As leaders, we all value high performers who work with us, right? Of course we do.

Why then, are we surprised when they inform us they are leaving for another opportunity? It is likely because of the way we have treated them, or not treated them. And news flash…it’s usually not about the money.

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “People don’t leave jobs – they leave managers.” Extensive research over the past 15 years bears this out.

So…if it’s not about the money, then what? We’re so glad you asked!

Here are some of the top reasons our high performers tend to leave:

1.  High performers are overworked – High performers run the risk of becoming burned out. Why? Because we tend to always put our “best people” on tough assignments.

We recall working with a client several years ago who had identified a large number of “priority initiatives” that aligned with their strategic plan. They identified the people who were to work on these priority initiatives and of course they were the top performers and high potentials. They were “drafted” onto the priority initiative teams and told what the intended outcomes were. They were also told they must continue to perform their “regular” or day job. These people were working 80+ hours a week for weeks on end.

And…the senior leadership was surprised when some of them resigned because they felt burned out.

2. Leaders fail to develop their “people” skills – High performers are generally people who have taken initiative to continually develop and hone their skill set. They know that to sustain high performance, they need to continually grow themselves.

They also recognize when they are surpassing others and fully realize those people who don’t take the initiative to develop themselves. When this person is their direct manager, they are likely begin exploring other options. You will be grateful if those other options are limited to internal options, rather than external, for obvious reasons.

The higher you go in leadership, the more important your relationship building skills become and the less important the technical skills become.

3. Leaders fail to act on new thinking – High performers have achieved that designation partially because they think differently than the average performer. When people are hired with the understanding the new organization needs new and different thinking (a very popular recruiting ploy) and then are stifled because they routinely hear, “We can’t do what you are suggesting because that’s just not the way we do things here,” they will sure to become frustrated quickly.

We are currently working with a large publicly held company who hired some really bright, creative people with excellent track records of accomplishments in previous roles. They were hired to “implement significant change in how things are done and how we think” yet in actuality were stifled from doing anything different from that which had been done for years.

Yet, the leaders were “surprise and disappointed” when they heard of the resignations.

4. Leaders fail to practice what they preach – High performers want and need to work with colleagues who are high performers as well. When they experience their manager hiring, promoting or tolerating low performers, those who are “negative Nellie’s” or other complainers, their “Spidey sense” kicks in to look for other environments. High performers also don’t want to be micro-managed. They want to be able to implement their way of accomplishing a task or completing a project rather than being given step by step instructions on how to achieve results.

Notice none of the above reasons have anything to do with money. More money may be an outcome, but it is generally not the initiator. Those leaders who insist on it being a money issue are usually the same who fit several of the above traits, yet they are blind to this behavior; they seem genuinely surprised when the high performers on their team leave.