and history is built around the concept of Heroes. While there have been exceptional leaders in all of these what is often masked or is not apparent is how the supporting systems and structures enables these guys to perform outstandingly. The contexts and social systems in which they operated too were much different. But revealing the complexity behind it all does not make for a great story. A great story where the hero overcomes all odds and emerges victorious and glides away with the heroine into the sunset appeals much more to our sensibilities. The same is therefore perpuated thru our books and movies and we are surprised when heroes fail.

The moot point here that Senge makes is to build learning organizations where every employee is genuinely engaged in learning rapidly. This learning capability is the only capability that can genuinely enable the organization to survive and grow amidst rapid changes in its environment and markets. And he talks about the five disciplines that together will enable building such learning organizations, in his book.

As far as top management buy-in is concerned, research would prove that it proves only a short-term burst rather than sustained energy to manage changes and grow. Any real change or progress is made when the leaders or the top management leadership engages with the employees at all levels and secures their buy-in. Hundreds of corporates have learned this lesson at a heavy price.

Harish Nair

Clarification added 18 days ago:
research would prove that it proves only a short-term burst to be read as

” research would prove that it provides only a short-term burst’ ..Sorry.
 Shawn Slevin
HR and Human Capital Solutions Provider; Chair Swim Strong Foundation

All of this is complex. Short term “gains” remain short term if there are no resources invested to build sustainability…and if there is no interest in building a culture of engagement. This is really the hard work and requires that all systems be aligned to achieve it. It’s an end to end process which includes listening to the voice of the customer; developing products that the customer wants; having a customer service philosophy that really serves the customer (what a concept!); celebrating talent in your organization; having the right operational systems in place for effeciency; having the right human capital systems in place to support your talent and organizational goals and at the other end, creating value for happy shareholders. No small order for any organization.
Thnx for asking

 Vindy Hansra
Business Adviser, Consultant, Rainmaker

Measuring the level of change, whether small or large, is rather subjective. The change owner may view the criteria for success very differently from the subject of the change. This is often the case when the change is driven from the top-down, and compliance is often seen as the indicator of success. You could argue that a change is successful if the levels of productivity and satisfaction return to normal after a nominal period following the introduction of the change. The answer to the question is therefore more complex than a straightforward ‘yes’, and is perhaps better answered as ‘it depends’. It depends on whether sustainability of the change is taken into account also. It depends on the company culture; whether it is top or middle management that have a bigger influence over subordinates. It depends on whether or not compliance is good enough; a regulatory change that demands new ways of reporting will require compliance, whereas a move to a performance management culture will also require behavioural changes. Success in the latter is very often driven from within the ranks at line manager-level.

 Heather Stagl
Discover your path to organizational change and leadership

I would argue that significant change CANNOT happen without being driven — or at least significantly bought into and supported — from the top. People look to senior management for cues, however subtle, on what is important and what is not and modify their behavior accordingly. It is through top management buy-in that genuine commitment can occur, because without it, people lose hope.

At the same time, compliance is not the way to significant lasting change. I would hardly call someone who uses authoritarian short-term methods a “hero leader.”


 Pete “NetDoc” Murray
Owner and Visionary

Changing leaders will accomplish little if the reasons for the crisis are not identified and dealt with. The most effective leaders are those who INSPIRE others to do all the work, that is to figure out the problems and effect the changes needed. This takes a real commitment to empowerment and a giving up of control. It’s not so much that the leader has to buy in: the lower levels have to contrive a solution and the leader has to enable those changes. Sure, he may need to veto a change here and there, but if he is doing his job, he has inspired his team to greater heights.
 Matthew G. Sherman
Director of Mktg & Biz Dev at Welsh & Katz, Ltd., Change Agent, Mentor

Organizations require different leaders for different phases in their growth. A “Hero Leader” who does nothing more than chop operating costs can certainly drive change from the top, but as others have said, the company culture will eventually rebel and change will slow or reverse. Some companies certainly need “chainsaw” leaders, who come in to perform surgery. But these folks should not be embraced for the long term.

Change can be driven from the top and that change can be substantial. Employees want to be led. Afterall, we tend to be a big herd with a herd mentality. However, if you have a leader who leads by fear, an organization will likely lose every other top executive it has because those environments are no fun, are not engaging and suck the lifeblood out of good people. If executives begin leaving and middle managers begin losing faith in the “Hero Leader,” then line workers will lose their zeal for driving change.

Effective leaders set the organization’s course and then provide the tools and the encouragement to get everyone to push in that direction.

Hero Leaders or “saviors” can walk on water for awhile, but often their skill set is limited, their “playbook” is set in stone and their patience is hair-trigger short. These leaders eventually sink. The challenge for organizations is to determine when to cut them loose so they don’t sink the entire company.
 Claudia Del Giudice
Highly Motivated Marketing Manager

Hi Shalini,
That is a very complex topic and a great question!
I believe the process is not that easy, within a capitalistic system and in the reality, where the bottom line is profit. However, It is very interesting to capture the spirit of “interrelationship” of Senge systems theory and its long-term view: delays and feedback loops are very important: in the short term, you can often ignore them, while, they come back to you in the long term.
This basically leads to the ability to see an organization as a whole and to understand the interrelationship between the parts, seeing the organization as a dynamic process. He also underlines that: “Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs’ (Senge 1990: 139)”. People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode: they never ‘arrive’.
I believe that seeing the organization as a dynamic process means you can look at little significant change from top or bottom as a cycle, where one change influences the other. In this perspective the genuine commitment and learning capabilities of top management can facilitate significant change together (not in substitution) with others. It happens something similar to personal change in human beings: if your vision (your top) changes, your values, your behaviors and the environment will change. The opposite is much less probable or, maybe, slower.

 Ravindran Gangadharan
Technologist – Enterprise Information Systems

I would say a lot depends on how the leadership team ensures the holistic vision of success and harmony (if at all) is driven into the bottom half. I have had experiences when senior management would celebrate success, congratulate my team and praise my managers for reason unknown. Great companies generally infuse a sense of spirit across the depth and breadth and size and culture can be a challenge here (and that is why startups are fun to work for).

The Hear Leader might very well be a success, look at HP for example. But again, just like getting drunk one night does not take away the problems next morning (if anything can only make it worse), the Hero Leader should have the vision to turn around the company like a wheel than smoke his ideas to the roof.
 Jason Koulouras
Director at TSX – Head of Business Development (Market Data), LION, Six Hats Thinker, Open to New Connections

Any decision to bring such a person on by the Board of Directors (or others making the decision) is not to be taken lightly and only under circumstances where the organisation’s short term financial viability is in question and an aggressive change is required. I think of the person who has a heart attack, gets revived (aggressive action) but then needs to make committed change to avoid/minimise the next heart attack.

I think significant change is possible from the top and may be all that is available in the toolkit if the short term future of the organisation is in question. In the long run, buy-in is needed to sustain change and growth.

 Martin van Laerhoven
Consultant and Contractor

Hi Shalini,
I like to shine a different Light on this subject.
I disagree with the statement “That little significant change can occur if it is driven from the top” I also have to say that significant change does not always come from the top.

My experience is there are people in each organization who are willing to take on the management of change. They can be found in each part of the organisation and are really the drivers of change. They will introduce change them self or support it fully when properly introduced and felt to be necessary in the organization

Without them nothing would happen but with them and no support from the top no dramatic change could occur either. These are the people that act as if the company is their own and who are also willing to change themselves to get the results, sometimes these are the unsung heroes as they do not rely on motivation from the top but by their own motivation.

For this reason sometimes these people are also used and misused and their supervisor might take all the credit while he was only the instigator of change, these people made it happen.

Change in any organisation if it needs to be dramatic and complete needs the full cooperation of all levels and parts of the total organisation.

 Vijay Michael
An Optimistic & Energetic leader with “Business Development & Operations” experience in IT products and services

Hi Shalini,

Companies are like living beings which go through different stages from start-up moving to Infancy and so on. At every stage it requires a different set of leadership skills and CEOs are the specialists who drive the through a specific phase.

In this case the need of the hour was to overcome a crisis and the organisation needed someone to act and get things done. At times it is necessary to get all to comply to the companies immediate goals.

Now to answer the question. Top management buy-in ensures that any new strategy or company wide initiative meets with success. And it is good to be driven from the top to ensure clarity and focus.

 Bryan Lund
Global Lean Mfg. Coordinator

Change will not happen if all that is expected is compliance. The two concepts, when considered seperately, cannot co-exist. However, if the top leader expects people to: 1) adhere to job standards, 2) assume that their job is to test the job standards, 3) correct any abnormalities from standard, 4) standardize the solutions, you can achieve COMPLIANCE and CHANGE. NOT easy, because this approach requires a long term approach, NOT a short term approach.

 Sundar Vanchinathan
CEO. Open Door Associates, Marketing Consultant


In an ideal organization where employees are passionately motivated from with-in and are courageous to voice their opinions, the change can arise from the employees. However, most organizations do not work in an ideal environment. I believe that in a ‘real’ organization the change has to be driven from the top while encouraging the employees to participate. If the leader in position has strong leadership values and does walk the talk, employees will not only trust and listen to the leader but also have the courage to challenge the status-quo.
Rose M Robin
Manager – Human Resources

Dear Shalini,
Yes I agree that a significant change shall occur if it is driven from the top… But this change shall set in with the existing culture of an organisation.

 Christian Aspegrén
Adviser to Global Growth Ventures  Facilitator V2C

Hi Shalini,
A key word here is significant.
All significant change efforts must be driven from the top but there will be no significant change unless all key individuals in the organisation understands what the change requires from them and what the result will be and commit themselves to the change process. They will be responsible for the change, but permanent change will only be achieved if a more competitive modus operandi has been created. A top executive buy-in is often an excellent way to draw attention to the need for change.


 Mathias Carvalho
Owner, Desmarins Mídia Digital and Internet Consultant

Hi, Shalini. Can we use Apple’s Steve Jobs’ career as an example that could prove/disprove this concept?

 Terrence Seamon
Facilitating Change – Achieving Results

The leader in this “vicious circle” that you describe is not a hero, at least in my book. Maybe their actions result in a turnaround and therefore saves jobs. That’s a good thing. But all too often, in my experience, these cost-cutters are really hatchet men whose arrival is the harbinger of a bloodbath.

A true hero leader would renew and revitalize an organization, turning it from a moribund place to one that is alive and dynamic.

 Sanjeev Himachali
HR Professional, Researcher, Motivator, Thinker, Career Coach and Human Relations Counsellor

I agree with this and I do see some cultural angle to this.
Let me explain to you. There is company which is in mess because there is no CEO in the company.
The management is desperate to hire a CEO because they want someone to take responsibilities and accountability. In other words, they are looking for some EXTERNAL person to take them out of the mess, because they believe in the proverb, “Ghar ki murgi daal brabar”. Here, the key words are RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY and EXTERNAL MOTIVATION.
Once someone joins and implement some minor changes, then the company as well the management try to see this under microscope and it appear very large to them.
When they notice “positive change and effect”, all of them come together to take the credit. Thereby, they again push the company in chaos and mess.
I hope this analysis makes some impact.

Looking forward to hear from you.

Thanks and Regards
 Tim Tymchyshyn (no one home)
Chief Bottle Washer in the Church of the Evangelistic Unwired and LinkedIn’s Bad boy

lots of companies like that in this world, where they succeed in spite of themselves
change comes from top down or bottom up nothing happens from the middle as they ae the ones mostly afraid for their jobs
 Doug Hering [LION]
Creative and Fun Strategic Leader with expertise in financial management, customer service, and inspiring teams

I think a lot of change can be top down. I left a company a while back due to the executive management and the culture that was created. Since I have left, new executive management has completely changed the culture and morale.

Evolution Of A Work Group To A Team :Posted on Linkedin by me on 13/1/08

Evolution Of A Work Group To A Team
Teams are all the rage in the workplace today, and every organization speaks of the importance of teams. But just because a group of people work together does not necessarily make them a team.
Teams are groups of individuals who accomplish designated objectives by working interdependently, communicating effectively, and making decisions that impact their day to day work
If what you consider as your team does not measure up to the definition, then you are not really leading a team. You are probably managing a work group. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a work group. A work group can achieve great results with your close supervision. The idea, however, in today’s changing organization and our competitive global marketplace, is to develop teams that can work autonomously without your close direction and support.
In your opinion what are the essentials which are needed to be prevalent to get a group of individuals to function as a team ?

Answers to the question :

Kishore Luthra
Sr. Software Engineer at Schneider Electric

In my view, there are only human factors that count to get a group of individuals function as team.

Assuming everything else is same and the only difference in achieving the objectives is close supervision or doing it autonomously, we can say that all work group or team members have the required skills set, knowledge and experience level.

If that is true then what makes the difference is the lack of some personal attributes in some of the members such as ‘sense of responsibility’, ‘team spirit’, ‘communication skills’, ‘maturity’ , ‘mutual trust ‘ and ‘ability to understand others’,

If most of the individuals have these attributes then the group can successfully function as team, by some of the team members putting extra efforts to fulfill the gap due to members that have less of these attributes.

If most of the individuals do not have these attributes then the group can still function as work group but there will be problems cropped up as the seeds are already there. The manager or leader has to put extra efforts to supervise closely and continuously check the direction of work at each step and taking remedial actions on-time for the problems cropped. But since there is a limit to a level all this can be done, the cost paid is extra time, loss of quality and limited efficiency and productivity in real terms.

 Manu Gulati
Engineering Manager at Broadcom Corp

Very good question. I have seen lots of “teams” in the workplace that do NOT function as teams. The blame for this can rest solely with the team leader. The philosophy and dynamic of a group that works together is dictated by its leader.

In my mind, a team starts to work like a team when:
* all members have a single high-level goal
* that goal is communicated to all the members, and they UNDERSTAND it
* the individual members are committed to the goal, to the point of putting that goal ahead of all other goals/aspirations.

The first two are easy to achieve. It is the third where people fail. You will know a team is working as a team when the team members are able to operate quite well in the absence of the leader; when certain high performing individuals start to act like leaders themselves; and when individuals are able to make judgement calls regarding what’s best for the project themselves.

Don’t know if this answers the question directly, but just some thoughts on the subject. Interesting question!

 Karthik. B
HSE Global Oprerations Manager at Honeywell International

This is a great Article in HBR. I read the hard copy and found very interesting
I like Role clarity to be a great tool than fixing objectives in team.


 Geert-Jan Dirven
Head of Operations Programs at DHL Worldwide Network

Thanks for the question! at first glance (top of mind) I would say the essentials are Space, Goals, Yield and high Switching costs.

The first and most important condition is interaction. There needs to be a place (either physical or virtual) in which interaction is facilitated. You could summarize this as “Space”: there needs to be a space in which individuals interact as a prerequisite to becoming a team. Second essential condition is “Goal”. There needs to be -as per your definition- accomplish designated objectives; a common shared aspiration. For a group of people to becoming as close as you describe in collaboration, I would add “Yield”; participation has to make sense (one side) obviously for the individual, which can largely be covered by Goal, but this is stronger; in true teams there can be tacit goals, which even cannot be expressed by the individuals; being a team-member (because the team chemistry can be that strong) could then be an objective in itself. It only makes sense -however- once you get to ‘feel’ the group. When more of your senses (see/hear/touch/smell/taste/6th) draw from the group and add to it, the more yield it will make… (tricky one, but I’d like to see what’s coming back on this, I’m not a psychologist). Finally there must be a tie-in; the existence of (large) opportunity costs when not participating in the team; I heard this story about a college-student broken down over participating in an on-line game; this ‘team’ burned him down. This last one I would call “Switching Costs”. In summary; Teams need Space, Goals, Yield and high Switching costs….
 Barb Eichberger, MBA
Technology Project & IT Management; SQL DBA & Development; Business Analysis & Design

I like what Jason answered at the start of the input… along those lines I might suggest:

1. Create a clear vision and mission statement.
2. Find and hire people who can function as individuals in a team environment (interdependence, communication, etc.)
3. Define a framework for those people to be empowered within; to define their goals to acheive the mission
4. Provide a system of measurements to which the team must answer, not individuals per se.
5. Act as team mission statement keeper and goals approver; be their liason, expert advisor, protector, measurement monitor and task master.

 Wubbe Jan Velthuis
System Engineer at Thales

In my opinion, one of the main differences between a group and a team is the sense of responsibility for the result. In a team every team member feels responsible for the whole outcome, so also for the work of other team members. This makes that members help eachother achieving the goal and make sure that no one stays behind.

To obtain this, team members must be aware of the work of others and understand it. Not on a detailed level, but on a global one. Frequent communication and an open mind are required.

I have been a project manager of both teams and of want to be teams (groups) and have noticed that teams work. Creating a team is quite an effort and highly depends on the characters of the team members.
 David Phillips
Organizational Change Management Professional, PMP; LION

Moving working groups to behave as teams is a feat of artistry by those who lead them. Contrary to the impression which may be left by my avater, I have no team sports experience on which to base my discourse, though I have a high school leter for “It’s Academic” and several years of amateur fencing. Still, I have worked among high-performing teams in both non-profit and for-profit pursuits, and I have noticed a number of similarities to what I see in the media regarding sports teams.

I propose that the chief qualities that assist working groups to behave as teams are these two contributors to cohesion within a team:
1. Working groups are managed, while teams are led.

2. Members of teams accept responsibility for one another, instead of relying on a solely vertical accountability structure.


P.S. I’ll blather a bit more later when I can focus on the two key points.
 Peter Hilts
High School Principal at The Classical Academy

There are work groups, there pseudoteams and then there are trueteams. A few years ago, my consulting partner and I coined the term trueteam to describe an end state of effective teaming. We were dissatisfied with the old saw of “Form-Storm-Norm-Perform” but we recognized the reality that teams do have a fairly predictable life cycle. Here’s the concept we articulated. It has proven valid and useful over and over.

++Stage One: Group: A group is an assemblage of disconnected individuals who experience low task focus, conflicting loyalties and jockeying for position. Groups are often assigned to function as teams without the appropriate leadership or training.

++Stage Two: PseudoTeam: A Pseudoteam emerges when group member act as they believe a team should act. Although there is increasing familiarity between the group members, there is also surface smoothness and a tendency to overcompromise. Living as a pseudoteam is frustrating because it is essentially false.

++Stage Three: AntiTeam: At some point, sometimes gradually and sometimes abruptly, the pseudoteam goes negative. The purpose of the group fragments because of growing resentment about the false fronts and overcompromising of the pseudoteam stage. Members engage in passive sabotage, withdrawing from discussions or withholding their constructive criticism. Members often slip into dysfunctional roles, such as the classic attacker—victim—rescuer triad. The AntiTeam is painful so…

++Stage Four: Crisis of Purpose & Productivity: Because the AntiTeam is not productive, members begin to challenge the group’s existence. Leaders challenge the group’s productivity and internal conflicts derail the work of the team. The crisis causes many members and leaders to question whether the team should continue.

++Stage Five: Retreat from the discomfort of conflict: Faced with the pain of the crisis, members retreat back to the comfortable familiarity of surface smoothness and artificial courtesy—in other words, they reform the pseudoteam.

++The Low Performance Loop: Many groups cycle through the pseudoteam-antiteam-crisis-retreat pattern indefinitely. They are productive, but not highly so.

There is a way around the low-performance loop. It is the method of ++Acceleration by Facilitation.++ An effective facilitator, (even when the team leader acts as a facilitator) helps the team by clarifying the task, identifying appropriate team roles and establishing a clear process for information gathering, decision-making and execution.

When a team is facilitated, it can function as a trueteam, complete with interdependence, healthy conflict, creativity, cohesiveness and high productivity. A trueteam is an extremely gratifying place to work, even though trueteams work at a very high level.

Talking about teaming and the phases of teaming is an excellent way to help a group of people skip the storm and move quickly to high productivity.
 Daniel Bucur
Creative Marketing & Business Development

Happy 2008
I agree with some of the statements from your question and would like to share few more thoughts on the subject. My opinion is that all organizations, as we know them, are structured in what you define as working groups, with clear (more or less..:-)) roles and attributes.
Talking about teams your definition is not wrong but I dare say incomplete.
When I think of teams I see something with a defined lifespan which is formed with a goal (objective) and as soon as this is achieved, it disappears as a structure. What remains are the links between the team members and this is in my opinion the most important thing to be taken care by the team “leader”, during the life time of the team and beyond. As soon as this task (which is very much on the emotional side) is well performed it gives you (leader) the ability and flexibility to play with this type of organization (live) form as needed.
To give you a visual example I see an ideal organization like a MEKANO ™ set (have to check the exact name of the game but I am thinking of the one with mechanical bits with what you could build cars, etc. which I used to have some time ago) where the shapes are the members and according the needs you (leader) have to put them together to achieve the goal. As soon as this is done you might want to wonder a bit at your creation after that you will disassemble the work and start with another model. Your role is to have the goal in mind, use the right shapes and bits but also to take care that the joints are well maintained.

 Brian Wiggins
Dynamic manager and presenter, dedicated to positive organizational development

I think that the key point in establishing a “group” as a “team” is a shared goal or reason for existence that makes the team dependent on each other for success.

For example, a group of people who all work in the same office and complete similar work without any major interdependence is not a team; if one person fails, it may make the department look bad, but ultimately it does not affect anyone else’s performance.

But if you take that same group and establish goals that they play a part in achieving, then the group becomes a team. For instance, if a call center has a bonus structure that is attached to average speed of answer (ASA) and customer satisfaction index (CSI), then everyone starts to have a vested interest in seeing each other succeed, as the entire team needs to perform well to achieve the team goals. 
 Luis K. Ayala
Application Development Group Supervisor at IE DIscovery

Hello Shalini,

In my opinion you need to have individuals who are:

a) Mature (needed to know when to lead and when to follow)
b) Capable (skilled, proficient at the task at hand), and
c) Motivated (internally or externally).

Only when you have all 3 elements will you have a team you can consistently rely on to get things done with very little outside intervention.


 Jim Becker
Lead Systems Engineer at Urban Institute

I’ll recommend the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It does a good job of presenting ways that strong teams can work together. I’m paraphrasing, but the five areas are: trust within the team (a willingness to be imperfect with your teammates), constructive conflict within the team, commitment to the team, accountability within the team, and a focus on the team’s results.

The five dysfunctions of the title are the absence of those: lack of trust (like an unwillingness to get or give help or to admit to mistakes), lack of constructive conflict (suppression of opinions), lack of commitment (undermining the team’s efforts), lack of accountability (letting low performers get away with it), and inattention to results (setting one’s personal agenda over the team’s agenda).

There’s a separate workbook for those who want additional how-to ideas, but it’s not necessary for getting anything out of the main book.
 Venkatesh Rao

The distinction between the terms (workgroup and team) and how to achieve the latter, has been studied in depth by Jon Katzenbach in the early 90s. His books (mainly “The Wisdom of Teams”) are probably your best source for insight into your question. It is a very tough question and I wouldn’t attempt a short answer, which is why I am recommending a book.

 Jason Koulouras
Director at TSX – Toronto Stock Exchange, Six Hats Thinker, Open to New Connections

Shalini, there is some really excellent material already answered to your question – my perspective:

1) The team needs an inspirational leader (does not have to be the formal leader).

2) The team needs an aspirational goal (the team members are aspiring to produce something or achieve something beyond “x% growth” or Y$ sales – something that is bigger than themselves as individuals that moves them to unifying actions.

3) The team needs tolerance for the inevitable differences of opinion, approach and thought process/patterns that will always occur – great teams consider all their members views and perspectives, incorporate the ‘best’ by consensus and thus achieve beyond linear growth and results.

4) As mentioned by others, the team needs a good facilitator who keeps things moving along but also pauses when required to allow all the members views and contributions to be articulated and considered.

5) The team members need to rewarded for their efforts and management needs to ensure that team members receive credit and recognition and it does not all go to the politically astute or connected.

A well functioning team is a force-multiplier and they typically achieve expectations and often vault well past and exceed.


Jason Koulouras also suggests these experts on this topic:
Mike Schmidt
Robert Castel, PMP
 Ron Graham
LION; Engineer, Educator, Editor of “Rhetoric for Engineers” and “start me up!”; advisor to student entrepreneurs

There are five ingredients in most effective teams:

– purpose
– leadership
– membership
– interaction
– deliverables

There’s loads more to be said here, but I’ve got a Web page for that.
 Archana Jog
Manager HR – Vedic Lifesciences Pvt. Ltd.

A short answer would be a common motive.

Well, as you have very rightly indicated a team and a work group are two different things. While we work in organizations, there are certain goals I feel. One, that an organization has to work towards together with all the departments in sync with each other. Two, that each department works towards achieveing its very special goal. Three, each team in a single department has to devote towards a department goal.

so, a work group I feel is a bigger group which consists of number of teams. Once these teams have good coordination and are well synchronized a work group acts like a team.