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How This Crucial Leadership Style Will Increase Your Employee Retention Becoming like V.A.N.C.E. is a great employee retention strategy, allowing you to enjoy a better work culture and a higher ROI.

By Elayna Fernandez

Key Takeaways

  • Becoming like VANCE is a great employee retention strategy, allowing companies to enjoy a better work culture and a higher ROI.
  • In my work as a corporate trainer, I've encountered countless supportive leaders who know that in caring for their team, they are caring for their own position in the company and the organization's wellbeing.
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It was almost 9 p.m. on a Sunday, and I had officially spent all weekend pretty much on my couch, feeling a rollercoaster of emotions and trying to process the Friday morning meeting with my manager.

The words kept echoing in my head: "It's the most supportive decision for you." I felt I was being penalized for doing too much and doing it well.

I felt a punch in the gut when my manager told me about all the meetings that had taken place: what I should be doing, how long I should be doing it for, and who would take over things I had previously done. A decision had been reached that would affect my entire life, and I was not invited to the decision-making process.


I don't even make decisions about my four-year-old child without her consent! I kept thinking as I raged, cried, and felt the shame of having sacrificed myself to perform with excellence while clearly being underpaid.

As I got up from that couch that night, I thought about how today, more than ever, employees need truly supportive leaders. And that's when Vance came to mind.

Back in 2009, when I was recovering from cancer, I covered the Naples International Film Festival as an influencer.

The film 500 Days of Summer, a romantic comedy-drama directed by Marc Webb, left an impression on me. Everyone knows that I love rom-coms, but the truth is that this film teaches a powerful lesson about supportive leadership.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom Hansen, a hopeless romantic who writes greeting cards for a living. He falls in love with co-worker Summer Finn, played by Zooey Deschanel. Their breakup and his eventual heartbreak affect every aspect of his life and, naturally, his productivity and work performance.

Mr. Vance, Tom's boss, portrayed by Clark Gregg requests a meeting with him based on a very explicit Valentine's Day card he wrote. The conversation goes like this:

Tom: Mr. Vance... Are you firing me?

Vance: No. No. Relax, Hansen. You're one of the good ones.

Tom: Okay, well, yeah, I'm sorry. Things have been a little difficult.

Vance: That's okay. I completely understand that. I'm just saying that perhaps you could channel those energies into something like this.

Tom: Funerals and sympathy!

Vance: Misery, sadness, loss of faith. No reason to live. This is perfect for you. Good. Okay. And back to work you go.

Tom: Thank you.

Mr. Vance was concerned about Tom and suggested a supportive solution because he saw him and what he was going through. Vance's response to Tom in 500 Days of Summer is like a masterclass in supportive leadership.

Related: Are You a Trauma-Responsive Leader? Why Trauma-Informed Leaders Make a Happy and Healthy Workplace

The supportive leadership style

A supportive leader regularly checks in with employees, learns whether something is blocking them from achieving their goals, and then allows them the freedom to creatively come up with their own solutions.

This is what Vance did, and it inspired my acronym:

Validate their pain

Affirm their value

Nurture their positive skills

Cultivate safety

Encourage a way forward

Related: Intent vs. Impact: What Leaders Need to Know to Create a Safe Space

Be like V.A.N.C.E.

Let's go through every letter of the V.A.N.C.E. acronym to understand the supportive leadership concept:

  • Validate their pain — Supportive leaders sense when something is off with a team member and acknowledge it out loud — to their face. They genuinely care about the whole person, not just their performance.
  • Affirm their value — By offering authentic appreciation, people feel valued even when performance isn't going well. When Vance says, "You're one of the good ones!" he focuses on true identity versus current productivity levels.
  • Nurture their positive skills — Whether someone is stuck in a grief or trauma cycle when someone is struggling, it's important to state what could go right rather than what is going wrong. Vance pointed out what new skills emerged from Tom's predicament, which helped Tom feel seen in a very hard situation.
  • Cultivate safety —Supportive leaders hold a safe space and seek understanding without placing blame or shame. A "no retribution rule" allows people to open up and express their feelings.
  • Encourage a way forward — Supportive leaders encourage team members to envision a new future with the company while fully respecting their sense of autonomy and affirming their sense of belonging. The "we're in this together" spirit is palpable and reassuring.

When trying to be supportive goes wrong

That Sunday night, I felt demoralized, excluded, and discriminated by that manager's decision - and not at all supported.

The meaning of the word support, according to its etymology, is "to bear part or all of the weight." To be a genuinely supportive leader, there has to be a sense that we will share the burden. Imposing so-called solutions based on what is convenient for the company without employee buy-in does not equal genuine support.

And that's why I wrote my resignation letter for a job I truly loved and a company I was loyal to. While I didn't recite an epic "I quit" speech like Tom Hansen did, my resignation was effective the next day. I knew I deserved better - a leader who was committed to being like Vance.

Related: 7 Ways for Leaders to Gracefully Accept a Resignation

Leaders like Vance are not only a work of fiction. In my work as a corporate trainer, I've encountered countless supportive leaders who know that in caring for their team, they are caring for their own position in the company and the organization's wellbeing.

Supportive leaders help companies avoid the devastating impact of high employee turnover. After all, we all know that people don't quit companies — they quit people.

Elayna Fernandez

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Storyteller | Strategist | Student of Pain

Known globally as the Positive MOM, Elayna Fernández is a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed storyteller, and award-winning mom entrepreneur. Her blog, books, and programs inspire millions of moms worldwide to break cycles, find peace, and feel whole.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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