FEATURE — “You Benedict Arnold!” Perhaps there is no name in American history so synonymous with traitor, and yet who was more pivotal in the formation of this nation than Benedict Arnold? Before he was a “Benedict Arnold,” he was Major General Benedict Arnold of the Continental Army.
Arnold enlisted early and helped seize the guns of Fort Ticonderoga that would be vital in ending the British occupation of Boston. He fought gallantly in Canada. And was instrumental in winning the Battle of Saratoga, perhaps the most critical battle of the whole war. All this, for which Arnold received no praise, honor or recognition.
At Saratoga, British General John Burgoyne was marching through upstate New York and Vermont, attempting to cut the colonies in half, thereby reducing opportunities for resupply or communication. Without the ability to coordinate efforts, the revolution would end. Burgoyne was stopped at the battles of Saratoga and was forced to surrender after Benedict Arnold acted to stop a flanking maneuver from the British, ignoring a command from his superior officer to do so. Because of the Continental victory at Saratoga, and Arnold’s quick thinking, the French joined the war on the side of the Americans. Within four years, the war would be essentially over.
Unfortunately, Arnold was injured at Saratoga. When asked where he was hit Arnold replied that he was shot in the leg but wished it was his heart.
Following his injury and recuperation, he was reassigned to take military command of Philadelphia where he was embroiled in scandals. The first was caused by his relationship with the daughter of a known loyaltist, whom he would later marry. The second was caused by his business affairs in the city. Although not illegal, they were ethically questionable. He requested a full court martial and was cleared of all but 2 minor charges.
Arnold took this as an insult, and in a heartbreaking turn of events, this hero for whom he sustained a life-altering leg injury would in only 3 years later betray his country. Why? Because in Arnold’s mind, the Americans had failed to appreciate all that he had sacrificed for their cause, under-compensated him and even humiliated him and maligned his honor.
There are many reasons why people choose to quit their job, but would you believe me if I say that it is the people who care most who end up quitting? These people see the problems confronting a business and how to solve them. Yet, because of their inability to execute those solutions they are tormented with feelings of doubt, resentment and frustration from missed opportunities.
Given enough time, these individuals stop relating to the business and no longer identify themselves as one of the team. They feel alienated from a culture that claims to want to solve problems and grow, make money, serve customers and just make people’s lives better but fails to do so when push comes to shove. So, they turn “Benedict Arnold” and resign.
So, what can you do to stop your MVPs from leaving the company? You should listen to their ideas, fall in love with your business again and give these caring employees an outlet for their ambition.
Like it or not, an employee-employer relationship is an equal partnership. Your employees deserve your respect. Part of that respect includes genuinely considering ideas and welcoming feedback. A client I’m working with had an employee come to him with a recommendation that is going to end up saving them over $1,000 per month once they finish implementing it. If my client had brushed that aside, he’d be $12,000 (or more) poorer per year.
But what if you can’t implement their idea? At least take some time to genuinely consider the idea before shooting it down. You may find that as you mull it over things may change and the idea could be adapted and implemented in an altered form. And even if it is a non-negotiable “no,” at least you respected them enough as a person to genuinely consider it.
Owning and operating a business can be a grind. We’ve all been there. After a while, it’s easy to just stop caring about your customers or what you’re doing. So, when you are faced with an employee who catches the vision you used to have, aligns with the mission you laid out and personifies the values your company espouses, it can be exhausting. And you just want to make their naivety and dedication to your business go away. After all, they don’t really have the full picture like you do, right?
Wrong! They’re not the problem. You are. One of my clients found himself in a similar situation. He got dangerously close to burnout and selling his company. We started working together and after we were done he had fallen in love with his business and customers again. We’d gotten him excited to go to work again and put him on track to make add an extra 50% in revenue.
Finally, give deeply caring employees an outlet for their ambition. They need a place where they can shine or feel and see their impact. This may be a new project or a leadership position. These employees need to feel like they are moving the ball down the field and their contributions are being appreciated.
Learn the lesson of Benedict Arnold, who in 1777 would never have been thought to care too little for the cause of independence. Respect your employees and listen to what they have to say. Refocus and reconnect with your vision, and ways to help these deeply caring employees to have a positive impact on your company. You’ll be grateful that you did when your most important employees pass up job offers because they love working with you.
Keep your sword sharp.
Written by ZACHARY STUCKI. Stucki is a business consultant based in St. George, Utah, with years of experience helping companies hit their targets and scale their businesses. He holds an MBA from Arizona State University and focuses on supplying clients with the latest solutions, as well as time-tested solutions garnered through human history. Contact Stucki at [email protected].
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