Month: February 2014

You’re leading but does anyone want to follow?

An HR manager I know and respect shared an article with me recently and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. When I read 10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent from Liz Ryan on Forbes.com I nearly yelled Yes, yes, yes! aloud.  It is truly a must-read article, so the link is included. She is so right about all the things companies do that not only fail to attract, but actively repel top talent, which frankly is really… well, sad. And frustrating.

How is it that the people who are supposed to know the most about attracting, motivating and retaining talent are doing such a poor to mediocre job on average? There are many reasons we’ve ended up going down this rabbit hole but the more important question is: as a leader, what obligation do you have to do something about it?

If you’ve accepted a leadership position in your company, you’ve agreed to be a steward of the success and well-being of that company. You’ve accepted the responsibility of speaking up when something’s not working.

  • Do you have chronically open positions which you have trouble finding the right candidates for, even though you know plenty of people with that skill set exist in the market?
  • Are you able to fill the positions as advertised, but can’t keep anyone in them long enough to get really good?
  • Do the best producers or employees with the best relationship with your clients leave at a higher rate than you’d like?

These are indicators that something is not working.  Often, that something has to do with treating human beings like non-human beings. When it comes to customers, we spend a lot of time figuring out how to capture their emotions and make it easy for them to buy from us (1-click anyone?) over and over and over again. Why do we think employees are any different?  The economic realities of the past few years have lulled us into a false sense of security, but as the tide turns, many companies will be caught flat-footed.

So, here’s what you can do: question how your talent is being attracted, rewarded, developed and treated overall, by you personally and by your company. Don’t accept “it’s just our policy” or “that’s just the process” for an answer. Find out why. There is a reason. Processes and policies are created with good intention. Most often it’s risk avoidance; sometimes it’s because that’s how “everyone” does it. But, did anybody weigh that against the cost of not being able to fill positions, of having poor producers stay and top producers leave, of having employees who once developed top quality products or loyal customer relationships give up and accept mediocre because they can’t fight the system anymore?  A bad system will foil a good worker every time. This isn’t news. Check out Deming’s Red Bead Experiment if you’ve never heard of it before.

If you want to be a leader good people will want to follow, look at their experience of finding you, joining you and staying with you, and work to make the experience one they would choose over and over and over again.