Employee retention can make or break a company. For most managers, getting good people to stay is one of the most difficult parts in their job. Employee engagement expert Beverly Kaye believes that it is a manager’s responsibility to keep employees engaged and learn their concerns to find out why they want to leave. Steve Farber brings Beverly in to take a deep dive onto her book, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, a book on the subject that was specifically written for managers. Join in and learn more about the art of fostering loyalty among your employees and benefiting from their talents for a longer period of time.
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em With Beverly Kaye
My guest is Dr. Beverly Kaye who is a kindred spirit on the topic of love and in business. More than a kindred spirit, she is a pioneer in this arena. I wrote Love is Just Damn Good Business. It came out in 2019. I wrote The Radical Leap in 2004. It’s the first time I talked about love. LEAP stands for Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof. Bev’s book, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, is in its sixth edition. What year was the first edition, Bev?
It was in 1999.People don't leave organizations. They leave managers. Click To Tweet
She’s a pioneer in this whole arena. She is a best-selling author. Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em sold somewhere around 800,000 copies. Some of her other books, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Up is Not the Only Way. The theme in Beverly’s work is all about taking care of your people. Beverly, we’ve got a lot to talk about. I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome to the show.
You are very much returned. Thank you. I’m glad to be here with another lover of love.
Your Doctorate is in what?
It’s in Change Management. It was on a fellowship program at UCLA that cross the management school and the ed school. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to go back on a false fellowship. It gave me the chance to change my field, which before that, I was a College Dean, a College Administrator in schools that I never could’ve gotten into. I was always interested in leadership development and organization development and change.
You studied it and then you ended up carving a career in helping people to apply these ideas. You’ve been at that for several decades.
I could probably be your granny.
I don’t think so. I’m happy for you to act as if you were but chronologically, I’m sure it will not work. I’d love to hear a little bit about what initially inspired you to start using the L-word in a business context. I had a flashback. Not the great ‘60s kind of flashback but a different flashback. When I first started giving keynotes about love in business back in the early 2000s, I had this slide that I would show with business book covers with the word love in the title. One of them was Tim Sanders’ book, Love Is the Killer App. That book came out in 2002 or 2003. Another one of those books was yours. I just completely flashed on it. My point is that you’ve been talking about this for a long time. I hear a lot that, “Nobody ever talks about this. I’ve never seen love in a book title before.” I’ve had people say that to me as well. What was your initial inspiration to start using this language?
We did have to fight for it with our publisher who said, “Are you sure? It’s a business book. What manly man is going to walk into the bookstore and go home with the word love in the title.” We convinced him because there was no other word that said how many different variations there are on love your people. Notice them, recognize them and reward them across the board. It’s on the back of our book. It says, “Admit it, you love them even if you don’t use that word.” They are your talented people. Losing them hurts.
You had to convince your publisher. The way you did that was for the reason that there were no other books using that language even though it is what it is.
Some organizations also said they did not like that word on the cover. They use the subtitle, “Getting good people to stay.” They use something else. I said, “It’s fine.”
“We don’t care what you call it as long as you buy the book.” That is what you had to do and the conversation. You had to convince them to let you use the word in the title. What was the inspiration for it? What brought you to the conclusion that that was the right word?A challenge-focused leader builds relationships that create loyal employees. Click To Tweet
At that time in 1999, McKinsey had just published their The War for Talent. In it, they said the famous words, “People don’t leave organizations. They leave managers.” Everyone was nodding, “It’s the manager,” but no one was saying to the manager, “Here’s what you can do. It’s not so hard.” I had a wonderful coauthor and we wanted to give managers a do–book, not a what–book. We wanted every page to give them ideas of what to do to hang on to their talent. We wrote the book twice and we were bored silly by it. We had the idea of organizing all our data according to the alphabet. I still remember sitting in a room and pasting the alphabet. We were in a hotel room and see, “What could the A be? What could the B be?”
That’s why it says, “There 26 ways to engage and retain the intellectual capital,” because you tied it to the alphabet.
We even got the X and the Z, and it worked.
You did that originally for your own entertainment as a way to engage yourself in the writing process.
As a way to see if we could. When we stepped back and we literally had the keyword for every letter, we said, “We’re going to go convince him that the book is going to be alphabetical.” We had an easier job doing that. Where we had the tougher job was we turned the book into a training program, a learning effort. You can teach 26 chapters in a learning event. We divided the 26 into 3 clusters, 6 or 7 fit the idea that a talent-focused leader grows their people. There were a number of chapters related to growing people. A challenge-focused leader builds relationships that create loyal employees. Six or seven chapters fit there. Finally, a talent-focused leader builds a culture that people want to come to. Six or seven letters fit there. When we teach it, we teach it that way that makes it more able to digest.
As opposed to number nineteen. Pop quiz, what were the previous eighteen?
I did a podcast where the podcaster spun a wheel and the letter that the wheel ended up on is what I had to talk about.
I’m going to ask you a couple of alphabet-related questions here. It reminded me when you said that you write a book about what to do and not just what the philosophy or concept is. Bob Nelson’s books, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees was his first, then he had 1,001 Ways to Energize Employees. They are in the same category. He chose not to use the word love but it is synonymous.
I’ve known Bob for a long time. We tease each other all the time. His is about love too. His latest book is about fun and play.
You didn’t have a contest like, “How come you only got 26? I got 1,001.” There are only 26 letters. That’s why. If there were 1,001 letters in the alphabet, you’d have had 1,001. What is X?
X is for Explore the generations. It used to be X-ers and others but in this one, we used it for Explore the generations because generational differences have always been a big thing. How do you hang on to people of different generations?
The one problem with that is that “explore” starts with an E. Poetic license. It’s like spelling “extreme” with an X. It’s the same thing.
You would point that out.
I was thinking it was going to be something like, “Xerox a note and send it to them” or “X-ray their heart.” I would love to hear a few more. What are some of the other ideas that you find? Now that you’ve been doing this for several decades, are there some that you see that stand out more in terms of people latching onto and using most readily?
During COVID, I’ve seen certain chapters get bigger like I is for Information. People want information more so and O is for Opportunities. It says, “Mine them.” There are opportunities. Even if you’re home by yourself in front of your screen, there are opportunities. The first one, A is for Ask. Ask your people why they stay. Ask your people, “What can I do to keep you?” Not at the exit interview, which is when that question is asked often, “What should we have done?” Usually when you get the answer, if you dare ask it, it’s like, “I could have done that for you.” In a lot of our research, we followed the person to their next company and we said, “Why did you leave? Here’s what you wrote.” That gave way to our jerk chapter. J is for Jerk because people said, “I worked for a jerk and I could not stand it anymore.” Our research ears picked up and we said, “Precisely, what do you mean by the word jerk?” They gave us 55 jerkitudinal characteristics. We use them in the book.
What’s the number one?
It changes. The number one nowadays is something about, “Ignoring my needs and not knowing me as a person,” in whatever words.
What’s interesting to me about that Bev is if ignoring is one of the big jerkitudinal behaviors and the first idea or the A is Ask, that’s two sides of the same coin. I haven’t heard the other 25. I’ve heard 2 of the 26, but if you get that first one down, just about everything else takes care of itself. There are so many things that we don’t ask that we just assume. We don’t ask, “What are your personal aspirations? What are the values that are important to you? What your dog’s name is?” We don’t ask things that reveal who other people are as human beings. One of the companies that I’ve written about and talked about a lot make a habit of asking their employees, “What do you need from us?” One of the things they found in the pandemic is a lot of their employees said, “My kid doesn’t have a laptop and they needed to go to school at home.” They gave them laptops for their kids.
Remember when you said give me an example of a jerk and I said being ignored, it’s not asking questions like you named. It’s like, “I see you.” There’s a person there. Not just a doer of this task. The other thing about ask is that when we completed the whole grouping into those three clusters of the alphabet, there were four that we could not put in any one group. We said, “Why can’t we?” It was because they fit in all of them. The first one was ask. If you don’t ask, you can’t do any of the other 25. The second was buck. B stands for Buck, meaning do something about it. Buck as in, “The buck stops with you.” Buck as in we hate to say this manager, it’s not everything but it’s a lot of stuff. The fourth is the N is for Numbers. Run them. If you doubt that this is a costly mess when you lose people, just run the numbers. Z is for Zenith. Zenith, there is nosiness. You’ll never get to the Zenith. It is never-ending. Do this all the time. You could have written it.Don't ask your employers 'What can I do to keep you?' at the exit interview, ask it at the initial interview. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting you say that because I couldn’t have because it’s your voice and perspective. What’s your co–author’s name?
Yours and Sharon’s voice is one of the things that makes it such a compelling book and why it’s been so successful. On the other hand, what makes it powerful is that anybody could have written it. It’s not like, “I never knew that people like to be asked questions.”
The incredulousness on the faces of managers, “You mean ask my people why they stay?” If you don’t like that wording, we’ll give you 20,000 other ways to ask it. “What do I do then?” You listen to their answer.
It’s one of my favorite questions. When people say, “I love your work. I love what you do.” My favorite question is, “Why?” I genuinely want to know. I suppose some of it is in the way you asked the question. If you ask like, “Really? Why?” That’s a different question.
When people say to me after a keynote, “That was great.” I always say, “What one thing made it great for you?” That’s helpful data. I’m a big feedback provider. When any of my friends are on a stage and I’m in the audience, I’m writing a mile a minute what they did well.
After you’ve given a speech, that’s all you want to hear at that moment. When the adrenaline is still pumping and you’re catching your breath. You don’t want to be, “You could’ve done better,” which is great feedback. I just don’t want to hear it right in that minute.
It will be evaluated anyway.
Share another with us.
Since the other whole half of my business is around career, C is for Career. There are many other career ideas stuffed in. C is for Career. E is for Enrich like grow where you’re planted. G is for Goals, have many of them. There are a number of chapters that you could say, “This is from her career work.” They all are.
From a perspective of a leader or a manager in a company and I know there are distinctions that we can use and lump them together.
I’m big on lumping. Managers have to be leaders at times. Leaders have to be managers at times.
Somebody who’s in that combined role, what I infer from what you said is, let’s take career for example. My job is to help be a custodian for their career. That’s what you’re saying. I’m paying attention to my career, but if I want to show you that I love you, I’m going to show interest in your career and help you to develop and grow so you can have the best possible career.
Maybe the big words you use are, “I’m going to show interest. I’m not going to do your career. I’m not going to pin your career. I don’t have the answers but I can listen and give you support out of my life experience.”
“I can give you opportunities, there’s that O word, to take on projects at work that are not only going to help us, but it’ll help you grow and look great on your CV or resume.”
I always say people are either opportunity whiners, “We just reorganized. I have to meet new people” or they’re opportunity miners, “It’s great that we reorganize. Now, I get a chance to meet so-and-so.”
It’s the proverbial half-empty versus half-full thing. It’s simple and profound because it’s true. It’s easy to overlook. The other thing that people whine about occasionally is, “I hear what you’re saying, but that’s not our culture. You don’t know my boss. We don’t do that around here.” Your work is targeted at the individual in a lot of ways.
My early books in the ‘80s were written to HR people, then I realized you can’t make much from HR people so I write to the managers. Towards the end, I started saying, “Let’s write to both.” With Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, the first edition sold 150,000. We got the idea of, “Why not write one for employees?” We wrote Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work. We and the publisher thought it’s going to sell ten times what Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em sold and it did not. I should try it again but when we investigated then, leaders in organizations who were buying the books for all their managers said, “We don’t want to arm employees to go to their managers and ask for things. Managers have a hard enough time handling what they have.” The book didn’t do that well. We didn’t push it. Now, I bet you, it would.Think about what you most want to learn and that will grow you for the future. Click To Tweet
Why would they interpret that title as something that would inspire, motivate or encourage employees to ask of their managers? The whole title says, “This is my responsibility.”
The first letter was Ask and the first chapter was Ask. It was like, “Ask your manager. Ask in a way that he can do something.” I mentioned the big ask is, “What could I do to keep you?” Managers would shrink from it. When we’d say, “Why are you reticent?” They’d say, “What if the employee says more money or that job? I’m in worse trouble because then what do I do?” We say, “You move to T in the book which is Truth. Tell it and say, “I can’t deliver on that. Not now. I’d love to because I don’t want to lose you, but tell me what else really counts for you. I’m going to listen until I hear something I can do something about.”
From the Love It, Don’t Leave It perspective, what were you encouraging employees to ask of their managers?
In the Enrich chapter, it might say, “Think about what you most want to learn and that would help you, grow you on your current job and grow you for the future.” For you, it is design thinking. Build a case and go to your manager, and show them how design thinking would help in your current job and for the future. Managers are plagued by requests all the time. Now, we’re seeing it be less manager, big chief employee, “Report to him.” We’re seeing it be more like, “Let’s have a conversation.”
The common theme that seems to me exists in both of those approaches, one to the management and one to the employee, is one of “This is up to me.” That’s what I was alluding to. It’s not the HR organizational policy approach. It’s the, “Here’s what you can do no matter what.” That whining about, “You don’t know our culture. You don’t know my boss.” It doesn’t matter. These are the things you can do regardless of what anybody is or is not doing. It comes all the way back to that insight which we’ve said a number of ways over the years that people don’t leave their company, they leave their boss. They don’t quit the company they work for, they quit the team they’re on. That whole thing.
That tells us, as managers, as leaders, that we have a huge impact on the experience of the people around us. Even if our so-called corporate culture is a desert, I can be an oasis. You mentioned some of the emphasis that you’re hearing in the days of the pandemic. When you and I are having this conversation, we were a few months into this thing. We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, at least in the US. Looking back over 2020 or so, is there any surprising lesson for you in this subject that came out as a result of our circumstances?
If anything, Zoom has stressed us a lot. It’s also helped us to look into another person’s workspace and learn more about them. I’m amazed at how few people comment on something in the person’s workspace. I don’t like those fake backgrounds. I want to say, “It’s a great sign in your office. Tell me a little more.” I see your book is facing out on your bookshelf there. It should be. Above my office, it says, “Do what you love and love what you do.” It’s allowed us to maybe touch the heart a little more instead of the head.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people to build on what you said, who’ve told me they have gotten to know their colleagues better in some ways because they’re not looking into each other’s offices, they’re looking into each other’s living rooms. It’s like, “I didn’t know you had a cat. I didn’t know you had a kid. I didn’t know you were married.” They’re getting to know each other’s spouses. I had somebody tell me that everybody on her team has gotten to know her husband. Early on, they would be in a meeting and he didn’t quite have Zoom awareness yet. He would walk across the background in his underwear. You get to know each other that way. It’s an interesting irony, isn’t it? The separations, in some cases, brings us a little closer.
When I’m on with a group of people I don’t know, the opportunities that are there from those different people end up giving me nine more things to do after the call is over. It’s there for the grabbing.
I’d love to hear a little bit about your experience as a fairly new solopreneur. Can you tell us the story of your company and what you decided to do with that and where you are now?
I built a company on my career development work because I wrote my doctoral thesis on the systems approach to career development. That was in the late ’70s, early ’80s and no one was looking at it. I got into the consulting world, not by choice. For a career person to say, “It just happened,” is a little bit embarrassing but it did. It grew before I knew all that I know now about how you grow a learning company. I did that for close to 40 years. I realized that the fun stuff wasn’t in running the company and handling the salespeople and all of that. The fun was in the inventing and the ideating.
My sore spot is that I ideate too much, “We have a strategy for the company, but Beverly wants us to look at this.” I was not that good a leader because I always saw other opportunities. I went and sold it to two of my employees. I went into a yearlong horrible depression because my entity was my identity. I couldn’t pull them apart. The way I got out of it after a year is I went on a vacation with my husband. We went out of the country. The day I got back, a sewer pipe broke above my office. It caved in the ceiling and polluted everything. I have five offices and a conference room on the first floor of my home, which is wonderful. It is always calling to me, but only one office got polluted, mine. Every book and paper is out. All my executive coaching friends said, “That’s a cosmic message.”
It’s a living metaphor.
It helped me say, “You’re supposed to be a solopreneur again.” I love that I worked with different people and I schmooze with people like you and try to think of what we could do together, whereas before I was in a box.
It’s not unusual in our profession for people to have challenges in their own companies that they help other companies overcome. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for it but for some of us, I put myself in a similar category to how you described yourself. One of the reasons that we’re in this work is because we get to communicate ideas. We get to be creative and come up with new things. It’s a different skillset. We can use that talent to help people who have this specific execution skillset to run a business and be better at it, but we have a different kind of business to do that. It was like being in that corporate world but not of it. That’s one of the advantages that folks like us can bring to our clients. Because of the world that we live in and the life that we live and all that, we bring in a fresh perspective as opposed to just being another corporate person. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just a different perspective.
We don’t have to be the smartest person on the block. Age comes with some wisdom and a lot of the wisdom is mistakes we made.
You said, “As a career person, I fell into my career.” I felt guilty because I’m a career person. You’re falling into your career gave you wisdom and lessons that you can capture and share with the rest of us so we can be more intentional about our careers. That’s the beauty of learning from our experience.
You gave me an idea.
What is it?
I write something about careers in the field of talent development. I wrote, fall in love with your piece of human capital, not with all of the human capital.
We’re not careful in all or nothing approach to many things. Your quote says, “Do what you love, love what you do.” If you see the quote behind me on the wall, it says, “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” There’s a whole thought process behind that. That doesn’t mean that you have to love everything that you do. What I’ll often tell people is I love my work. I don’t love everything about it. I don’t love the marketing side of things and the financial stuff. I could give you a whole long list of the things that I don’t love, but I have to do things that I don’t love in order to do the work that I love. The technical term for that is called being an adult.With age comes some wisdom. A lot of that wisdom comes from the mistakes we made. Click To Tweet
It’s not all or nothing. If there’s something about my team, my company, my work, my spouse or my cat that I don’t like, that doesn’t mean that I’m done. It means that’s the way life is. Overall, am I doing the things that feed my soul and that I’m making an impact on other people’s lives in a positive way? This has been fun. I’m so glad we had a chance to chat. For people who would like to learn more about what you do and stay in touch and find your books, what is the best place for them to go?
It’s BevKaye.com. Now it’s easy. Come visit. You’ll see, I call myself now a guide on the side and a sage on the stage. Those are the two halves of what I do. I’m not a coach, just a guide pulling out things when they might help clients in any way.
It’s been a great pleasure. You and I have a lot of friends in common. We have a whole body of work in common. Now, we have faces and voices to attach to the work. For the readers, thank you. Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.
- Love is Just Damn Good Business
- The Radical Leap
- Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em
- Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go
- Up is Not the Only Way
- Love Is the Killer App
- The War for Talent
- 1001 Ways to Reward Employees
- 1001 Ways to Energize Employees
- Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work
About Dr. Beverly Kaye
Dr. Beverly Kaye’s contributions for the past four decades have not only positively influenced clients and industry colleagues but have facilitated respect for the learning and performance industry overall. She is the author or co-author of five books on engagement and development, which include the Wall Street Journal best-seller Love ‘Emor Lose ‘Em, now out in its 6th edition.
Beverly’s books also include Love It, Don’t Leave It as well as Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss (all co-authored with Sharon Jordan Evans). Her best-selling book on alternative career paths Up is Not the Only Way: Rethinking Career Mobility (coauthored by Lindy Williams, and Lynn Cowart in 2017) builds on decades of research and work in the field. Her seminal book on employee retention Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go(co-authored with Julie Winkle Giulioni) was updated in a second edition, released in January 2019 by Berrett-Koehler.
Developing people to optimize their capacity is a compelling, strategic priority. Providing managers and employees with practical tools to engage in conversations has moved from being a nicety to a necessity. Dr. Kaye received the “Thought Leader Award” from the ISA (Association of Learning Providers) in March of 2018, the ATD Lifetime Achievement Award in May of 2018, and the BPI Lifetime Achievement Award in May of 2019.
ATD initially recognized her contribution to the field when in 2009 they designated Dr. Kaye a “Legend” – an award that is reserved for “pioneers and prophets” in the field whose ideas have endured over several decades. Most recently, The Institute for Management Studies, a company at the forefront of leadership development since 1974, recognized Dr. Beverly Kaye with its lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the field of career development, employee engagement and leadership.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the Love Is Just Damn Good Business community today: