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When employees quit you
July 1, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments
I did two breakout sessions at the Harms Experience last week in Scottsdale, AZ. Sunday’s class was on “Plugging Opportunity Leaks in Your Company,” and Monday’s session covered “How to Get Employees to do Great Things.” Both sessions are elements of my No-Compromise Leadership training. As always, my mission is to get leaders to examine their leadership thinking and behavior and how it shapes their company’s culture.
Near the end of Sunday’s session, I was asked a very familiar yet unsettling question: “As an employee, what do you do when it’s your leader that’s doing damage to the culture?” Instantly, a few more attendees chimed in, their hands shooting up with elaborations on that same question. In all cases, these employees were passionate about their work and their companies. They loved the team they worked with, and…despite what their leaders have put them through… they remain fiercely loyal. However, the bottom line in these cases is always the same: working for leaders that fail to see the damage they inflict on their own companies eventually drives amazing employees to quit.
After my second session on Monday morning, the woman who asked the original question about how to help her leader see the damage he’s doing approached me. She was smiling and had tears filling her eyes. Calmly she said, “I was up all night processing everything you said in class yesterday about the role of the leader and building dynamic cultures – about the importance of appreciation. I have been loyal to this leader for over ten years – and I’ve had enough. I’m turning in my resignation tomorrow. I’m going to find a new job where I can make a difference and be appreciated.” I smiled and gave her a hug.
Here are some no-compromise lessons for leaders to remember:
- It’s about the company: No matter how obvious it is, leadership is about growing a company and taking it to a better place. When a leader makes it “about the leader”, the slide into the fiery pit of hell begins. A leader is not a “king” where all serve him or her. A leader is a guide and a coach. A leader serves the company, its people, and its customers. The ability to serve is at the heart of leadership.
- Own it first: The most effective and humbling ability a leader can have is to own what doesn’t go right. Everything that happens in your company happens on your watch. If your natural response is to blame others, you need to shift to taking ownership. Before you allow your natural response to kick in, ask yourself, “What do I own in this?” Peel away the layers and you’ll see that, as the leader, you own a piece of the problem. Once you own it, you can effectively address it.
- Stay in the game: Leaders have a nasty habit of drifting in and out of the game of business. “Shiny things”, boredom, and personal problems disengage and distract leaders from their roles as head of a company. Your employees will step up and fill in to a point. It’s when you keep checking in and out that employees get frustrated. They want their leader engaged. If you keep checking out – expect key employees to check out permanently.
- Appreciation: It’s such a simple word and so easy to give. It doesn’t cost anything to show that you appreciate the work, performance, creativity, and loyalty of employees. Everyone feels a natural lift when receiving sincere appreciation for doing a good job. It’s celebrating wins as a team with woohoo’s and high-five’s. It’s giving back to an employee in his or her personal time of need. It’s what no-compromise leaders do.
- Get what you give: Showing respect, integrity, and compassion for others is a key element of being a great leader. The title of “leader” only gives you the authority to lead. It’s how you lead that defines you. If you don’t like people – you don’t belong in leadership.
- They quit you: Employees quit for new opportunities, to relocate, or because your company just isn’t a good fit. But when good employees quit because of you and your leadership style, it’s safe to say you need to look in the mirror at the real problem. As a coach, the hardest thing to do is to get leaders to look in the mirror and recognize that they need to change first. Have an open, honest, and safe meeting with your key employees. Ask them, “What can I do better as your leader?” Then your job is to actually listen. Follow through, keep your defense shields down, and keep asking for more specifics on what you need to work on down the line.
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