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Man in the Mirror

Posted on in Retention Strategy

I’m certain that I’m dating myself with a Michael Jackson song reference, but I’ve heard it 3 times in the past week, so I know it’s not a coincidence (it may not be the best blog title either, but go with me here).

Since we are talking all things talent on this blog, you might be questioning how this song title ties into it.  Perhaps more than you think.  Let me explain.

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he makes the statement that “People Don’t Quit Companies, People Quit People.”  When I first read this quote years ago, I had one of those lightbulb moments as that statement rang true for me personally.  And it continues to be reinforced through the work I do with clients today. 

Retention is something that comes up in almost every meeting I attend.  Clients describe a list of symptoms that they believe are the root cause of their turnover.  It becomes an endless diatribe ultimately ending in the rationalization of what they believe are the facts.

You know what I’m talking about.

The statements sound like “those d@%m millennials”, “we shouldn’t have hired (insert name) in the first place”, “it’s just the way things are in our industry”, “s/he didn’t get it” or “so and so just wasn’t a good fit.”  If you are being honest, you know that you or someone in your organization has said those very things.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but those statements and the many others you’ve been feeding yourself about why people leave is…well…simply BS.

There is really only one thing that contributes to turnover….and it’s likely you (assuming you are in a leadership position…although I suppose everyone should consider themselves as a leader. I digress).  High turnover is in direct correlation to a lack of leadership.  Plain and simple.

At the end of the day as a leader, the buck stops with you.  I realize this is not news to many of you, but it is fascinating to me that so many CEO’s and COO’s that I work with fail to own the work environment that’s been created and accept responsibility for its impact on retention.   The reasons your employees point to for leaving really are just symptoms that show there is a disconnect between the leadership of the organization and everyone else.  Think about….poor communication, lack of transparency, little or no trust, lack of development…the list goes on and on.

Unless and until you take the time to reflect on the type of work environment you’ve created and perpetuated, making changes to programs, policies or processes won’t make a difference.

Addressing your retention starts with the “man” in the mirror.  Change starts with you.  Having an honest conversation and admitting to the things you need to change is hard.  However, people are forgiving and if you make a genuine attempt to make improvements, many will come along for the ride.  What do you have to lose?

PS.  If you haven’t read Good to Great, I highly recommend you put it on your summer reading list. I guarantee it will influence how you look at your current team and organizational structure.

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