Category Archives: Leadership

Getting – And Keeping – Great Talent

Many organizations across most industries will tell you that good talent is hard to come by. While it is agreed upon that attracting quality people is a challenge these days, there are ways to attract and retain good employees that will benefit your company.

Many companies such as Chick-Fil-A, Under Armor, and Adobe have found that hiring top talent is key, but that retaining talent is just as vital.

While there are many methods to keep good employees, and no one specific way will match up well for every company, here are some of the most common ways that good leaders keep great talent.

  1. Hire for culture fit. Companies that match candidates to the essentials of their culture do not struggle as much with performance. By merging people and culture, they assure that side issues that derail from the core tenants of their mission are minimized and that staff are engaged because they believe in what the company believes. This is an essential platform from Chris Edmond’s consulting and his book The Culture Engine.
  2. Hire for behavior fit. While skills are essential, behavior rules over all. The best and brightest engineer may be a toxin within your company. How people interact within themselves and with others will dictate how they affect other good employees, and customers. Look deeper beyond skills for behaviors that meet your company goals. Chris LoCurto recently had a podcast based on this principle.
  3. Hire for willingness. An employee willing to adopt to the vision and where it takes them will be more effective than someone onboard who does things their own way. Change is a necessity today, and those who are willing to change and adapt will be the strength of your organization. If not, they need to be cut loose, as outlined in keynotes form Gary Vaynerchuck and in Mark Miller’s book Chess Not Checkers.
  4. Hire for complementary behaviors. You’ve trained and developed a good team. Now you have that all-star candidate with the best skills you’ve ever seen, and are ready to hire them. Yet you see that their personality and behaviors will clash with the team dynamic already in place. The best skills cannot take priority over behaviors that threaten to dilute an already engaged team. Disruption can be beneficial, but disrupting your culture with someone who is not aligned from the outset is a huge mistake.
  5. Train correctly. A recent study shows that 74% of employees feel that company training to reach their full potential is lacking. This means to have competency in how to do their jobs, not just looking for the next level. Employee behavior models show that when employees don’t have a need filled, they seek it elsewhere. By giving them the full attention for them to be successful – according to their standards, not yours – you will find their tenure to increase over time.
  6. Train – All the timeOngoing training not only retains talent, it attracts it as well. Training is not a “I showed you so you should know it and do it” mentality, but a culture of teaching, mentoring and continuous improvement. Yes it takes time, and commitment, but so does any worthwhile relationship. Employees aren’t widgets to make and plug into a process, they are people wanting investment and validation. A leader who realizes this priority will have a high performing team that is fully engaged and committed.
  7. Set CLEAR expectations. Most leaders give a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex or Ambiguous) ask on what they want, whether ongoing behaviors or simple tasks. It is so easy to fall into this trap, particularly when a leader has so many things on her or his plate. If your employee doesn’t perform to your expectations, ask and make sure they understood, and if they are not on the same page, rephrase simply and clearly. Then ensure you you walk away with the same clarity. Many employees get more frustrated when their leader states a certain expectation then changes it, when their manager failed to remember what was said.
  8. Set guardrails. Guardrails are not designed to be punitive, they’re designed to keep good employees from failing, or at least minimizing mistakes. Netflix shows a great example of doing with with their engineers, allowing them to fix issues faster and with less risk, and without fear. Guardrails help further establish a culture of elevating your staff, and keeping them moving forward.
  9. Create sandboxes. Guardrails keep employees from being derailed, and sandboxes allow for innovation to flourish and skills to stand out. Sandbox culture allows an “open play style” in which employees can do whatever as long as the boundaries company culture and ethics are established. In this environment an employee can find new solutions, approaches and even skills they may not have previously realized. The basis for this stems from HP and 3M’s history of innovation from their employees.
  10. Challenge them. Getting your people out of their comfort zone is only part of the process. Finding new and creative ways to develop their potential, reward effort and learn from success and failures will deepen their skills and create a broader foundation for engagement. Years ago I took a young and unorganized manager and gave him responsibility over all the restaurant marketing and promotional materials we got from corporate. After a few promotions of struggle, he became a solid planner and executed the timing nicely. And this translated through the rest of his job as well. Challenges will grow your people if done properly.
  11. Praise them. Passe, you say? No ROI? A study from Harvard Business School says otherwise. Increased self-direction, feeling valued and less as a commoditized resource are what drives employee retention, and praise is a key factor, this study finds. All it takes is being self-aware, others-aware … and committed to your people.
  12. Dig for gold, not dirt. Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak says that successful leaders accept people while fault finders actually reject people. Andrew Carnegie believed that people “are developed the same way gold is mined. Several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold. But you don’t go into the mine looking for dirt, you go in looking for gold.” Accepting people as gold needing to be mined and polished show their worth to you their employer.
  13. Treat them honestly and transparently. I/O At Work had a unique perspective that hypocritical leadership – displaying contrary leadership behavior or undermining efforts – is a type of social injustice in the workplace that results in employee turnover. A desire for authentic, genuine leaders with integrity and emotional intelligence rates high on most every employee engagement study.
  14. Vision, Value, Voice. Michael Lee Stallard’s book Connection Culture details how the best organizations give their employees vision, value and voice to turn employees into committed members of your organization. Years of research and case studies through business, healthcare organizations, rock bands and universities show the validity of giving your people these 3 V’s to increase their commitment to your organization and keep culture moving forward.

Good talent is out there. How you attract and retain that talent is entirely up to you. Use these strategies to convert your employees into raving fans.

(Image by Alexandra ❤️A life without animals is not worth living❤️ from Pixabay)

#ThursdayThought – The End (?) Of The Tyrant Leader

Many years ago a CEO for a non-profit was forced to resign. His years of subversive tactics and diversionary methods to hide his tyranny had come to an end when too many people, spearheaded by the woman who was the executive director and second in charge, started to compare notes and discovered alarming trends that could not be ignored or explained away any longer.

Justified, the CEO was released from their duties by the board and the executive director took his place. Everyone in the organization rejoiced when she took over. Until a few weeks later when people realized that she too, was just as tyrannical as her predecessor.

In the years since, many of those from that organization have left and sought after a better leader to work for, based on what they learned from this bitter experience.

Over the years as the fallacy of top-down, chain of command leadership has come under more scrutiny and is seen as an outmoded dinasaur, one would hope that a new fully accountable leadership and orgnizaition style, such as embraced in some of the more recent organizational structures in IT and tech orgnizations, would sweep across the landscape and bring needed radical change.

The ability for employees to have more voice in their orgnizations to say what needs to be said and hold their leaders accountable has never been as prevalanet as it is today.

And while one might think that tryannical leadership is going away, we are far from it. Too many orgnizations and pockets of leadership are still holding to their power base and won’t allow their people permission to speak freely, ordering them to stay in their lane and creating a passive-aggressive bullying culutre to keep employees in check and themselves in control.

It usually takes a generation to truly transform any institution, whether culturally, politically, economically or mentally. And while the trend is moving forward, there is still much work on both sides.

Leaders need to help foster the culture change to have safe and trusted workplaces for employees to speak up. And employees need to not tolerate being squelched when someone in leadership pushes them back down.

It will take time, but the incremental changes are needed if the workplace is to transform and create better opportunities for everyone to thrive and not merely exist under another’s shadow of influence.

(Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay)

Be An Authentic Leader, Not Offensive One

A few weeks ago I listened to a podcast by Adam Grant, noted organizational psychologist, that grabbed my attention.

He talked in this particular episode about the subject of authenticity. Not just about being your authentic self, but in his words discussing the perils of “when we get real at the wrong time or in the wrong way, it can backfire”.

It caused me to think back on numerous people in leadership who have excused away their behaviors because of this short sighted notion that they just have to be authentic.

Some examples to illustrate the fallacy of being authentic at all costs:

  • The chef or regional director of a restaurant chain who flies off the handle and excuses their actions becuae they’re “passionate
  • The top employee who is unkempt and might even have offensive body odor, but says that cleaning up cramps their style
  • The pastor’s wife who is abrasive and charges ahead with opinions and pre-conceived solutions without fully listening to her parishioners, but “that’s just who I am”
  • The film or theater director who is demanding and exacting and informs the entire cast and crew that if they want to get ahead in show business, they need to bear them out

Granted, there is difference in conforming to suppress individual thought and permission to speak freely, to dress or behave a certain way, or to act a part or partake in organizational functions because that’s what’s expected. But to summarize what Grant says, when you repel more people than attract, there is a fundamental problem with your approach to be authentic.

That’s where leaders especially need to be self-aware of how they come across. There is always an equal and opposite reaction to every action, every behavior, every opportunity to express oneself. When authenticity backfires, you will only have yourself to blame for not considering other people into how you act. Every interaction you create can have a positive or negative ROI. What you ultimately get in return is directly in correlation to how you relate to others, in spite of how you relate to yourself.

There’s a fine balance between authenticity and respect, self-aware and self-promoting, approachable and being an affront to others. Stifling yourself is not in anyone’s best interest. However being authentic to the point of disrespect will inevitably stifle others if one is not careful to consider the impact of their own personality and/or behavior.

Leaders who choose to understand that there is no bubble to protect them from the perception that they create will be able to bridge that gap between being themselves and allowing others to embrace that.

People come in various colors and it’s the tapestry of these colors of personalities and talents that leads to a diversity of cohesiveness that brings harmony to any organization. We need people to bring their best, true self to whatever organization, team or community they find themselves in. However, being a team player and being a leader means knowing how you influence people, for good or for ill, in spite of youself.

Authenticity creates a self that everyone needs to see. But the other side of the authenticity coin, self-centeredness, goes contrary to why we need authenticism in the first place – to bring the best out of everyone with the talents and personality that only they can bring forth.

(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

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