It’s a well-known fact that the majority of people leave bosses and not companies
with a recent survey from Gallup putting the figure at around 50%. While that hardly
sounds like music to the ears of any leader or manager, it is the sort of statistic that
they need to be conscious of, especially if they’ve been noticing members of their
own team clamouring for the door.
Everyone has their own reasons for staying in a job or for moving on, so you can
never be certain whether you, as their manager, have had any part to play in their
ultimate decision. But if a valued reportee’s departure is unexpected or baffling to
you, then you could do worse than ask yourself whether you and your brand of
leadership might’ve had anything to do with it.
As the boss, you exert a powerful influence on an employee’s career development,
and as such, you should be aware of how well or badly you are exerting this
influence by asking yourself a few critical questions about your own management
For example, was the reason the employee left due to her constantly waiting on you
to make a crucial decision, one that directly affected her ability to do the job
efficiently? Were you trying to micromanage him by neurotically checking on his
progress every few hours rather than letting him get on with the job? Were you
overly detail-focused and seemed to get pleasure from mistakes the team made?
Did you want to be cc-ed on every single email that they sent but were never quite
satisfied with either the content of the mails or the results that followed?
While the questions you need to ask are many and varied and are specific to your
circumstances, they should all relate to your ability to lead and to lead well. They
should address things like your decisiveness, confidence, empathy and trust as a
manager, and how well you demonstrate these traits to your team. These are the
qualities that employees look out for most in a good boss and if they are lacking,
then that will have an impact on them and on their desire to do a good job.
Asking questions after a key employee has left is the leadership equivalent of
shutting the door after the horse has bolted, so rather than be left pondering how you
might have done better in the past, you should regularly question your own
performance and assess the factors that are affecting the way you lead – as you
This way, you might also discover that while you’re doing your job as well as you
can, your performance is being affected by something or someone else, say, the
ineffectiveness of your own boss perhaps, further up the chain of command. Asking
the right questions will help you get to the root of the problem and thus help you to
find the solution.
When asked to describe the ideal boss, people rarely describe a person with a far
reaching vision or super smart intelligence but instead a person that they trust
deeply, someone passionate about the job, someone with infectious enthusiasm.
People particularly want to work for a person that is willing to bat for the team and to
defend his or her reportees to the nth degree.
An example. Declan was appointed manager of the Irish sales office in a global
advertising group, after a stint as a highly performing business analyst. Prior to this
role he had limited manager experience, but his peers loved his team-focused
approach and new members were grateful for his voluntary coaching. On
appointment, he shared his style for managing the team – to work hard, play hard
and communicate well. He sat with each individual to understand their key
challenges and to get to know their career aspirations and he gave them clear and
actionable feedback on an ongoing basis.
Declan had a simple formula that everyone understood: 1. he set clear goals that he
created with input from the team 2. when things went well everyone knew about it! 3.
when things went badly he gave immediate, specific feedback and explained why it
caused a problem. In the annual feedback survey on how managers performed,
Declan clocked 99% – the only criticism from the team was that his Diana Ross
impersonation had to go!
Managing people is fun and rewarding and with a simple strategy you can be the
boss that everyone wants to work for. As my first manager told me, a good way to
start is to put yourself in the shoes of your team and be the manager that you’d like
to be managed by. Empathy, after all, is a powerful thing.
- Have A Clear Vision. You set clear goals focused on priorities, you understand the challenges of the role and you keep the team focused on the important things.
- Be a Great Leader. You hire the best and then trust them to do their job. You don’t
ask them to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself and you roll up your sleeves to
help when things get tough. You value the perspective each person brings to the
table and help solve problems based on your experience.
- Recognise That People Move On. You actively help your team progress. You give your team regular, constructive feedback; positive and negative. You find out the great things in them and help them learn to see them too. You have meaningful career discussions and you care about their mental and physical well being.
- Sacrifice Yourself For Your Team. You recognise that their success is your success. You move obstacles out of the way and clean up the mess they didn’t even know they’d made. You have the tough battles.
- Be yourself all the time. You are authentic and you let your team know who you are. You are calm under pressure; you don’t cry when the milk is split or throw your toys out of the pram when you don’t get your own way. You show up the same in work and out of work- you are straightforward and rationale.