Management Practices

Employees Quit Leaders Not Companies

Neil Ducoff | July 10, 2011 | 1:37 PM
Neil Ducoff, founder and CEO of Strategies

These situations can get so out of hand that I was recently asked to be an expert witness in lawsuit where an owner is suing his attorney for failing to properly calculate the extent of the damages. Yes, you’re hurt, frustrated and angry - but this isn’t about what the dearly departed did to you and your business, it’s about you taking ownership for the part you played in this saga.


Employees quit leaders not companies. Personally, every job I ever quit had more to do with quitting the leader than work itself. In fact, I once quite a job I truly loved and would have stayed at for years had the leader not compromised my trust in him. Likewise, I know and accept that people quit me because of my action, inaction or behavior. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but taking ownership in a employee relationship gone bad is part of being a no-compromise leader. The question is, will you learn from your mistakes?


Here are some red-hot strategies to make sure employees don’t quit you:


  • Communication, dialog and understanding: Every employee wants and needs to know where they stand with you and the company. There is no such thing as communicating too much. If you have any employee who hasn’t had a thorough performance evaluation in the past three months, you’re part of the problem.


  • Never avoid performance and behavior issues: The most serious relationship damage occurs when issues surface and conversations, because they may be tough to do, are avoided. Like any infection, performance and behavior issues only get worse - and often spread to other employees.


  • Leave nothing unsaid: It’s difficult enough to engage in a fierce conversation, so why end it without getting everything out? Leaving things unsaid is simply giving permission for problems to continue. Read the book, Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson. You’ll learn how to control maneuver and control tough conversations that become emotionally charged.


  • Agreement on expectations and next steps: Never end a conversation without clarity on what the expectations and next steps are - even if that means parting ways. Set timelines and check-in points to coach, reinforce and to ensure progress is being made. If you think that one crucial conversation is going to cure everything, you’re clearly part of the problem.


  • Tunnel vision is short sighted: Leaders are notorious for charging forward or heading off on rabbit trails. They stop paying attention to what’s really going on. They become disconnected with their employees until something snaps. No-compromise leaders never disconnect from the people they lead and the customers they service.


  • Culture is everything: A contaminated business culture fuels turnover. It makes it tough to come to work. It creates resentment. The no-compromise leader is the keeper and protector of the business culture. Is there contamination in your culture?


  • Everyone seeks appreciation: “Great job.” These two little words can brighten someone’s day and inspire great performance. Make the time to show and demonstrate your sincere appreciation for a job well done.


  • Sometimes, it’s just over: Employees come and go. Just like you, their needs and desires change and evolve. Sometimes they move on. Other times they quit and stay. If it’s over, acknowledge it and help them move on - even if it means walking them to the door. It’s all part of protecting your culture and keeping the drama outside of your company.
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