Good feedback is not all about improvement
January 21, 2016
Put down your sandwich. I need to give you some feedback.
February 3, 2016
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Want to retain your best talent? Become a better leader.

I can’t keep my best employees around because I can’t afford to pay them like the competition.

It’s so difficult to find the “right fit” for this position.

Job-hopping is the rage. There’s no way I can keep employees around.

I hear statements like these often, and there is some truth to each of them. Retaining top talent is tough, and there are most definitely extenuating circumstances (especially here in Northern Nevada… think: large incoming competitors, burgeoning tech industry and increased cost of living to name a few) that add to the burden. However, I can’t help but look at recent statistics that tell us a whopping 50% of employees are leaving jobs to get away from their manager and think, “we have more control over these situations than we think we do.”

There is little we can do by way of changing circumstances beyond our control. But, if we could keep around a significantly larger percentage of top talent through strengthening aspects of our business that are in our control, shouldn’t we give that shot? Strengthening leadership is consistently a top rated concern for Fortune 500 companies because effective leaders not only attract and retain top talent, they also keep the rest of your employees more engaged and more productive for a longer period of time (and vice versa… poor leadership = less engagement and increased turnover).

To be clear – there’s a difference between being a leader and a boss. Effective leaders have a deep understanding of themselves, as well as how to build real connections with their teams. Encouraging leaders in your company (that includes you!) to develop the following five areas of leadership will have profound outcomes including increased credibility and trust, a more open and productive culture and, of course, higher attraction and retention of top talent who are looking for ways to make an impact and grow.

  1. Become the “C.E.O” of Your Life
    As leaders, we look for employees who are solutions-oriented, proactive and positive. But if the top-down culture in an organization doesn’t reflect these traits, how can we expect that type of talent to stick around?If you notice yourself or other company leaders complaining, whining, or getting judgmental, it’s a smoke signal to look inward and ask ourselves some important questions. I like to think of C.E.O as the Chief Experience Officer. Qualifications for this role include: owning our impact, creating our experiences, choosing our behaviors, and realizing that we always have a choice. If something isn’t working, let’s stop complaining and ask what we have control over and what we can influence. Then take action.
  2. Communication is Key
    When a leader is frustrated with his or her employees, one of my first questions is “how do you go about communicating expectations.” If I hear any answer along the lines of “they should know,” chances are it’s the leader who needs to improve. Clearly communicating expectations for performance outcomes and day-to-day rules of engagement is a critical leadership skill. Retaining employees starts by clearly communicating expectations.
  3. Discover Your Authentic Self
    If we don’t know what we need, who we are or why we believe the things we do, it’s very difficult to effectively lead others. There’s nothing worse than reporting to a leader described as: inconsistent, people-pleasing, two-faced or a know-it-all. Discovering our authentic self starts with a clear sense of our purpose and values, then aligning our behaviors – even when it’s difficult, uncomfortable, or unpopular. Authenticity is a lot like personal integrity. Take a moment to think: “What’s my say-do ratio?”
  4. Checking Expectations
    Leaders who are considered fair and just are rated much more favorably, and produce much more trust and understanding than those who aren’t. One of the keys to fairness is checking our expectations and understanding what’s behind them. This practice helps us to lay ground rules that we can act on with consistency and predictability. It also forces us as leaders to think critically about the difference between our own expectations (because they matter to us) or societal expectations that may be around due to history or status quo, but may not make a lot of sense in our current circumstance.“Because I said so,” doesn’t work for kids and it definitely doesn’t work for employees. Understanding our expectations and being able to clearly communicate them allows our employees to understand us, and our decision-making process, in return.
  5. Practice Empathy
    Creating an active practice of really seeing or hearing the feelings of our team members is the first step toward building trust, and trust is a driver of retention and productivity. Empathy shouldn’t be confused with being a doormat. Empathy and accountability combined are two of the bravest acts of a leader.

It’s true that our world and our workplaces are changing rapidly and that may make it more difficult for us to keep our employees for the long haul, but it’s safe to say human nature isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and as smart leaders we can use that to create advantage. Start building these practices into your daily routine to build a foundation of truly great leadership that transcends technology, generational gaps and current affairs – instead getting to the core of what we need to keep our people motivated and engaged in their work.

Amber Barnes
Amber Barnes
Amber is a leadership development professional with a heart for helping leaders maximize human performance in the workplace (and beyond.) With over a decade of experience coaching, training and advising leaders, she writes to helps leaders become more effective. Amber highlights common pitfalls, effective (and human) leadership practices as well as "must-knows" for leaders.