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Stay interviews hold potential pitfalls. Most of these potential problems occur when interviews are conducted inefficiently. The following 13 traps should be avoided whenever possible:

fullsizeoutput_380e1. Fear of response. Managers who are reluctant to use stay interviews often fear that the employee responses will present them with no-win situations based on specific areas of concern, such as pay or promotion. The proper approach toward this inappropriate fear is to rely on prepared probes, as well as solutions that are reliable responses to these specific employee concerns.

2. Bringing up performance issues. Unless an employee’s responses indicate an ambition that goes beyond the scope of his or her performance, issues related to job performance should be avoided–particularly if they have not been discussed previously. If an employee uses the phrase “You never told me that,” the stay interview is effectively concluded.

3. Tipping the agenda. Since managers will have an “Important to Them” list for reference, there may be a temptation for them to direct the conversation to items on the prepared list. The employee must be the driver of any good stay interview’s content.

4. Being sketchy about resources. A manager must know the full details of the company’s resources and be prepared to reference and offer them during stay interviews.

5. Forcing meetings. The initial drive toward conducting stay interviews should originate from team leaders, not from the top levels of management on down.

6. Conquering silence. A manager should leave ample space in the conversation for an employee to pause, reflect, and then continue speaking. A manager who speaks simply to relieve tension or break an awkward pause is redirecting the flow of the interview and discouraging the employee from opening up.

7. Losing focus. Even if an employee’s conversation is so dull that it is sleep inducing, a manager must remain on task. One helpful hint is to write the same phrase over and over on a notepad in order to remain alert.

8. Becoming defensive. Rather than responding to perceived criticisms, a manager must remain focused on probes, allowing the employee to control the flow of conversation. Listening, being respectful, and asking probing questions establishes employee trust by proving that the employee’s concerns have been heard.

9. Throwing the company under the bus. Executives or other higher ups should never be blamed for conflicts, policies, or problems. The best response to criticism of the company or company executives is to state confidence in the knowledge and decision-making capacities of top officers.

10. Solving quickly. The objective of a stay interview is to probe deeply, solve completely. Quick solutions are seldom effective. Managers must ask and listen to gain valuable employee information.

11. Building a poor stay plan. It is vital for employees to be involved in follow-up actions and the development of stay plans.

12. Dropping the ball. Managers must honor all commitments made in stay plans, including deadlines.

13. Breaking trust. Any statement or action that fails to promote trust or offer a solution to trust-breaking issues is a detriment to a stay interview.


Conducting Interview



Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 7.04.24 pmOpening remarks during the stay interview are focused on three objectives: informing the employee about the meeting’s purpose, narrowing the employee’s potential suggestions by limiting expectations, and ensuring that the employee understands that words spoken during the interview in no way constitute a legally binding contract.

Finnegan classifies employees into five types: satisfied, mystery, low performing, overly ambitious, and high performing. In each interview, the manager must be sure to probe deeply and solve completely. The following five scenarios illustrate how a stay interview can be used with nearly any type of employee:

1. Satisfied. Shelia is a competent employee who has never expressed dissatisfaction with her sales position. During her stay interview, Shelia says she gains energy from coming to her job each day and wants to remain in her current position. Management’s best move in this scenario is to repeat back Shelia’s key points to her and close the interview by encouraging her to come forward in the future if she should have any issues, ideas, or concerns.

2. Mystery. David was hired as a computer programmer after graduating from a top-tier university. Management believed he would be a hard worker and key hire. David’s stay interview reveals that he is uncomfortable with people but deeply motivated by programming and by gaining new knowledge. Management should provide David with new opportunities to expand his knowledge.

3. Low performer. Robert is a department head at an assisted-living center who is a plodder and whose job is hanging in the balance. Robert’s stay interview shows that he has lost faith in the company’s mission. Management must use this opportunity to encourage Robert, and remind him that other roles exist in the company for employees who remain focused and motivated.

4. Ambitious. Tyler was hired six months prior for a call center team. A medium performer, Tyler shows ambitions to move into management. Tyler’s stay interview shows that he is hungry to move up in the company but lukewarm on making improvements in his performance. Management should provide Tyler with company resources related to increasing leadership skills, while also reminding Tyler of his obligations to master his current assignments.

5. High performer. Tanya is a prize employee who works in quality control. After only two years at the plant, she has become the de facto leader in the plant manager’s absence. During her stay interview, Tanya refers to a set of notes and offers a range of beneficial ideas to improve plant efficiency. In this scenario, management must accept that Tanya may be a continually challenging employee, but one that is highly valuable for ensuring managerial success.

The important takeaways from these scenarios are that some employees are content with things as they are; some have more ambition than loyalty; a stay interview can push a mediocre employee to a productive one simply by demonstrating management’s interest; some quiet employees have to be prodded for basic information; and high performers often have egos to match.

Interview – Core Skills


Four core skills are needed to conduct an effective stay interview:fullsizeoutput_3610

1. Careful listening. Effective listening involves more than a person’s ears. Eye contact, body language, and verbal responses are crucial cues for demonstrating attention and authenticity. One tool is to strategically use the phrase: “Let me tell you what I heard you say to see if I got it right.” Another key is to restate the employee’s emotions in words that show comprehension and empathy.

2. Taking notes. Pen and paper are more useful for note taking than electronic devices. Notes allow management to capture all critical points for later reference. Taking notes also shows employees that their opinions are of genuine importance. It also aids in keeping similar employee comments separate and distinct.

3. Probing. Questions such as “Can you give me an example?” or “Can you tell me more about…?” are open-ended and allow employees the freedom to offer new and important information. Probing can discover the root of an employee’s urge to terminate his or her employment.

4. Owning up to corporate decisions and corporate responsibilities. Managers must demonstrate support for company policies while also maintaining trust with workers. Good managers must be able to state honestly that they support executive decisions and that they believe executives make decisions based on knowledge that is unavailable to management and employees.





Leadership Session with Service Sector by Anubha on Interviewing Skills

Before conducting a stay interview, it is essential for a manager to follow a nine-step preparation plan. Each premeeting step is designed to increase the manager’s understanding of employee needs while strengthening employee commitment.

1. Plan. When first preparing for the stay interview, a manager should make a list with two columns: one for what is important for the employee, and one for what the manager believes. The latter column is simply for topics the manager might like to introduce if the employee does not. The contents of the two columns should be kept separate; what is important to employees is what should be stressed. Two potential detours exist at this stage: The employee will introduce unforeseen topics during interview, or the stay interview will somehow devolve into a routine performance review.

2. Have a clean slate. The employee sets the agenda for a stay interview. This means that management must refrain from directing the topic of conversation. An interviewer should not project his or her personal ideas onto the meeting’s agenda.

3. Devise questions. Stay interview questions should be open-ended so that employees feel free to expound on their feelings and opinions. A question is different from a probe, which should be used to gain information from the employee regarding potential solutions to problems. Five specific questions function as ideal probes during a stay interview: (1) What do you look forward to? (2) What are you learning? (3) Why do you stay here? (4) When was the last time you thought about leaving? (5) What would make work better for you?

4. Have resources close at hand. Reference to existing programs that are designed to retain employees should be at the ready during a stay interview. A good manager can match a company program to an employee need during the interview.

5. Move past fear. A good rule of thumb to follow during a stay interview is to “probe deeply, solve completely.” Understanding is the first priority for management; employee feedback should be met with openness and genuine concern.

6. Invite and schedule. The manager should let employees know that 30-minute interviews are to be conducted on an individual basis in the near future. The first should be scheduled with an employee who is more or less comfortable in his or her position and is compatible with management. The next interviews should be with the most valued employees; then with those who perform well but who may be considering leaving.

7. Choose a setting. When searching for new information from employees, it is crucial to select an environment where they feel comfortable and secure. Formality–or lack thereof–should be considered. It is generally a better idea to conduct a stay interview outside of the office in order to loosen the employee’s sense of subordination.

8. Gather equipment. A stay interview requires either an electronic device or paper for keeping notes. During the meeting, the manager needs to make detailed notes regarding key conversation items to use for crafting a stay plan. Taking notes also clearly demonstrates the manager’s attention and concern to the employee.

9. Envision success. The premeeting materials consist of a two-columned list, a clean slate, five researched questions, resources about employee programs, guidelines for moving past fear, and a detailed plan for invitations and schedules for targeted stay interviews with each employee.



Leaders know that if a task does not lead to valuable results then it is a waste of time. Leaders should only work on what is most important. Even if a leader is doing something great, if it is not in their key results area, it is a waste of time. To prioritize, leaders can ask themselves four questions:

  1. Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 8.05.35 pmWhat things contribute the most to the organization?
  2. What are the key result areas that should be focused on?
  3. What is it that only the leader can do?
  4. What is the most effective use of time?

Leaders can use the ABCDE method to help them prioritize tasks:

*The most important tasks are labeled “A” and get done first.

*Tasks labeled “B” should be done, but are not the most important.

*”C” is for tasks that would be nice to complete.

*Tasks that can be delegated to others, are labeled “D.”

*Any tasks labeled “E” need to be eliminated.



If failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn lessons and make advances, it will result in positive outcomes. Individuals are evolutionarily hardwired to fear failure. The biological circuitry humans have developed results in the magnification of negative information and experience to the detriment of positive information and experience. Van Rooy advocates a type of learned optimism, where concerted thought and effort is put into pulling out the bright points of failure and working them into the fabric of a career trajectory.img_1500-e1563419831257.jpg

Not all failures are created equal. Failure can be broken down into three categories:

  1. Preventable failures are one-dimensional. The only lesson to be learned is to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
  2. Failures driven by complexity can result in important lessons learned.
  3. Intelligent failures at the edges of human knowledge can create learned lessons with wide-ranging impact.

While the self-examination that inevitably follows personal and professional mistakes can be painful and humiliating, individuals can emerge from such reflections with greater insights into their limitations and greater knowledge on how to hone their efforts and learn from their missteps. Professionals should ask themselves questions after every failure to understand the situation and make needed corrections.

Failure is not inevitable, and a tendency to see it as inevitable reduces necessary risk taking and puts a cap on courage. Failure should be accepted, dealt with, and learned from. Failure is not permanent, but is simply a helpful transitory stage to the next accomplishment on a career trajectory. Failure should be put in its proper place.



page20prismBuilding and managing a trajectory involves breaking down professional goals into manageable steps. Everyone is familiar with the experience of dreaming big, but many people get lost in the execution. Setting goals is the first step in achieving a goal-oriented career trajectory. Difficult but attainable goals consistently result in the greatest success, but there is a tension between the hard and the impossible. If goals are too difficult, motivation is lost and individuals are discouraged from making future attempts. Professionals should set goals for the near future, as goals extrapolated too far out do not exert much influence.

Goals are best achieved through small, incremental progress. Patience can be a tricky subject to master, but it is well worth the effort. Most goals are not achieved in a rush of energy; they are reached over time as individuals put in day-to-day effort. Specifying intermediary milestones is a good way to measure progress. Professional choices are best made after careful consideration rather than through knee-jerk reactions to every new development. Incorporating the principle of delayed gratification into one’s goals will result in increased willpower and avoidance of an instant-reaction feedback loop.

While progress is best achieved in small increments after thoughtful exploration, that does not mean individuals should paralyze themselves by considering all options and refusing to move forward. Individuals must identify the right opportunities and seize them at the right time. While the decisiveness and responsibility this entails may seem overwhelming, a carefully mapped trajectory can provide the information needed to make good choices in a timely manner. As individuals think big, act small, and move quick, their confidence and ability will increase.



Talent does not automatically equate to success. The key ingredient in crafting a beneficial career trajectory is persistence. Persistence separates the great from the mediocre. Persistent individuals translate motivation and tenacity into personal effort. How a person internalizes motivation and where that motivation comes from are crucial in determining persistence. Extrinsic motivation has a short shelf life. Persistence is best achieved via intrinsic motivation, or those internal factors that make up individual passions and give sustainable drive to outward actions.

Success is maximized when aided by passion and enthusiasm. However, overenthusiasm can impair performance just as easily as a lack of enthusiasm. People should seek a balanced enthusiasm, which will help them achieve their goals in a measured, sustainable manner.

When achieved, persistence can be a differentiating factor in work and life. In professional workspaces, there is often a range restriction imposed by the hiring process that ensures employees are somewhat similar in talents and qualities. When one-half of the success equation is shared by everyone else in the office, it can be hard to stand out. Persistence has consistently proven to be a primary differentiating quality in work environments, and it is a primary ingredient in any successful career trajectory.



Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 7.40.05 pmThe importance of feedback as a tool for personal change and professional development cannot be overstated. Deep feedback involves seeking out substantive, often critical advice on performance, attributes, and style. Asking for this type of feedback can be a distressing experience, especially in a culture conditioned to preserve self-esteem at all costs. The value of deep feedback, though, outweighs the possible unpleasantness of incurring a hit to one’s ego.

A common mistake made by employees in the modern workplace is simply neglecting to ask for deep feedback in the first place. It is easy to avoid the harsh light of honest feedback by never seeking it out, but this strategy leads to complacency and professional mediocrity. People tend to overestimate the quality of their own performance, so avoiding deep feedback can leave them in an echo chamber of their own making, blissfully unaware of the way their work is perceived by those around them. Overcoming personal resistance to deep feedback is a key aspect of improvement and advancement.

The mere provision of feedback, even honest feedback, does not end the inquiry. How a person responds to feedback dictates how much it will be internalized. People can choose to either personalize the feedback and react destructively, or they can depersonalize the advice and not see it as an attack on their entire identity. No matter how eager a person is for feedback, a destructive reaction will make others unwilling to provide more feedback in the future.

People should view feedback as a compass, or something that will keep them on the straight and narrow. Carving out time to ask for feedback, internalizing it properly, taking advantage of mentorship opportunities, and being attuned to unconscious feedback from others’ actions and body language can allow individuals to capitalize on input and transform their career trajectories.



Constructing a workable, tenacious career trajectory will result in sustained success over time. Individuals who put the effort, wisdom, and willpower into planning their professional futures will become positive outliers, or people who distinguish themselves from the crowd. Becoming a positive outlier requires an avoidance of rigidity and a constant eye to the changing future. Individuals operating at full capacity may not be the best or brightest in the room, but they will achieve sustained success based on their proven track records of excellent work.

Everyone ultimately controls his or her own success. Achieving full potential requires harnessing the power of self-esteem and positive thinking. Professionals should consistently and willfully visualize positive outcomes. Every significant challenge that comes down the professional pipe can be thought through and dealt with in advance, as positive outcomes are willed into existence and alternative or worst-case scenarios are dreamed up and dealt with. Individuals who put in the prep work of thoroughly visualizing challenges will be in a great position to respond to every possible factor thrown their way.

Visualization must be accompanied by self-efficacy, or a real belief in the inevitability of one’s success. High levels of self-efficacy generate a positive feedback loop, resulting in a higher sense of self-confidence and a greater likelihood of positive results. Self-efficacy can result in self-fulfilling prophecies, where positive expectations create positive outcomes. Positive expectations, when properly and realistically maintained, can result in a cycle of perpetual success where excellent results are visualized, worked toward, and achieved. Much of the energy needed to achieve this cycle comes from having an internal rather than external locus of control. Individuals who cultivate an internal locus of control accept and take responsibility for their failures and successes, while externally-oriented people consistently look to outside circumstances.

To achieve sustained success and truly enjoy it, individuals must align efforts with passions. Success can be achieved outside the realm of personal desires, but the best career trajectories come when individuals put their efforts toward activities they truly love. By cultivating passion and applying positive lessons to career development, anyone can construct a remarkable career trajectory.