Plugging the Holes in the Dike

  • Leadership is a major factor in keeping/losing staff
  • Leaders Must Adopt a Growth Mindset
  • Developing/Maintaining Trust is Essential to Keeping Talent

Someone once said that the prospect of a firing squad concentrates the mind considerably.  Employers have discovered how true that statement can be as they have faced the alarming reality that over 33 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021. Dubbed the Great Resignation, workers have been voting very loudly with their feet, expressing their dissatisfaction with the current state of their work life.  In response, employers have begun to take a hard look at their operations to resolve the problem.  One of the major culprits in this wave of departures has been less than satisfactory leadership.

There are a host of issues that are immediately evident that point out what leadership does or fails to do that drives good employees away.

Good leadership is a matter of development of trust.  I once had a client who had been in the Special Forces.  He shared with me that when an officer was to come over from the regular forces, he was required to attend an interview with the soldiers he was expecting to lead.  The purpose of the interview was for the soldiers to decide if they would be willing to submit to that officer’s leadership.  Considering the kinds of missions they would be assigned to execute, this reversal of convention made perfect sense.  In such a risk-laden environment, the level of trust in the officer would naturally need to be very high. Nevertheless, the idea is valid in everyday work situations.  The only difference is that this type of “leader-vetting” would normally take place during job interviews.

Here are some ways that leaders erode trust:

Sharing information gained on the basis of confidentiality – Employees need to be able to confide in their leaders and share sensitive information that might expose them to retribution.  That confidence must be accompanied by integrity from the employee.

Failing to do that which the leader had promised – This is a very visible fault of leaders, especially those who tend to “overpromise” and “underdeliver.” Leaders must remember that they are always visible and their communications, especially those involving commitments, must be impeccable.

Blames others and personally accepts credit for things the team has done – There is no more surefire way of deflating the morale of team members than to hog the credit for work that they have done.  As for blame, the leader is responsible for clearly communicating expectations.  Any failure of execution must fall at the feet of the leader who must be solely accountable for the team’s performance.  Blaming others is an abdication of a leader’s role.

Says one thing, does another – Team members must be able to count on a leader’s action matching performance.  At best, this failure represents poor communication; at worst, it is deliberately misleading others.  In either event, it is a decidedly poor outcome.

Criticizes publicly, either directly or indirectly – In the first place, criticism leads to shame and blame, neither of which produce a good outcome.  Doing so publicly magnifies the emotional content.  This is not to say that leaders should ignore less than satisfactory performance or execution.  They must have the courage to confront and note the behavior privately, without emotion, and clearly delineate necessary expected improvement steps and strategies.

Leaders build trust when they engage in approaches that focus on a growth mindset.  Good leaders retain workers when they:

Provide challenging assignments.  Provide clear expectations – Employees need the certainty to know ways they can perform that leads to success.  Team members want to know that their work matters and contributes to a purpose.  Clarity in this arena energizes people to provide their best efforts.

Take time to understand employee aspirations – One of the major reasons that people gave for changing jobs was to further their growth.  Leaders who invest the time to understand where employees want to grow reap the benefits of loyalty and engagement.

Listen – We were endowed with two ears and one mouth.  Leaders would do well to use those organs in that proportion.

Look for ways to help team members accomplish tasks/objectives – Leaders cannot possibly do all the work for which their area is responsible.  Ensuring that their team members have the necessary skills and tools in the pursuit of their work is a fundamental requirement for leaders.

Observe team members at their work.  Catch them doing things right – Nothing is more affirming for an employee than to know that their leader is not only watching, but notices and comments when they succeed.

Provide team members feedback on their progress – Gallup’s survey work shows that only three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that in the last seven days someone noticed and complimented them on their work. By moving that ratio to six in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 24% improvement in quality, a 27% reduction in absenteeism and a 10% reduction in shrinkage.

Share information timely – One of the hallmarks of growth-mindset oriented cultures is the speed and accuracy of information moving up and down the organization.  Leaders who keep people informed build trust.

Work with team members to self-set goals – According to Gallup, while a mere 30% of employees strongly agree that their manager involves them in setting their goals at work, those who strongly agree with this statement are 3.6 times more likely than other employees to be engaged.

Although the grass in the other employer’s pasture may appear greener, people who work for Growth Mindset-oriented leaders tend to stay.  When they do, they experience greater satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.  If you want to stop the leaks in your talent dike, improve your leadership.

Ready, Mindset, Grow!

Ready, Mindset, Grow!: Nuggets Mined from the Leadership Journeys

Business leadership books abound today. What makes this one worth the read? Actionable insights! Ready, Mindset, Grow, delivers to today’s leaders entertaining stories of the transformative power of culture. Backed by solid research, these brief tales, and the lessons they convey, can be put into practice for short-term wins and long-term growth. Entertaining and insightful, the author has filled the pages with cultural nuggets and jewels from his 30+ years of experience in leadership coaching and consulting. Smart leaders will appreciate the candor, catch glimpses into their own circumstances and gain the conviction needed to accomplish positive cultural change.


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