If You Want to Keep Your Best Talent From Quitting, Don't Make One of These Mistakes.
Five leadership mistakes that must be avoided.
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In the housing market, there are times that it is good for the seller and times that it is good for the buyer. And, when it is good, it is really good and when it is bad, it is really bad. Similarly, at this time in our history, spurred by the COVID crisis that sent employees into work from home mode, the employees are now calling the shots – it's their market and they know it. If a company dismisses the needs of their employees or conducts business as usual, they will be on the losing end. Guaranteed. The reality is that even though many people are applying to jobs, companies are having a tough time getting employees because the jobseeker can pick the best of the best opportunity – and that includes pay, job description, title, online company reviews, benefits, and leadership. The job candidates are in the driver's seat, not vice versa. Today, it is not the company gathering information in an interview, the employee is really interviewing the company. The tables have turned.
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Many employees are leaving their secure job and choosing to start their own endeavors. Many are simply saying that the typical, 9-5, in-office, isn't worth it anymore. And many are choosing now to jump ship because they know they can get the bump in pay that they have been waiting for, simply because the employer is in a bind. They know that they can pick their role, they can strongly negotiate their benefits, and, if they are one of those that worked from home for the past year, they also know that they should be able to continue that if they choose. This employee-driven market does not discriminate based on industry. It is happening and employers must revisit not only their employee benefits but their ability to effectively lead.
Here are five leadership mistakes that must be mitigated to retain the best talent:
1. Lacking communication
There is rarely a quicker way to lose the attention of top-tier employees, and their respect, than to not communicate effectively. It is not the employee's job to be a mind reader. For example, if you hire a new team member, it is the leadership's job to inform all employees that are expected to collaborate. Tell them how they will be working together. Draw up a plan of tasks that will be shared. Talk about the expectations. This is a leadership responsibility, and anything less can be a ticking time bomb. It is business 101 and communication, from leadership, is critical. If an employee starts to lose sight of their responsibilities, because leadership is lacking or because changes are made and it is not communicated to employees, this is simply bad leadership and will quickly lead the company to lose quality employees, risk their organizational reputation, and generate uncertainty among the remaining team members, as it should. If leadership is not able or willing to effectively communicate, it may be time for your employees to run to a company that can.
2. Lacking neutrality
From time to time, moments may arise where an employee has a concern about their role, about a team member, or even about lacking leadership. What happens when HR and your boss are related? Sound far-fetched? Maybe. But the idea is relevant. Who will ever complain about HR? Who will ever complain about leadership, to HR, if there is a relationship beyond the office? The answer? Nobody. Of course, you will be told that they are "putting their HR hat on," but the reality is that this is a massive conflict of interest that should never be allowed in business. It creates distrust and lacks accountability. There must be extreme non-partisanship beyond words. Words are cheap. An employee must know that their job is safe, that they can confide on issues, that their opinion matters, and that there isn't preferential treatment. This will never be the case, due to a breach in neutrality, if a boss and HR are related beyond the office. A major red flag. If leadership does not have a structure where employees can easily share and trust unbiased ears, it may be time for your employees to run to a company that can.
3. Increasing black holes
Most positions have tasks that must be completed. Sometimes these are determined quarterly and sometimes they are simply a handshake and an agreement. In either case, all projects, whether strategic or tactical, take time. When you complete your tasks, as agreed, and you send them for approval, and hear crickets, how does that make you feel? Like your contribution doesn't matter. Like the task wasn't really necessary, but rather busy work? Yes, and yes. The real question, what I will call the danger zone, is why do it if nobody will care? That is very valid perspective and justified. We all know that in business things change. There must be times we pivot, change directions, and even discard ideas we previously thought were good; however, to just let the effort go into a black hole without any communication to the employee is a major leadership problem, not an employee problem, and if the management team doesn't think they need to give employees feedback or follow-up on their assigned tasks, it may be time for employees to run to a company that can.
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4. Rampant micromanagement
When a candidate is interviewed, they are screened based on their ability to perform the job, their fit with the culture, and their willingness to be part of the team. So, what happens when, somewhere along the way, every step is monitored by management? The reality is that just because they are the boss, it doesn't mean that they are superior to the employees' area of expertise. The result? Total and utter employee frustration. If you hire someone to be the expert, give them the reigns to be the expert. Anything short of this is bad leadership. If an employee feels restricted, watched, or like they have no voice in what they were hired to do, that is micromanagement at it's finest and should be avoided at all costs. If the leadership team hires an employee for their expertise and then overrides them at every curve, it may be time for the employee to run to a company that won't participate in this pitfall.
5. Too many hands in the pot
This management mistake, allowing too many hands in the pot, is common and one that everyone in the workforce has experienced at some point in their career. It is at the fault of leadership and their sole role to take notice and put a stop to it. If they don't, they are simply not an effective leader. Period. There is nothing wrong with collaboration, which is not what this is about. It is about stalling the process of progress because everyone is doing their own version. That is not teamwork, that is chaos. For the person that owns the task, that is skilled in the actual endeavor, it will make them feel like their value is minimized, as just about anyone can do it. Additionally, it makes the sign-off take an extended period of time because there is chatter and input from every corner. Many will call this getting buy-in. That is wrong. It is creating a distraction and hindering time management. Minimize the hands in the pot and allow task ownership. And, as an example, if marketing gets completed, without the marketing lead knowing, that is not teamwork, that is bad management, bad communication, too many hands in the pot, and a recipe for disaster - leading to a very justified employee exit. If the leadership team allows for anybody and everybody to insert their hands into an employee's job, the employee will lose control at the fault of your management team, and that is not okay. If this is happening, it may be time for the employee to run to a company that won't be part of this broken system.
This time in our history has the potential to bust all previous employee/employer preconceptions. The employee has the hand and organizations must step-up. Whether increasing communication, ensuring neutrality, validating work in a timely manner, diminishing micromanagement, or clearing out the many hands in the pot, it is time for companies to revisit what they are doing wrong and produce a strategy for remedy. If leadership puts blame on the employee, for any of their own mistakes listed above, their talent will diminish. We are at a turning point. We can take these challenges that have been thrown our way and become better, more aware, and more employee-centered. However, it takes a true look into the top tier. The old saying, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link must be a strong consideration. Don't let the weakest link be the organization's inability to lead.