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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

How to Avoid Employee Turnover and Have a Rockstar Team

Over the past several weeks, we have explored the steps to scaling your business. In the first phase, Align, you gain insights into your top customers, purpose, Big Promise, and Queen Bee Role. Then, in the second phase, Integrate, you take the clarity you gained and define Primary Jobs and KRAs for each team member, optimize everyone’s time, and capture systems for stabilization and growth.

In the final phase, Accelerate, you’ll balance your team, identify and remove bottlenecks, and incorporate vacations from and for your business. You will become relevant to your business in a new, more critical way. You will no longer be the heart of your business. You will be the soul.

The first step in the Accelerate phase is balancing the team. We have already discussed defining Primary Jobs and creating KRAs for each team member. Today is about getting the right people in the right roles, doing the right things in the right amount, and then doing it right.

Let’s break that down: “The right people in the right roles” means that you know the super strengths of your team or their zones of genius. Patrick Lencioni discusses this in his book The 6 Types of Working Genius. Team members need to exercise their God-given talents to keep them motivated, happy, and productive. Some team members may need to change roles. When a person is great at something and loves doing it, they will excel. Unfortunately, business owners and leaders do not know the strengths of their teams. Determine your team member’s strengths and use this knowledge to put them in a position where they will excel.

“...doing the right things…” means you have identified what your quilt shop needs and doesn't need. Trash what it doesn’t need so that no one is distracted by those tasks. Transfer the work to the right people. Trim the work that can be done more efficiently. And treasure the work that needs to stay with them. When you do that, you align the right people with the right things.

“. . . in the right amounts . . .” means people and businesses both need balance. All the Doing in the world will fall short without a clear direction. And all the direction in the world is useless if no one is taking action on the strategy. Even if they are great at something, your team needs balance and their own appropriate level of variety. Target an overall balance of 80% Doing, 2% Deciding, 8% Delegating, and 10% Designing time for your company.

“...doing it right…” is all about education. Provide your team members with the relevant captured system. Have a clearly defined goal and a process to follow. Educate them on their Primary Jobs, what the QBR is, and the need to serve and protect it.

In his book Clockwork, Mike Michalowizc shares a conversation he once had with Darren Virassammy. Darren shared, “The mistake organizations make, both big and small, is that they see everyone as basically the same. If you can talk well at an interview, you are hired. If you can [brown nose] well once you’re hired, you get a promotion. The work matters, but the measurement is simply whether you can do an adequate job in the time allotted. What’s missing is the realization that every person has an extraordinary talent. The person who turns red-faced in an interview and can barely spit the words out may be the best analytical mind in the world. That person who talks about the importance of serving others may not be a good salesperson who is motivated by numbers but may be a powerful customer service person who is motivated by impact.”

He continued, “You need to know what people are inherently strong at and then match them to the role in your business where they apply that strength as much as possible. In other words, if you measure a fish by how well it can climb a tree and a monkey by how long it can breathe underwater, you have set up both for failure. But if you measure the fish by its ability to breathe underwater and the monkey by its ability to climb a tree, you will find they excel.”

So, how do you get the right people in the right role? By asking them. Okay, it might be a little more involved than that. You can pay for each team member to take the Working Genius Assessment or other assessments like the StrengthsFinder Assessment (which I recommend if you have the resources), or you can really talk with them. Ask each team member what they love to do. For example, “What are your three favorite things you have ever done at work?” Or “If you were able to have any job on the planet, doing anything you want, what would you do?” Or “Ten years from now, what is the perfect job you see yourself doing?” Or “If you had all the money in the world and simply wanted to work for the joy of working, what would you do?” Seek out their interests. Seek out their hobbies. Seek out what gives them joy. Because if it gives them joy, it is usually their strength.

One other strength detector, and perhaps the most effective detector of all, is observation. Watch your team members at work. What do they naturally excel at doing? What do they want to do more of? What do they want to learn more about? Those are all likely indicators of their strengths.

For my own business, I use all of those methods. I talked with each member, had each team member take the Working Genius and DISC Assessments, and observed their performance, looking for their strengths. Knowing each person’s strengths allows me to move the right people into the right roles.

Now that you are working on making your quilt shop more efficient, have identified your QBR, and are organizing your team to protect and serve the QBR, you’ll notice that your team may need to shift roles to accommodate these changes. This is where you will sometimes get pushback from your team. People may worry about their job security or have difficulty letting go of their old roles because doing “less” makes them look like less of a team player, although the exact opposite is true. As you go through this process, keep in mind that transitions can be difficult for some people. I’ll share how to ensure that you have the right people in the right roles, doing the right things in the right amounts, and also address some potential issues that may come up in the process.

Most small businesses fail to scale. Why? Because they fail to trust the people they hired to run the business. Why? Because they hire too fast. They don’t take the time to truly vet the potential team member. I get it. You desperately need the help. You are burning the candle at both ends. But you need to take your time.

Think about marriage. Chances are you don’t just go up to a random person on the street and ask them to marry you. If you did that, you would probably get slapped. You don’t just get married. More likely, you go on a date or two or two hundred. You probably spent time learning about each other. There is a courtship—usually.

But when it comes to hiring, decisions are often made way too quickly. You know a potential team member for twenty-four hours and feel that is adequate to enter into an agreement to work together for the foreseeable future. You will literally spend more time with this team member than with your spouse and yet spend so little time vetting them. I recommend that you interview each candidate at least twice. I know companies that interview candidates multiple times because they understand the need to get this right. You interview them first and then have the team member they will be working with interview them. Compare notes to ensure they are a good culture fit, and this gives you a second pair of eyes to evaluate the potential team member.

Once hired, move slowly. Build the trust gradually but start immediately. The goal is for your new team member to become fully autonomous, and to make that happen, start with low-risk transfers. Give them new work at a pace they can manage and measure their output as you do. As they can take on more, transfer bigger and bigger responsibilities to them. When you see indications that they may be overwhelmed, slow down or stop the transfer of new responsibilities. Give a bit, measure a bit, give a bit more, measure a bit more. But no matter what, try to get them to do something on their own within the first week of employment. That will be a confidence builder for both of you.

Ensuring that all of your team is in alignment with your Big Promise and understands your QBR will help you build the trust you need to let go of responsibilities and begin to move people into the right positions.

Understand that each position, such as receptionist, salesperson, or something else, has a list of jobs or tasks required of that position. This list creates a round hole, yet most applicants are square pegs. Finding someone who has traits that allow them to excel in every job or task that the position requires is unlikely. You are better served evaluating the strong traits your current people and new applicants have with and then matching those traits with the different jobs or tasks, regardless of position titles. For example, someone who has excellent phone skills may be great for some aspects of reception work, sales work, and customer service. At the same time, their disheveled presentation may make them unsuitable for other aspects of reception work, sales work, and customer service work. Your goal: match people’s best traits to the jobs and tasks that need those traits.

In this next exercise, you will conduct a Job Traits Analysis. You can get a free template linked in the description.

1. In the first column, fill in all the jobs and tasks for a position in your company. Do this for all the positions you have in your company, including your own.

2. In the next column labeled Excel Trait, enter the primary behavior that would allow a person to excel at this job/task. For example, if a job/task is “Managing inbound calls from customers,” the Excel Trait might be “Professional and confident voice” or “Empathetic and clear communication.” Don’t get into minutiae like “Ability to dial on keypad” or “Can transfer calls.” Yes, that stuff is necessary, but what we are looking for here is not the skills required (you can train on skills). We are looking for inherent ability and enthusiasm that is difficult or impossible to teach. Just write down one trait. What is the one critical trait that moves that task forward the most successfully?

3. In the third column, labeled Importance: This column is for the impact it will have on the company. Mark each task as one of these five levels: QBR, Primary Job, High, Medium, Land ow. QBR is the most critical level. Primary Job is their most important personal responsibility. High are the most important tasks that must be done as long as the Primary Job is done. Medium and Low are necessary but not critical functions.

4. In the next column, the Current Person Serving Job column, List any people who currently do this job or task.

5. Then fill in the next column (Best Person Serving Job), and list the person (or people) who, based on the match-up with the trait, is best suited to doing this work. Start this matching process with the QBR, then the Primary Job, and so on. Remember, people are not their titles. People are their traits. For example, you are not seeking a receptionist. You are seeking “The Great Communicator,” so identify who that person is and match them with the tasks and jobs that need a great communicator.

6. Then move people to the most critical tasks, starting with the most important first—the QBR. Match the person with a strength trait to the job that needs that trait. Move and observe.

As such, we get rid of the traditional pyramid structure of organization charts, which focus on seniority and power/position. A scaled company is not about the old pyramid structure; instead, it uses a web of connections, matching strength where strength is needed, resulting in a network structured like a brain.

When we love doing something, we’ll invest a lot of time and energy into it. It gives us energy instead of drawing energy away from us. Now, imagine you have an entire team of employees who get energy from working at your shop. Instead of finishing the workday drained and dragging, they feel empowered. Wouldn’t that be magical? Don’t you want your team members excited to come to work because they get to do what they love to do? You can have this—if you align their joy to their job. Match the tasks to the people with the talents. Match their work to their wants as best as you can. That is a company people love to work for and help grow.

For a business to stay afloat and grow, it must be actively doing things that its customers value. Designing work is about creating the best way to do things your customers value and have your company do those things automatically.

As we have discussed before, the company should strive for 80 percent of their combined time in Doing, 2 percent in Deciding, 8 percent in Delegating, and 10 percent in Designing the work.

That means a one-person team, just the owner, is the entire company and should target this time breakdown. The 10-person team combined should target this breakdown, meaning some individuals may spend 99 percent of their time Doing and only 1 percent Deciding, while others spend 50 percent Doing, 2 percent Deciding, 12 percent Delegating, and 36 percent Designing.

1. Use the Time Analysis you did for yourself and your team to figure out the current ratio for your company. Weigh the amount of time they work for the company in relation to the total company. For example, if you work eighty hours a week and another employee works eight hours a week, your work is weighted ten times more than the employee’s. A template is linked in the description.

2. Now, look at what your people are doing as compared to what they want to do. Play with models where you move people around to leverage their strengths while keeping the company in that 80/2/8/10 zone.

When you are ready to try out your new model, have trial runs and tests. Let people sample the new work to make sure it suits them. Shift deliberately but slowly and communicate throughout. Tell your team how you are trying to rebalance people's work so they are happier with the work and the efficiency increases. Prepare them for bumps and bruises in the transition. And ask for their active feedback on making the new balance even better.

When people master something, they get bored doing it over time. That’s why Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid took up the art of bonsai; he needed something other than karate to do. By rebalancing your team, you keep challenges in front of your team that still leverage their skills and wants.

Whitney Johnson, in her book Build an A-Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve, reveals that the ideal mix for a balanced team is to have the majority learning, a few starting, and a few who have mastered it all. The majority who are learning are your producers; the masters can help the learners along, and the newbies are the ones who can challenge the entrenched ideas and ask, “Why do we do it this way?”

Balancing your team is a living process. Look at it every quarter. The goal is to get more and more of what they love to do on your team member’s plates. It may not always be possible, but over time, the goal is to create a “dream job” for every member of your team. As this process evolves, your team will grow and change. In your quarterly review, make sure to consider how many of your employees are in learning mode and how many are in mastery mode.

Finally, change is hard. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that, but I’m bringing it up because, after implementing the steps we talked about, you will surely be feeling it. Even when business is booming, and even when you have more time to focus on Designing your shop, change can be stressful—especially when you’re changing the balance of your team. Your team will also feel that change, and they may feel insecure about their new positions or worry that they may be eliminated entirely.

Remember, a balanced team isn’t just a retention tool for your existing talent; it helps you recruit talent as well. Your company’s commitment to helping your team love their work is hugely attractive to prospective employees.

For those people who will remain part of your team, give them reassurance. Listen to their concerns. Affirm their places on your team. Remember to take the time to breathe during this process. Yes, change is hard. It is also going to get you what you want: a business that runs itself.

Balancing your team will allow you to scale your business, avoid employee turnover, and have a rockstar team!

What strength gaps do you have? What changes do you need to make? Tell me in the comments below or email me at

Here is the link to the free resources:


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