Retain top employees

IF YOU ARE a boss, you might be surprised to learn just how important your daily words and actions are to the attitude, motivation and morale of your employees. Think back to your first job and recall how one positive or critical word from your boss could make or break your day. People are hungry for feedback, particularly positive recognition and appreciation. Unfortunately, few receive enough (if any) of it.

Leadership is a relationship. As a manager, how you interact with your employees is critical to your success — and theirs. Many studies demonstrate that caring, sincere bosses have a far more positive and sustainable influence on their staff than those who lead by fear, power and control.

Sadly, in my coaching practice I see good employees who are leaving good jobs as a result of unchecked “bad bosses.” Exit interviews are enlightening (too bad few companies do anything with them), with descriptions of these bosses such as “insensitive,” “out of touch,” “negative,” “punisher,” “demeaning,” “critical,” “micromanager” and “control freak.” It’s hardly surprising these employees want to go elsewhere.

I don’t believe that most bosses wake up with an intention to treat their people poorly or want to act like a jerk. The gap lies between the intention and the delivery. Many of today’s managers were promoted into management positions because of past performance in a job or technical expertise. Regrettably, many lack the emotional intelligence, training and skills required to build productive, empowering relationships with staff.

To avoid mass exodus of good people, senior managers need to a) be a good role model, b) pay more attention to how the managers below them are treating those below them, c) set clear expectations for improvement, and d) provide training, support and coaching to help them build emotional intelligence, team building, interpersonal and leadership skills. These are learnable skills.

The good news: improving isn’t rocket science. The bad news: it’s not easy and will likely push a number of bosses (particularly those with lower emotional intelligence) past their comfort zone.

Simple (but not easy) tips for how to be a better boss:

  • Earn the respect — and trust — of your followers. This is far easier said than done. Go back to basics — acknowledge your limitations, explain your decision-making and do what you say you will do. Request input and feedback from your people. Try not to “overreact,” and remain calm during tough times. Model what you want from your people.
  • Display interpersonal warmth. A simple smile when greeting your associates goes a long way. Be mindful of how your behaviors may be interpreted — including your pace, tone (be careful not to speak too rapidly or loudly) and body posture (crossed arms or furrowed brows).
  • Acknowledge good behaviors. Don’t underestimate how motivating praise and recognition are — people are hungry for it.
  • Be approachable and open to influence (I can’t tell you how many people tell me they feel powerless to influence their boss). Establish a process for feedback. As a manager you can’t afford to have your people afraid to talk to you about their challenges or concerns. Proving to them that you are open to their feedback and can listen to it without becoming defensive will keep you in the know vs. in the dark or potentially blindsided one day.
  • The most admired bosses share common traits — they inspire unity and loyalty with hope, optimism, clear direction/vision and their sincere commitment to helping their people achieve success.
  • Finally, treat your people how you would want to be treated.

Yes, much of this is common sense — the problem is it’s not often common practice.

It’s easy to get sidetracked and take your eye off the ball. Tiger Woods didn’t develop that great swing overnight by “thinking it” — you need to take action on new behaviors and practice until they become “muscle memory” and your natural swing.

I help clients everyday (all over the world with Skype) with the people side of leadership.  Invest in your future – Phone me: 360 682 5807 or email: