Slow down the "Great Resignation" by avoiding these key leadership failures
Slow down the “Great Resignation” by avoiding these key leadership failures
As per a recent Gallup study, nearly 50% of workers are actively searching or watching for new opportunities. This is happening now (!). Gallup also concludes that the most powerful factor for slowing down this trend is the local manager.
Nobody ever said leading people is easy. Neither is leading a business. Balancing the two successfully may sometimes seem like mission impossible. The problem is that if we fail on the people side, our actions create a path towards toxicity and a generally uncomfortable work environment. Luckily, avoiding that is rather simple (not necessarily easy, though), and doesn’t cost you anything.
If nothing else, try to put the following tips front and center at all times.
Empathy and curiosity may not be your sharpest tools, but the most efficient when it comes to people.
Those of us in a position of power often believe we already know everything. We point out the fact that we’re already in a top position as evidence that supports this belief. When our direct reports get difficult, there’s often a reflex to use positional power and force in response. Unfortunately. this leaves the human dimension completely out of the equation, which is one of the driving forces why nearly half of all employees around the world leave or wish to leave their company - because of their manager.
Try to look at it this way:
Most of us have a go-to tool which we take out of our leadership toolbox to address all kinds of challenges. When the challenge is a nail we need to drive into the wall, then the hammer is an awesome tool to use. We love the hammer for that!
The problem is, that when you keep using the hammer a lot as a leader, you become the hammer, and from your perspective every problem starts looking like a nail.
Not everything is a nail-problem, least of all people. The hammer usually is the wrong choice of tool for people related problems.
Your most efficient and suitable tools for dealing with people are empathy and curiosity. Failing to be curios and empathic in people-situations is practically a leadership sin.
Using empathy and curiosity in difficult conversations and conflicts centres us in on a positive state of mind. Use deep curiosity to explore what drives the other person’s behaviour.
If you manage to stay focused on your curiosity, it’s impossible for you to be frustrated or angry at the same time.
Empathy is your other super weapon: If we manage to make our direct reports feel heard and understood, they will be much more likely to consider what we have to say and perhaps even stop fighting.
Your leadership swiss-army knife
Convert attackers into supporters
As beautiful as it may be, it’s not going to happen that your team is unanimously agreeing with you at all times. Whether they say it openly or not, your decisions and even your directions are constantly challenged. Eventually, having difficult conversations is unavoidable and during those, you will be challenged.
Some of those attacks may come out of the blue from your perspective and you have no idea what got into them - but from the perspective of your opponent, their challenge will seem absolutely justified.
Being the boss, you do have the power (usually) to just say something like “Noted. But we’re doing this anyway!”.
That's really not the best approach. When you’re being challenged, note that there is some negative dynamic at play right there, and brushing over it may be convenient, but most of the time it will come back at you later.
People don’t forget how you made them feel and depending on the personality of your opponent, they might resort to very different unwanted reactions.
They could decided to no longer actively engage at work, and hurt you by doing nothing.
(Never be mean to someone who can hurt you by doing nothing!).
They might start looking for a new job. They might oppose other projects that are important to you. Or many other things.
You’ll never know until it’s too late.
So instead, when you’re being cornered into a difficult situation, don’t brush over it! Unless there is an absolute emergency situation with zero time to lose, take a few minutes to deploy genuine curiosity and try to uncover what is motivating the other person to start this conflict.
Ask the other person, calmly, to explain. Shut up and listen. Ask question to clarify and dig a little deeper.
Then when you think you’ve understood their perspective, summarize it back to them.
Note that “understanding” the other person’s motivation is not the same as “agreeing” to their point of view or motive!
This is solely about understanding the other person’s perspective, and then saying it back to them so they can feel understood.
So very often, this is all that people really want in difficult situations, and following that moment of having been understood, they may just stop fighting you and even accept that you cannot accommodate their wishes right then and right there.
Perhaps the reason for the outbreak is a simple missing resource. Perhaps it’s that they don’t receive enough credit. Perhaps your decision makes the other person look bad. Perhaps their team has too many priorities from you. You would be surprised how often the root of conflict turns out to be easily fixable!
But you’ll never know any of that, if you decide to brush it off with positional authority.