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April 2, 2018 How To

How To: Stop the exodus of promising young leaders from Maine?

Jim Bouchard

The most honest answer I can give you on how to stop the flow of young people out of Maine is you can't. Young people by nature have more of a yearning for adventure. They want to get out and see the world and these days the world is more accessible than ever before.

Maine is not unique. I work with many businesses and some specific sectors all over the world that are particularly vulnerable to this outflow of aspiring and emerging leaders. This often results in a leadership gap, which will inevitably become an urgent and critical problem.

What can you do in your organization to try and keep good people? And what can you do to attract young people from “away” that see Maine as the destination for their next opportunity?

1. Involve the target group in the process

Organizations still too often try to impose top-down solutions. You want to attract and keep young leaders? Get them involved in committees and task forces for how best to do it!

Aspiring and emerging leaders should be involved in designing compensation models, benefit packages and innovation strategies. The more involved they are, the more you will find solutions their peers will respond to — and the more likely they'll stay around a little longer as well.

2. Give them opportunities to learn, grow, develop — and lead

Leadership is sharing, and two of the most important things you can share are power and authority. Give young people the opportunity to participate in meaningful projects. Give them the authority to lead specific tasks and groups.

Provide ongoing professional and personal development training, and mentoring. Research clearly shows that the most effective motivators are purpose, autonomy and mastery. Training and development programs are essential in cultivating these key drivers in your culture.

You may not always have a formal position of authority open, but you always have problems that need solving and opportunities for people to learn and grow — if you're willing to share.

3. Earn their respect, trust and loyalty

Emphasis on the word “earn.” I still hear leaders talking about “expecting” or even “demanding” respect, trust and loyalty. No — to be genuine, these things must be earned.

This means being consistent and honest. It means leading by example — walking the walk.

Most of all it means demonstrating courage, compassion and wisdom in your own leadership. People work harder — and stay longer where they respect and trust their leaders and they know those leaders truly care.

None of these steps guarantee that any particular individual will stay. I can tell you from our workshop experience, however, that many if not most organizations have room for improvement in all these areas. You'll have more satisfied and productive people for as long as they're with you.

The more willing you are to embrace and implement these strategies, the more likely you'll earn the respect, trust and loyalty of the people you serve.

Jim Bouchard is a speaker, media personality and author of “The Sensei Leader” and “Think Like a Black Belt.” For more: or

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