Leaders Must Lead

Leaders Must Lead

During a recent exit interview, the departing manager explained that, “the lack of respect employees had for management” was a significant factor behind their leaving. Wow. Let’s talk about this.

Variations on this theme often crop up in conversations I have with executives. Sometimes this sentiment is caused by poor communication. Other times, it occurs due to the (very real) generational differences found in the modern workplace. All too often, the answer lies with two dramatically different sets of expectations. When this occurs, the explanation is simple to provide, yet difficult to execute: Respect must be earned – it cannot be demanded.

Gone are the days when employees were “lucky” to work for your organization. If this is still your mentality, then you likely have either a revolving door with a high rate of employee churn or an iceberg of discontent lurking right below the surface. Either way, it’s past time for you to change – are you ready?

There’s a talent war going on, and even semi-skilled and limited-skill employees have more options than ever. This places the impetus directly upon YOU and your organization. In other words, it’s not a problem with the employees – it’s a problem with your organization.

If you haven’t adopted an employee-first culture, not only will you fail to attract top talent, you will completely fail to retain ANY talent. Your managers cannot and will not be afforded respect simply because of their position. Instead, they must earn employees’ respect. If managers cannot earn respect, then they cannot manage. And if managers cannot manage, then they are not in the right seat on your magic bus.

Your “customer-first” values, service-oriented culture and statements like, “our people are our greatest asset” don’t matter. Today’s employees see through these empty-worded-statements for the window-dressing that they are.  What truly matters is a REAL commitment to put employees first by hiring and enabling managers that employees not only choose to follow, but follow enthusiastically.

If your organization wants employees to respect management, then you must:

  1. Deliberately create a collaborative culture that celebrates employees and enables them to support and learn from each other.
  2. Hire (and develop) managers that are leaders and ensure they understand how to give, solicit and apply constructive feedback.
  3. Hire (and develop) employees with the “right” personality and attitude – not just bodies that meet minimum requirements.
  4. Swiftly remove hiring “misses” when the individual doesn’t mesh with your culture.
  5. Positively recognize employees who leave on good terms.

Your job as a leader is to create an environment that people want to be a part of; where management is respected because they’ve earned it – not because management demands it. If you can’t make that happen, employees will vote with their feet and you will eventually hit that iceberg of dissatisfaction. Because just like the manager who left due to “lack of respect,” everyone has options.

Everyone has blindspots. As a leader, though, the only thing that matters about blind spots is how you mitigate them. Sharing who you are and building a culture of authenticity is the only way to create a leadership team that has your back and provides perspective. Learn more in my free e-book, “Leadership in Real Life.”

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