The old saying “people don’t quit companies, they quit bad bosses” is true to a certain point. A study of why people leave jobs points to a host of reasons, but the top reasons always point to a company deficiency.
Many individuals accused of being bad bosses may be deserving of the title; however, if one looks deeper, a lack of leadership training is the core of the problem.
I once taught a leadership class to a group of front-line managers composed of new and very experienced leaders. At the start, I asked the class how much leadership training they received each year. One of the most experienced members of the group claimed to be lucky if he received one day of training a year.
For many organizations, training is a luxury. Daily operations make taking time off for training a luxury few can afford, but few bosses fail to realize the detriment to business that a bad manager can be. Reduced employee turnover, improved productivity and engagement result from good leadership.
I work with a person (I’ll call her Sally), who called me to say she decided to leave her company. It shocked me to hear the news — Sally was a shining star in the organization. Since day one, she had worked hard and out-performed many of her peers. Promoted quickly, she consistently received positive reviews from peers and those they managed.
The company had recently appointed a new boss to lead Sally’s division. On arrival, the new boss implemented changes immediately without listening to input from subordinates. Morale in the department soon dipped and clashes with Sally soon followed.
I asked Sally to take time to identify the real reason for her dissatisfaction. In a lengthy email, she identified four areas of concern. First, she felt the new manager failed to value existing procedures. Second, tasks were prioritized differently. Third, employees’ thoughts and processes were undervalued. Fourth, the new boss was a micromanager.
Rather than building a collaborative environment, the team was alienated by demanding respect for the leadership position and the exerting control. Thus, team alienation caused good people to look elsewhere. Sally’s list made it easy to label the new boss as terrible.
Instead, I asked Sally about the amount of leadership training their company offered. “Very little” was her reply. The company had done what many companies do. Put a high-performer in charge, thinking subordinates would behave the same, while failing to give the new leader skills to be successful.
Great leaders aren’t born; they are made. The formula is simple: Combine opportunity, training and accountability with potential. Then add a pinch of stress followed by some reviewing and revising, thus developing the recipe for a great leader.
Too often companies throw good people into the deep end and expect them to swim. When forced to perform under pressure, people revert to what they know. For those without prior knowledge, they tend to operate from fear. These scenarios are correctable by leadership who care and offer help.
It is a shame that Sally’s company will lose a rising star. Unfortunately, this scenario continues to play out in companies across the globe. It persists until companies realize that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
People want to perform. They want to belong to something they can believe in and feel like their contribution matters. More often than not, people take pride in the work they do. It is a leader’s responsibility to nurture that pride and help it grow, not find ways to kill it.
Jeff Hough is a local politician and blogger.