Why Your Best People Leave


One thing I learned early in my career as a manager was to take the time to get to know my employees.

Working in a call center meant that your employees wouldn’t be sticking around too long. Answering the telephone and talking to customers wasn’t a career that too many people would select out of a college course catalog. I knew it was an interim stop for many of them but that didn’t stop me from trying to make it fun and a joy to come to work.

If you think about your business or the company, you work for…maybe you aren’t saving lives like a nurse or building technology that helps people breath…but that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing shouldn’t have some meaning behind it.

At one of the call centers our representatives answered phones all day long. And honestly, they weren’t the nicest of calls. People only called when there was a problem. They never called to say… “hey, you all are doing a great job. Keep it up.”

Have you ever heard of the ‘FISH Philosophy’? I came across this book written by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen. The book called Fish: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results came into my life at just the right time. I could see people dragging themselves into work each morning. It wasn’t something they enjoyed.

We had a decent culture for the most part, but motivation was starting to suffer and the harder I tried to find that magic piece of the business that would motivate and energize people to love and see the value in their work…the more I kept striking out.

So, after I read FISH it occurred to me…that maybe it wasn’t the company value I needed to focus on as much as it was the work and the team.

I decided to focus on my team instead of the company or the customers.

The FISH Philosophy gave me the perfect foundation! You see FISH is based off the Seattle Fish Market. The entire philosophy started by learning what motivated a bunch of fish Mongers who worked with fish all day to love their jobs.

John Christensen stumbled across this group of men who were throwing fish around the market and selling them to the public. He was curious about what motivated them to come to work every day…and not only come to work but to have fun and enjoy their jobs…in a fish market non-the-less.

You see the FISH Philosophy is based on four simple principles:

Be There

Be emotionally present for people. It’s a powerful message of respect that improves communication and strengthens relationships.


Tap into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind, as in “Let’s play with that idea!” You can bring this mindset to everything you do.

Make Their Day

Find simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful, memorable way. It’s about contributing to someone else’s life—not because you want something, but because that’s the person you want to be. 

Choose Your Attitude

Take responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Your choice affects others. Ask yourself: “Is my attitude helping my team or my customers? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?

The same thing happened with my team that happened in the fish market. When they started supporting each other and paying attention to their attitude it started to show in their customer service skills with the customers. Their productivity started to improve and so did the culture in the call center.

But most of all…we had fun and we enjoyed working together!

Here’s my message for you today…it doesn’t really matter what you do…whether you work in customer service or market fish for a living…when you can make people enjoy coming to work because they feel empowered, cared for, listened too and valued, you can keep your best employees.

And even if their time with you is limited as they move toward reaching their career goals…help them leave you better than they came to you.

Help them understand the importance of being emotionally present for people and why it’s so important in building better relationships.

Show them that it’s okay to have fun and be productive at the same time. Never take life so seriously that they forget to stop and enjoy the journey.

Help them be the person who makes someone’s day by contributing to other’s lives in a productive way and for the right reasons.

And most important help them to understand that when they choose the right attitude they choose the right mindset to succeed!