“People leave managers not organisations” is an old corporate paradigm, and even a book by that name was popular many years ago. I however like to think of it less as a paradigm and more like a Universal Truth.
Plenty of research available suggests talented employees really do almost always quit because of their manager’s insufficient people management skills. And in one of my previous organisation’s employee engagement surveys, year after year, the ‘Immediate Management’ category was ranked near the bottom of the pile. Of course, it is not singularly a line manager’s issue but reflective of the broader organisation leadership and management culture.
Where do you begin to address it, you ask? At every managerial level, with every manager, preferably starting at the top. Change however won’t happen if it’s done to us; change will happen when we become the force of change. So, if you are a manager, a team lead or a department/ function head, or the head of a business, whether experienced or new, the following ideas will strike a chord. The (really) good leader-managers:
1. Engage, don’t (just) tell
Employees value managers who value them for their knowledge, opinions, ideas, and commitment. Communicate openly and be welcoming of their views even if eventually you agree to disagree.
2. Remove obstacles, don’t create them
A manager’s primary role is to pave the way for their team to succeed. Find resources, manage key stakeholders, and garner support for the team. Solve problems, don’t become one!
3. Uplift the spirit, don’t break it
One of the worst things you can do to a human being is break their spirit. Unfortunately, a great majority of managers seem to prefer putting down their team members and coercing performance out of them, rather than inspiring it. Anyone in a managerial position can assert authority, takes an exceptional leader-manager to truly inspire. Do you have it in you?
4. Create happiness, don’t suck it out!
Managers must become “Happiness Managers”! Some generations back this would have been a preposterous suggestion but today, not quite. Happy employees make good performers, steady performers, lasting performers. Trust me, if your team’s happy, you’ll be happy. By the way, it is your job to ensure that!
5. Focus the spotlight on their team; don’t hog it
Project your team, promote them! Your success is from your team. They deserve it. Should they have a setback, protect them! That’s what transformational leaders do. That’s the way to earn your team’s respect, commitment, and love… forever.
As all universal truths go, these are simple ideas. Yet most managers struggle with these. Perhaps Einstein was right when he said, “any fool can complicate things; takes a genius to keep it simple”
I encourage you to look inwards and see what kind of leader-manager you have been so far. Given a choice would people leave you or go the distance (of their career) with you?
Wish you a wonderful leadership journey ahead.
Ganesh Raman is an Organisational Development (OD) and HR Digital Transformation expert with over two decades of experience in establishing company-wide processes and systems in the areas of L&D, Performance Management, Competence Management, and Talent Management in mid-to-large size organisations. His rich, varied, and deep OD experience also includes setting up L&D functions and building lasting learning cultures. As a trainer and facilitator, over the years he has designed and conducted leadership and behavioural skills programs for over 10000 individuals across a dozen different industries. He is a Chartered Member of CIPD, UK and an accomplished public speaker.