Employees join companies and leave (poor) leaders. How can you as a leader prevent employees walking away from you within the next 5 years?
1. Become and remain accessible: As a contemporary leader, how accessible are you for others? I am not referring to having your door open but something more substantial. Whether we like it or not, we human beings are undeniably driven by status. The degree of perceived accessibility is determined by how attached you are to your status as a leader. Status used to be determined by the amount of knowledge a leader possessed (among many other things obviously). And knowledge used to equal power. Thing is that nowadays knowledge is so readily available. And once available becomes obsolete so fast. So an important source that built status has ceased to be. If knowledge is no longer an important foundation to build status, the question is what drives you as a leader. Write it down in one sentence. Now count all the ´I´s you put in there. What would happen if you would eliminate all the ´I´s in that one sentence? And replace them by ´we´? In other words, let your e-go? What difference would this make? And how would you feel about it? I guarantee that if you do this exercise and start living it, your perceived accessibility will take a giant leap forward as a leader. Making the shift from knowledge based to relationship based leadership will prevent employees from leaving you.
2. Be and stay engaged: Engagement. An overused and overexploited, yet important concept. Here´s the thing. Engagement really starts with yourself. And shows up in every tiny thing you do. On a daily basis. Be honest and ask yourself as a leader: why are you in it? The big fat paycheck? Nothing wrong with that. It pays bills and gives you freedom to do stuff. But hang on, is this the only reason? The ´I didn´t quite know what to do when I started my career but ended up here and I´m good at it, although my heart is not in it? Do you believe in the cause of the company you work for? Or does the paycheck numb you comfortably? Do you want to set up the next generation of workers up for success, or is your retirement and second house on the Amalfi coast more of a concern to you? Thing is that employees have an innate sense of guessing why you are in it. If they can relate to this on both a personal and professional level, bravo! If they cannot make sense out of it, chances are disengagement is more likely to happen. The degree to which you are able to show how engaged you are on a daily basis will prevent employees to walk away sooner rather than later.
3. Ability to adapt and connect: Different folks different strokes. This expression says it all. As a leader, do you (implicitly or explicitly, the latter much worse in my opinion) expect others to adapt to your style (which could be related to your attachment to status as a leader)? Or do you make a deliberate effort to adapt to theirs? When I was 15 years old I went to Paris and wanted to order a ´café au lait´ in French. I was so nervous I didn´t dare so ordered in English, upon which the French waiter responded to me in…French. The year after I went back and this time decided to say it in my best French, upon which the waiter responded to me…in English. Which language do you speak to be able to adapt to and connect with others? Making a deliberate effort to adapt and connect will have a surprising impact and will prevent employees from leaving you.
4. Collaborate: Going back to what I said earlier on what drives you as a leader. The more ´I´s in your statement, the less inclined others will perceive you as someone great to collaborate with. The impulses or inputs you give to the system in the role that corresponds to you (provided it does!), intentionally or unintentionally, have an immediate impact on this same system, be it work or family. For better or for worse. You can drive positive outcomes by giving positive inputs to the system. Call it Karma or not, what you give is what you get back, if not now for sure at the long term. Which all benefits us at the end.
5. Be who you are: it got you to the point where you are now. It is why employees like to work for and with you. Players win on the short term but loose at the end. You fought your battles. And won most, if not all of them. We all want to win. With each other. And it is possible.