Have you ever led a project that went south because you lost a “key resource”? The architect, the product owner, the super-user, your go-to person?

Regardless of their role, losing good people that know everything there is to know about your project, hurts in every way – in time, cost and quality.

What makes me sad is that most project turnover can be easily avoided. All it takes is for you to change your perspective and put the importance of people on the same level playing field as your project.

Does this sound like a project manager that you would like to be? THEN READ ON!



Organisations already know how important it is to have engaged staff that feel motivated to perform when they walk in every morning. Research from Gallup shows that organisations with more engaged staff have 10% higher customer ratings, a 21% increase in productivity, and 41% fewer defects when compared with bottom-quartile organisations.

You would want these metrics on your project, right?

Surprisingly though, project management is more focussed on stakeholder engagement over employee engagement, and what makes this even more worrying is that 70% of the variance in engagement is created by you – their manager.

So what mistakes are you making that makes great team members quit?





Your best project people are always your busiest. They have gotten to where they are by working hard, being proactive and always being there, for you and others. But nothing burns good people out than being overloaded without anything in return.

A team member that has been assigned to your project from elsewhere in your organisation is probably doing more for you, for the same pay. They might be leading a part of your project without any sign of career progression or change in status. What exactly does all this work achieve for them?

When 54% of top performers quit because of lack of career advancement or pay/benefits, if you can’t answer it they will find someone else who will.



Top performers are often your silent achievers; they get on with it expecting that a pat on the back will come, sooner or later. But when it doesn’t come you start to draw down on their satisfaction, and sooner or later the account ends up in deficit.

This is when your achievers start looking for other recognition –  someone that will pay them a higher salary, give them a promotion or just make them feel better about themselves.



Your top performers are achievers because they are goal driven. They get a kick out of delivering what they said they would, for leading and achieving their agreed milestones. Changing the goal posts puts this ability to achieve at risk. Defining a new goal post without consulting them and you’re ignoring their desire to succeed. Do this too many times, and they will find somewhere that they can be successful.



Most project people are problem solvers; it’s why they are picked for projects in the first place. Telling a problem-solver how to solve a problem and not giving them the autonomy to do it themselves, is doing you both a disservice.

If you’re the project manager and they are they architect, respect that they are going to be a better architect than you! Leverage their intellect, set them the right amount of challenge so that they can be creative and solve the problem. You will both be better for it.



Research by Dale Carnegie found that a “caring” manager is one of the key elements that drives engagement. Having a manager that cares about their personal life and them as people, helps staff feel supported in their health and well-being. If you’re the type of project manager that sets a deadline without considering the school-run or Thursday’s evening class, you’re asking people to prioritise your project over their life.  25% of top performers quit their job due to work environment and lack of flexibility. You don’t have to hug them, just get to know them!



I am passionate about engagement, to me, it underpins everything if you want your project and your people to achieve their potential.

If you want your best project people to stay with you until your project is done and dusted, then:

  • Have the career conversation – regardless of whether your key people work for you directly or not, understand their aspirations and give them the right workload to get there. If they don’t work for you sit down with their manager or even better, you can all sit down.
  • Recognise remuneration – if losing a key person is going to cost your project money, consider investing in them before you lose them. The chances are that being proactive in this conversation will cost you less than waiting for the person to ask or just leave.
  • Manage goals, not tasks – Top performers don’t need to be task managed. Give them the autonomy to achieve the right outcome for your project. Set them the challenge. Let them lead and manage them to it.
  • Recognise – From a simple thank you to a formal award and everything in between. Reward people! Give them opportunities to shine!
  • Get to know them – Have 1-to-1’s, informal coffee’s, take them for lunch. Share and ask what is important. They want to get to know you too!

If you enjoyed this article or need help with engagement on your project, please comment or email below. I would love to hear what has worked for your project!