How the best leaders win top talent

The best leaders don’t have a retention problem

The job market is hot and highly competitive, and it’s expected to stay that way into the foreseeable future. In order to attract and retain top talent, you need to meet the expectations employees have today—many of which may be new to you if you’re stuck in the practices of the past.

It’s time to throw away “command and control,” offer individual choice and flexibility, and build equality and inclusiveness into your culture. Create the same positive experience inside your company that you undoubtedly provide on the customer level. I call this a “Camelot” culture, where leaders put their people first and “dare to care” about their employees on a holistic level.

The best leaders come closest to making Camelot a reality and establish a sustainable competitive edge in winning and keeping the great people they need to grow.  

Leading a Camelot culture  

Camelot cultures are led by people-centered leaders who share a number of important attributes—including a willingness to be both vulnerable and transparent, the building blocks of trust. These leaders connect deeply with their people and develop respectful relationships by telling the truth; showing competence and accountability; building trust through empowerment; listening deeply; encouraging innovation; and refraining from judgment while still being decisive. 

They feel genuine empathy, passion, and concern for the wellbeing of their people before anything else. They develop and convey clear guidelines for how to participate in work, expectations for each role, and how to communicate as a team. They regularly recognize effort and show people that they matter and that their thoughts, opinions, and contributions are valued. 

These are the things that create the positive and inspiring employee experience that people are looking for and that allow them to perform at their best.  

People choose to work with people, not companies 

A Camelot culture begins with how you treat candidates and extends throughout the lifecycle of every employee. You can list all of the factors that make up your Camelot culture to help persuade hesitant candidates, but that’s not enough. People need to feel what it’s like to work for you, and feeling is best explained through story. 

Tell candidates why you are in the business you are in, what your purpose is, and what Camelot means to you. They want to know in your own words. Tell an authentic, passionate story that reveals something about you as a human being and as a leader. And then listen. People are generally terrible at interviewing. Be delightfully different by making your interviews two-way conversations that are told in stories.  

Communicate frequently throughout the recruitment process. Show respect by keeping candidates informed about the process and when to expect decisions. Keep it top of mind that in our current, hot market, decision-making speed is critical. Candidates won’t wait days for you to follow up—and neither will employees. Continue to treat people in the same respectful way when you’ve successfully convinced the right candidate to join your Camelot culture by becoming an employee.   

The best leaders don’t have a retention problem. After all, when you’re working in Camelot, why would you ever want to leave? 

Kathleen Quinn Votaw Kathleen Quinn Votaw is CEO of TalenTrust. Her first book, Solve the People Puzzle; How High-Growth Companies Attract and Retain Top Talent, debuted in February 2016. Her firm has achieved several awards, including recognition from Inc.5000 in 2015 and 2016. She speaks frequently and advises CEOs on trends in talent and how to be strategic in developing a people strategy. Kathleen has served on several nonprofit boards including Colorado Companies to Watch and ACG-Denver. Reach Kathleen at or 303-838-3334.

Categories: Business Insights, Management & Leadership