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When an old person dies, a library burns.” – Amadou Hampaté Ba

This is a great African saying that means when knowledge carriers die, the information dies with them. When employees leave books burn, the longer they are with the organisation, the greater the institutional knowledge. (We were lucky to receive an advance copy of Whitney Johnson’s “Build an A-Team” where she discussed this).

Our people are an appreciating asset, the more we invest in them the better they become. Once we have hired for attitude and growth mindset, we can rest assured our companies will grow, but what if they leave? In that case, libraries burn.


In “The 5 languages of appreciation”, bestselling authors Dr Paul White and Gary Chapman tell us employee turnover can have a major impact on the US economy to the tune of $5 Trillion.

Labour turnover is a significant cause of declining productivity and sagging morale. When key salespeople leave a firm, they may take away major clients. Similarly, losing critical staff from other functions can have a negative impact on innovation, product development, consistency of service and cause major delays in terms of service delivery (Abbasi & Hollman, 2000).

The impact on productivity is immense with tangible costs including Termination, Advertising, Recruitment, Candidate travel, Interviews, Assignment, Orientation, Training and Relocation. What we often do not count is the time investment by our own staff and the opportunity cost of that time.

Would we rather be moving forward or working to get back to zero?


International best-selling author and psychologist Daniel Kahneman talks of two selves. The experiencing self is a fast, in-the-moment experiencer. This self is concerned solely with the quality of “experiencing” our life experiences. The narrating/remembering self is the slow, rational, thinker, who narrates “the story’ of our experiences.

The latter narrating self mostly wins out. The “narrating self” adapts the real story, embellishes the story and edits it. In an aim of self-preservation, we always tell the best possible account to both ourselves and to others.

This is what we do when employees leave. We don’t look at the real reasons.


When people leave organisations, there is an assumption/delusion that they have left for more money. A Gallup survey tells us 89% managers believe their regrettable departures leave for more money. In reality, 88% of employees leave for other reasons – most often for psychological reasons: not valued, not trusted, not appreciate, poor communication and lack of support.

89% V 12% is a huge delusion v reality gap. This is a case of the “narrating self” speaking loudest to drown out the real issues, to silence the gnawing feeling that there are bigger issues at play. The pill that narrates an employee leaving for more money is an easier one to swallow than facing the real issues. People always leave people, an organisation is a mass of people.

“The business of business is people – yesterday, today and forever.” – Herb Kelleher, CEO of South West Airlines


Rather than papering over the cracks and dealing with the impact of employee turnover it is always a better choice to invest in training our people. We need to invest in the cure and not the symptom. The skills needed in today’s workforce are very different from the skills of the past. These skills are often difficult to quantify, but there impact is immense.

CFO to CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing people & they leave us?”

CEO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

The world’s best leaders consistently work on being leaders. While some leadership skills are innate, leaders are not born. Leaders are open to learning, open to growing themselves and their people.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” John F. Kennedy

If you would like to LEARN MORE about creating a high performance team culture in your business, grab a FREE copy of Diana Tapp’s new book “Unleash Your Team’s Potential”. CLICK HERE to order.