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The Reason Your Workers Are Leaving

Why Are Your Workers Leaving in Droves? It Comes Down to 1 Simple Reason” [Inc. Magazine article]

Ah yes. An article with an enticing title promising to provide me with “one simple reason” – a “magic seed” that’ll solve my problems…

Turns out I happen to agree with this one. I happen to agree with the “1 Reason” – though I don’t agree with it being “Simple.” Ok, well maybe it’s simple but it’s not easy.

This article is the Leadership First Approach™ at play. I mean, for cryin’ out loud, the sub-header is “For every workplace-related problem, there’s a leadership solution.” Amen! That’s not to say that a leader is always at fault, but they are often the reason. Here’s what I mean…

According to Inc. (and in agreement with the Leadership First Approach™) the one reason organizations are seeing high turnover is ineffective leadership. And that could be the fault of a number of things, two of the most common being:

  • [1] a mismatch between the person and the relational skill requirements of a leadership job (the person and the position are just not aligned – they should not hold that type of position); and
  • [2] poor support after promotion (the person was promoted and then not provided with leadership development support allowing them to learn how to become most effective in their role).

Either way, Inc. Magazine and I agree with one another ➜ Real progress begins with leaders.

Afterall, it’s leadership teams who hold all the cards. They are the ones who make the decisions, set the expectations, and determine what resources and support are provided to their employees (or not). Therefore, effective leadership is integral to fostering outstanding organizational health and progress (otherwise known as “organizational kick-ass’ery”).

Within the Inc. article there are a few key takeaways. You can read my first one here.

Another would be that Gallup research has determined that “five talents are necessary for success on the job.”

1. Engage workers with a compelling mission and vision

2. Set the right expectations for conduct

3. Create a culture of accountability

4. Build relationships founded on trust

5. Make decisions based on productivity, not politics

All of these sound great. I agree that these are absolutely necessary within a department and organization in order to reach peak performance. And I think we should back up a little. I want to crack it open a little bit. The five talents listed above are results, and we need to first attend to the foundations that are needed in order to achieve those outcomes. Engaging workers, Setting expectations, a Culture of accountability, Relationships of trust, and strong Decision making are all the result of effective leadership that is developed and built on a myriad of foundational skills.

1. Result: Engage workers with a compelling mission and vision

  • First: A leader must learn the art of effectively communicating a mission and vision in a way that gives employees a sense of purpose. A leader needs to be able to understand what their employees need to hear, so there is reasoning behind a mission and vision that engages them with it.

2. Result: Set the right expectations for conduct

  • First: A leader must learn how to become confident and comfortable in their authenticity [the real kind, not the buzzword]. Doing this is a form of leading by example, and others can follow. This gives permission for others to show up authentically, which means the “right fit” people will find themselves staying and the “wrong fit” people will see themselves out. The conduct a leader wants to see can only be carried out by people who fit.

3. Result: Create a culture of accountability

  • First: Accountability requires someone to be confident – confidence to admit wrongdoing, and confidence that they don’t need to fear reprimand if an error is reported. So a leader must first learn how to navigate conversations of confrontation and conflict in a productive way. This will allow people to feel psychologically safe enough to own their mistakes (instead of cover them up or blame something else). It also allows people the safety to feel like they can take initiative and trust themselves to try, because it’ll all be ok in the end no matter what.

4. Result: Build relationships founded on trust

  • First: We have to acknowledge that A LOT of things add up to creating relationships of trust (this one is layered). For today, I’m going to explain the concept of “little-t” trust, and “big-T” Trust. A leader builds trust through their actions and words on a daily basis. Creating a psychologically safe space and aligning your actions with your words is a great place to start. Building on trust daily (with consistency) leads to relationships of Trust. An employee needs you to prove they can trust you, so that eventually they Trust you without question.

5. Result: Make decisions based on productivity, not politics

  • First: A leader must recognize things within themselves – what biases do they have, what triggers set them off, where are they reacting versus responding? This comes with moving along the spectrum of emotional intelligence. I’ve explained this in the past as first working on self-reflection (retrospective understanding of self), that leads to the ability to have accurate self-awareness (recognizing and understanding emotions and reactions in real time), and then to being able to self-manage(recognizing, understanding, and adjusting in real time).

My intention here is not to make the five outcomes feel difficult to achieve or feel out of reach. But to help you as a leader to recognize that it is reasonable to give yourself some grace when trying to be an effective leader. The Inc. article acknowledges that “the list of five manager talents are learned skills,” and “some of these talents will come more naturally for some people than others.” Effort, intention, and grace are needed. When you find yourself in a leadership position it’s not like you suddenly download everything you need to know to be a good leader (unless you’re in The Matrix… are you?… 😉).

Bottom line: if you were to choose one place to start from, one skill to start with, I would encourage you to become more curious. It’s the most underrated yet most significant leadership attribute. Curiosity about yourself allows you to work along that spectrum of emotional intelligence, and leads to authenticity that demonstrates expectations of conduct. Curiosity about your employees creates effective communication because you learn to listen to understand, and allows you to know what’s important to your teams and how to align them with the mission and vision. Curiosity about situations opens your perspective helping you to make strong decisions, assume best intentions of your people, and sets the tone for building on Trust.

Ask more questions.

Consider alternatives.



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