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Winning Goldfish

Updated: May 25, 2023

Photo by Ahmed zayan on Unsplash

A few years ago, my baby sister volunteered to take my two preschoolers to a church festival to give them a break from their newborn brother – and me a more favorable child-to-adult ratio. My husband was traveling frequently back then and I was working in a demanding consulting firm where my male boss was giving me pointers on how I could get more billable hours during my daily pumping sessions. All things in life are temporary but it certainly didn’t seem like that at the time. I felt I had entered into a new eternal reality of constant intense pressure.

So I enjoyed an afternoon to myself!

A few hours later…

My boys came home with hearts full of pride and fists full of three new goldfish! My sister proudly told me of the money, time and energy devoted to ‘winning’ these prized goldfish! I congratulated them while trying my best to control my tears of rage and disappointment. In their little hands contained 6 new eyeballs that were now under my care!

So, I quickly strategized how I was going to create an environment where these fish could thrive. Fish Food? No. Aquarium? No. Responsible children, to care for them? No. I called my friend who had recently had a fish death in their family and delicately asked for her aquarium. Score! It even had pebbles and recreational activities for the fish. There was a pet store down the street so we were able to quickly get some overpriced fish food. My husband and I divided care of the fish – since he traveled, he volunteered to clean the tank once per month. I am charged with the daily support of the fish – so I put them in a place where they are frequently in my view – in the kitchen. I am happy to say, that two of our festival fish have beat the odds and are still alive and swimming 3 years later.

In fact, they are on their way to beating the national average of employee retention – 4.6 years. It’s funny because the time and energy spent winning these fish have been lost – but the care they require to stay healthy remains the same.

Many employers invest in a recruiting plan and that is important (and a little bit fun) but I would argue the plan to retain them is equally important. And people are much more complicated than fish.

So, how do you build a retention plan for people? It happens on a micro AND macro level. It happens when companies invest in building an awarding-winning culture. Melanie Booher, Culture Coach at MB Consulting Solutions recommends a strategy called THRIVE© to analyze your workforce. The six-prong gap analysis has put many companies on The Business Courier’s Best Place to Work List.

The six areas to examine are: 1. Talent

2. Health

3. Retention

4. Improvement

5. Vision

6. Engagement

We will explore each of these topics in more detail in future blog posts -- please join our Linkedin Group! To learn the details of this model immediately, email me at ( and I would be happy to send you the tool. I will also gladly give you our family goldfish – Nah, I’ve got too much invested in those guys!

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