Losing Key Employees? Stop Making Excuses and Face the Facts.

wake up

I can’t believe he left! What was she thinking, it’s not gonna be any better there. You know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

These are some of the most popular reactions from companies who continue to lose key employees. And I stress the word “key” because mediocre employees never leave. Key employees, those defined as progressive thinkers, customer advocates, or challengers to the status quo will always have opportunities to go elsewhere. It’s the employers responsibility to create an environment that is so loved and appreciated that these folks never entertain leaving.

Okay, some reading this may say, “wait a minute, it’s not my job to make people love their job, after all I’m already paying them and that’s where my responsibility ends.” To you I say think again. Leave your “you’re lucky to be employed” feelings at the door. Look around you. Today’s top employers are winning by providing employees with work that is meaningful, purposeful and an environment that is respectful and fun. No it’s not just about having fun, but that’s a necessary ingredient that can’t be ignored. Like leaving brown sugar out of your chocolate chip cookies, fun left out of the work environment will lead to work that’s bland, boring, and even bogus.

In a recent Forbes article on the things make a company great to work for, the number one ingredient for a great place to work was a strong culture. People spend more time and energy working to improve and succeed in a place where they are challenged, supported, and trusted. When you work for a company that micro manages, does not promote professional development, and reserves decision-making just for the company gods, you’re likely to end up with a workforce that’s numb, unengaged, and just looking to get through another day. Meaningful work simply cannot be done in this type of environment.

So to the managers and business owners running your companies as if you’re the only one(s) with ideas, it’s time to open your eyes. Stop running and start leading. Stop micromanaging and start providing opportunities for people to make decisions. And perhaps most importantly, especially for those entrepreneurs that started their business, stop thinking everyone is out to get you. While some people subscribe to the belief that paranoia is something every business person should have, I believe that paranoia should be reserved for your competitors. Be paranoid that your competitors are out to get you because they are. But don’t be paranoid that your employees are plotting to take you down. Trust them. Trust is one of the most powerful gifts a leader can give his or her people. Trust empowers, and empowered employees make for remarkable results.

3 C’s of Innovation

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The late Steve Jobs said “innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower”. While certainly a simple statement, Jobs struck the core of what makes innovation work…the leader. But it’s not the leader who is innovating yet instead creating and leading the culture of innovation that exists within the business. If a company is not innovating then a quick look at the leader will spotlight the reasons why.

A recent article appearing in Forbes magazine showcased the differences between companies on the “cutting edge” versus those that were surviving or just getting by. In every case reviewed, it boiled down to the leader. It was the leader that fostered a culture of innovation. The leader encouraged, and in many cases pushed, their teams to innovate…to stretch the boundaries. The leader’s ability to effectively instill this type of culture depends on 3 C’s: Collaboration, Courage, and Confidence.

Leaders of innovative companies possess a strong collaboration trait. They understand that developing the winning recipe requires several minds working together – not just their own. While perhaps one of the most brilliant innovators ever, Steve Jobs understood that he still needed his engineers, marketers, and other stakeholders to bring his dream to life. The same can be said of other great innovation leaders from Scott Cook of Intuit, to Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Fred Smith of FedX. All of these leaders knew that to bring their vision, idea, and dream to life required input from other people to refine and build their idea.  That’s collaboration.

Courage is another characteristic of strong innovative leaders. It takes courage to think and act differently. We can all dream big dreams. Many companies are developing their BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals – but few will be able to realize them. The challenge with achieving your BHAG is the tremendous amount of courage required to move toward fulfillment. Somewhere in grade school we begin to lose our ability to dream, and worse our belief that anything is possible. While in school we get put into boxes, and typecast, creating our first experience with the concept of “settling”. We begin to believe in ceilings. There is a cap to how far we can go, how much we can do, and big we can dream. Great innovative leaders have the courage to be bold and tackle their BHAGs head on.

The final trait required of all great innovators is confidence. Strong, effective, successful leaders with proven innovation track records are enormously confident. Why is Confidence a necessity for the leader leading innovation? For many leaders they either believe they are the only ones capable of generating a successful idea or they are intimidated by those that have good ideas and feel threatened that their idea will outshine them. Confident leaders know that what is truly important is winning or achieving their BHAG. They spend little to no time worrying about where the ideas come from that help in the successful attainment of the BHAG.

It takes a confident leader, with a passion for collaboration, and a fair amount of courage to develop and lead a culture of innovation. Does your organization innovate? What was the last new innovation you placed in the market? Whose idea was it? Where did it start and how many people were involved in its development? If you’re looking to assess an organizations ability to innovate ask the leader of that organization those questions and see how he or she replies. Their responses may surprise you.

Your Leadership Style + Your Company Culture – Is There a Disconnect?

perception

Carrot and stick.  And so goes the age-old debate of how to achieve great business results.  Do you shower your employees with accolades and pats on the back?  Or do you focus on the consequences for under performance?  Is your tone one of optimism and assumed-success?  Or is your temperament such that you lead with a, “if we fail” mentality?

There are as many different leadership styles as there are leaders.  Our styles are born from our life experiences from childhood, up to and including, the role we currently occupy.  How you were raised is as important as how you were managed in the first several years of your career.  Most experts agree that the “formative years” for a child occur in their first 12 years of life.  Likewise, the formative years of someones career is their first 5 years in the workforce.

Human beings are natural-born observers.  We watch.  We absorb.  We learn.  We take what we learn and begin to construct potential outcomes for the scenarios we encounter later in life.  Like, cause-and-effect, we begin to build a mental inventory of outcomes based upon actions and reactions.  We learn how to alter outcomes by changing our actions or behaviors.  Yet we all learn in different ways.  Two people can experience the exact same event and have completely different views or perceptions of that event.  And herein lies the formula for how our leadership styles evolve.

Are you a positive motivator or negative?  How do you know?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you work in your office all day with the door closed?
  2. When was the last time you sent a communication to recognize a team member?
  3. How often do you walk around the office making eye contact, saying hello, and simply engaging people?
  4. How many people on your team do you rate as a top performer, and if so, when was the last time you told them how much you appreciated them?
  5. Are you losing more than 20% of your employees each year?
  6. Do you hold regular team meetings or even informal get-togethers?
  7. Do you consistently meet, or miss, your numbers?

How you answered these questions may be an indication of your style of leadership.  On the other hand it may also be a reflection of the culture within your workplace.  Either way it’s worth your time to evaluate.  Why?  Because there are several reasons to have a true understanding of your personal style and that of the culture in which you work.  If you genuinely want to build lasting value – for your company or your client – the first step has to be the development of relationships.  In the absence of trusting relationships a company will not be able to experience sustained growth, and nor will you.

According to an article published earlier this year by Forbes, the number one reason people left their job was for stability reasons.  People leave when they don’t feel secure.  Insecurity is often the result of a bad manager.  In fact a subsequent article in the Huffington Post Small Business, it cites the number one reason employees quit is “Their boss sucks”.  Micromanagers and poor communicators topped the list of horrible bosses.  The negativity that flowed from these bosses infected the workplace so much so that people run for the doors.

According to the American Institute of Stress, the top 2 causes of stress in the workplace are work overload and people.  The AIS estimates that stress causes American businesses more than $300 billion each year in lost productivity with a major contributor being a negative workplace.  So how can you change it?  First change your behaviors.  Try doing these three things each day:

  1. Walk around the office at least twice a day and say hello to folks.
  2. Work with your door open (if you have an office) when you can.
  3. Look for the good things that are happening and recognize them.

These are all within your control.  If you’re working for a company that has a negative-tone culture you may need to reevaluate what’s most important to you.  Remember, jobs come and go, but your reputation stays with you no matter where you are employed.  Don’t let the dynamics of an organization define who you are and how you act.  If your belief system is in direct conflict with the office culture, you may need to make a change.  Great teams are built by great leaders, and to be a great leader you’ve got to recognize and acknowledge that your people are in fact your biggest asset.   Only by growing your workplace relationships, developing trust, and displaying respect will you be able to develop a high performing team.