Are team members leaving because of you?

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On a daily basis leaders affect the people that they work with.

Sam Hlabati

It is entirely up to the leader as to which effect they will eventually have on the team. Are you sure that if a survey was done within your team, you could get flying colours for being a great boss?

In an online survey carried out in the UK between June 26 and July 1 2014 by Censuswide; with a total of 1071 respondents who were all full time employees, there were some shocking results.

The results showed that 12% could not name one quality they admire in their boss, 75% admitted to talking about their boss behind their back.

The most frequently disliked trait of leaders is not giving reward or recognition where it’s due, which was named by one in five respondents (19%).

Being disorganised, not motivating staff, and not caring about their employees’ career progression were also named as among the most despised qualities.

When asked about the qualities team members most admire in their bosses, being trusted to do the job came out top, which was named by 34% of respondents.

Being approachable and having experience in the job was also ranked highly among team members. These traits were also ranked highly when they were asked what qualities they think make a good leader in general; being approachable was listed by 36% of respondents, followed by having organisational skills (34%) and strength of relevant experience (33%).

The research also made it clear that a good relationship with a leader is important to overall job satisfaction. Of the 53% who said they get on with their leader are happier in their job, with 24% saying it makes them work harder as a result. 23% believe they will stay longer at their current company due to getting on with their leader.

However, it’s a different picture for 14% who said they do not have a good relationship with their boss. Of the 43% who have considered looking for a new job as a result of a bad relationship, and 39% feel stressed or anxious.

Particularly worrying about bosses will be the fact that 36% feel less motivated to do a good job for the company, and 22% simply do not work as hard as they do not get on with their boss.
The reality is that there are bosses out there who are not liked by their teams, yet they are still in charge of steering their organisations into the future.

Wait, did I just say “steering into the future”; I do not believe I just said that.

That seems to be the manifesting reality that leaders who are not liked by those behind them are in charge. I can hear some murmuring that they are not at a popularity contest show; rather they say that their role is to run the organisation and not to make friends.

We all know what happens to despots in the end. Just remember that when you are not liked, you do not get “commitment but just compliance”; “no passion but indifference”, “no engagement but disengagement” from your team. You will be basically alone, there is an African proverb that says, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.”

Let us look at some simple things that a leader could do to enhance their approachability and organisational skills. The first thing that a leader needs to do is to be able to connect with their team. It is quite surprising that leaders spend years working with people who they do not take time to know. Knowing your team can amount to regular “whistle stops” at the team member’s workstations checking on how they are doing.

The amount of information that a leader will access about what is happening in their work environment is vast.

Consider this example, a leader could get to know that a team member’s computer is broken down and therefore affecting productivity by just asking a simple question such as, “How are things going, is everything okay?”. The necessary help to bring that team member back to productivity could be speeded up by the leader following up on the persons responsible for fixing the computer. A casual greeting that goes beyond good morning, which is a brief interactions can give the idea that something is bothering the team member if such interactions are regular and a change in mood is noticeable.

Beyond the constant brief interactions, a leader should make time for meaningful conversations with their team members outside the normal course of duty; a lunch or coffee outing would be a good opportunity to get to understand the team member. It is important to know what it is that makes the team members tick; what it is that motivates them.

In depth interactions will help the leader understand the aspirations and career plans of the team members. Team members whose career aspirations are catered for will be engaged hence will stay with the organisation.

The brief interactions and the meaningful conversations will deal with the concern of the leader not being approachable. Remember the foregoing survey outlined the qualities that the respondents thought they think make a good leader in general, and being approachable was listed by 36% of respondents.

As I always say in this column, being approachable is not about people coming to the leader, it is rather about the leader being with the people. It is about how easy it is for the team to talk to the leader who is already on the shop floor.

While they are still at the ideas generation, let them establish what it is they want from the leadership. A simple but great way of doing this is for the team to undertake a little exercise, which is called the Stop – Keep Doing — Start (SKS) Process. SKS is the formal name for a short set of questions that the team can use to give feedback to the organisation’s leadership. It involves simple questions; which I hereby adapt for the task at hand; (1) “what should the leadership stop doing?” (2) “what should the leadership keep doing?”; (3) “what should the leadership start doing?”.

This method is credited to Phil Daniels, a Psychology Professor at Brigham Young University. This process would be effective for several reasons which include, inter-a-lia; firstly it is reassuring — the questions push the team to think of specific things that leadership do well, as well as encouraging them to say what could be done better; secondly the process is action-focused: the comments made give leadership a practical insight into the impact of leaders’ behaviour on the team, with precise information on what needs to be done to improve.

Sam Hlabati is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®), a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP®) and a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®). E-mail samhlabati@gmail.com; twitter handle; @samhlabati

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