“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
Arthur, a manager at a mid-size firm, read a troubling statistic: According to Harvard Business Review, one in five high-performing employees plans to leave their job in the next six months. He wanted to groom his high-performing employees for success, growing their leadership skills. But how do I know I’m not just priming them for a job with some other company? he wondered.
High-performers are 400% more productive than average employees, says the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Arthur knew he couldn’t afford to lose his best people.
Then he read another stat: High-performing employees are only a little more satisfied with their jobs than other employees. He had an epiphany: His high-performers should get more from their job and workplace than they’re currently getting. If he gave them more, he’d increase their loyalty. Working with an executive coach, Arthur devised the following strategy.
- Implement a Thorough Onboarding Process
Thorough onboarding greatly improves retention, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). When employees understand how to contribute, they feel more satisfied—and stay longer. Onboarding ideally lasts around a year—it’s more a talent development process than an orientation, says SHRM.This process should thoroughly help employees to understand the workplace culture, how they’re evaluated, the tools at their disposal, and how their roles relate to the company’s vision, SHRM adds. Taking these steps will help mitigate the main reasons why employees leave their jobs early on.
- Provide Plenty of Guidance
According to a 2015 Gallup study, half of all employees who resign leave because they don’t like their bosses. Managers who give little guidance in setting goals and priorities, and who aren’t consistently available to answer questions, are the primary reason behind their choice to leave.The younger generations of employees particularly expect a great deal of feedback and support from their supervisors. Giving them what they want will keep them from seeking it elsewhere. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with all employees to discuss their progress, challenges, and expectations.
- Create a Succession Plan (and Communicate It)
If your high-performing employees don’t know your succession plan (or if you need to create one), they’re probably thinking about other career moves they can make. Involving them in the succession plan will give them more incentive to stay.Start preparing employees for more advanced roles early and pairing them with mentors who can support their development. Provide leadership training or executive coaching to help them get ready to handle the increased responsibility. Help them improve their perception, visibility, and influence so they can go further.
- Support Flexible Career Paths
The standard career ladder of generations past doesn’t always apply anymore. More often than not, once employees are exposed to a variety of job roles, they begin redefining their career objectives. In your one-on-one sessions, make it clear that you support such changes, as you want everyone to follow their passion. Help employees find appropriate mentors within the organization who can help them prepare for a new role, if they choose a different path.
- Don’t Put a Cap on Incentives
According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of high-performing firms choose not to place a cap on bonus pay. When rewards are not capped, it signifies that the possibilities you can achieve together are unlimited.
- Minimize Stress
Employees who regularly feel stressed are more likely to leave their workplaces, says the APA’s 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey. Ask your employees what creates stress for them, like organizational changes, interpersonal conflict, or work/life balance issues. Then create a plan together for addressing it. Reducing work stress will also give you more star performers, as it boosts productivity.
High-performing employees might not always stick around forever, but more of them will stay for much longer when you implement these strategies. Arthur found that when he showed employees his commitment to their success and satisfaction, they displayed a great deal of loyalty to the company as well.
Retain your high performing employees by offering them an executive coach to show a continued commitment to their development.
“It is easier to motivate people to do something difficult than something easy.” ~Sheri L. Dew~
Lydia Asks: I don’t know how to make some of my people feel more invested in their work. I would have thought success alone would be the best motivation, but apparently not. How can I get people to care more about their work?
Joel Answers: Increasing employee engagement is vital to retaining your people and succeeding as a company. Yet many companies’ “employee engagement plan” consists of giving out a survey and then telling managers to make things better, says Gallup. That’s probably why 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged in their work—or are actively disengaged—according to the organization’s data.
Here’s how to build engagement, inspiring your people to achieve more than they thought possible.
- Be Transparent
When employees feel the company is hiding something from them, they feel less invested in their jobs and may start to look elsewhere. If the company is going through a rough time, be transparent. Share your plan and what all employees can do to help. You might be surprised at how much this will build morale, not only helping you weather the storm but emerge from it in better shape than ever.
- Get into the Trenches
If you’re hiding behind your desk all day, you’re missing opportunities to contribute more as a manager. Build your working relationships by wandering through the office, asking people how they’re doing and listening to their ideas. Ask them if they need help, showing you have no qualms about rolling up your sleeves and pitching in with whatever’s needed. It’ll earn you tremendous respect and create a true sense of working as a team, increasing employees’ engagement in their jobs.
- Allow Your Stars to Shine
Give your team a problem to tackle, so they can generate their own creative solutions. If you need to bring an idea to upper management, create the idea as a team. Give credit where it’s due when you present it, of course—execs will be impressed that you’re fostering ingenuity among your people, and your team will feel valued. Your employees will also relish the chance to contribute in meaningful ways to the organization’s success, and your top talent will soar when their creative abilities are unleashed.
- Share Gratitude Often
The power of gratitude in the workplace. Say thank you often, and be specific about what you appreciate in people. If someone just completed a project, point out the qualities and talents she used in seeing it through—and do this in front of her peers. Give frequent feedback about what people are doing well, along with guidance in areas where they’re growing.
- Give People the Chance to Self-Critique
When an employee could have performed better, give him the opportunity to self-critique by explaining what he thinks he should have done differently. Then help him figure out how to get there. Failure itself usually gives people new insights; your job is to help them integrate these insights into their future performance. Addressing failures or shortcomings in this way feels empowering to employees, as you’re trusting them to help figure out a new plan.
- Create Social Opportunities
Give people the chance to share about their lives and aspirations in a less formal way by creating social opportunities. Having a pizza party for lunch after a team accomplishment will encourage everyone to gather in one place and chat. Taking a few employees out for lunch each week will also give you a chance to connect—and by handpicking people who don’t know each other well encourages new relationships. Asking your team to select a volunteer opportunity to take part in together is another idea. By fostering relationships, you’ll increasing their sense of comradery, which will make motivation and engagement skyrocket.
- Get Silly
If you just send a humdrum email about an employee’s accomplishments, coworkers might barely glance at it. Instead, celebrate these moments in unexpected ways. The Society for Human Resource Management describes how in one company, a group of people parade around with kazoos, horns, and cow bells proclaiming the news. Getting a little wacky turns it into a fun moment for everyone, and makes them take notice.
As you can see, these factors aren’t related to compensation. Higher pay and benefits don’t drive engagement—relationships and communication do. By boosting employees’ engagement, you’ll be increasing their loyalty to the organization and raising the bar for what you can achieve together.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
Caleb, a manager in his workplace, often found himself fumbling for words. He wanted to learn how to make the most of his daily interactions with employees, even the brief ones. He reached out to several mentors in leadership positions. “What are the most important things you say to your employees?” he asked.
Strong leaders use phrases that give employees a powerful motivational boost, his mentors said. These phrases aren’t just sprinkled into a conversation. Rather, they often guide the direction of a conversation by opening a space for authentic sharing of ideas and appreciation. These five phrases are the building blocks to positive relationships based on strong communication, Caleb’s mentors told him.
- “You have what it takes.” It’s crucial to let people know you believe in them. They need to feel confident in their abilities in order to fully apply themselves. Find ways each day to express your confidence in people. Encourage them to take risks when you believe they’re likely to succeed, and to tackle ambitious projects.
- “How does that work?”This phrase resounds with humbleness, as well as the self-assurance to admit that you don’t know everything. As a leader, it’s vital to recognize that everyone possesses specific expertise and a distinct perspective. Knowing when to encourage them to share their expertise is an important skill for a leader. This is a good phrase to use in a meeting with more reserved team members who don’t normally boast about their knowledge. When you know they can explain something well that others will benefit from knowing, give them a confidence boost by asking this question.
- “I’m impressed.” This is one of the most important phrases used by leaders. When you take notice of others’ skills or contributions, let them know. Be specific about what you admire about their talents and efforts. Sharing your appreciation will encourage them to continue making a strong effort in the future. Use this phrase in front of other employees or higher-ups so that others will take notice as well, making this simple phrase an even bigger motivation booster.
- “What do you need?” Asking what employees need in order to carry out their work effectively shows you want to be supportive of their efforts. It also reveals a high level of confidence in others. Rather than micromanaging how their work should be carried out, you’re viewing them as the expert in how it should be done. A strong leader has the ability to play a supportive role by asking this question and following through. Posing this question in a more general way—in terms of how the workplace or job conditions could better meet employees’ needs—may help reveal broader areas of need, such as help with stress management or budgeting time.
- “What is your vision?” Likewise, this question shows that you value the ideas of others. You want them to feel invested in their work. And you know they’ll feel much more invested if they play a strong role in designing their own work performance goals. During one-on-one meetings, you should also ask them about their vision for their career and how they plan to work toward it over the next several years. This will show that you care about their career goals and will help you prepare talented team members for advancement.
Leaders who use these phrases are positioning themselves for advancement by improving employees’ job satisfaction and getting the most of their people. “Write down these phrases and keep them somewhere handy, on your desk or wall,” one mentor told Caleb. “Make sure they’re in a spot where you’ll look at them often, so you’ll have a continual reminder to use them. You’ll soon use them without thinking about it, and it will feel more natural every day.”
Try using all four of these phrases over the next couple of days. Email Joel for more advice on making your people feel motivated to excel in their jobs.
Have you used these phrases with people you supervise? Do you have other favorite phrases for motivating people that you’d like to share?
“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”
~ Lee Iacocca ~
Dylan is responsible for the succession management of his large company. “Sometimes the results have been frustrating,” Dylan says. “We plan. We prepare them. We check the past performance of our top employees.
“And still, when they step into that leadership role, sometimes the ramp-up takes far too long. Sometimes they are less than what we expected.”
Dylan decided to use more quantifiable tools to help him gauge the talent performance of those within his succession program. “I thought if I could learn some triggers or some key performance measures beyond the standard reviews and recommendations, maybe we could do better.”
Dylan’s goal was to increase the success of those stepping into management roles.
1. Personality. Dylan determined that personality plays a key role in predicting the success of promotions. “Of course other factors are important,” Dylan said. “But all things being equal, personality matters.”
It wasn’t just that Dylan wanted hard-chargers at the top. But when he understood the personality of the candidates in the succession management, he had a better feel where to place them. Some departments would respond better to a consensus builder and cheerleader. Others required a firm take-charge attitude.
To check this out, Dylan explored tools like the traditional Myers-Briggs interest inventory as well as newer personality assessments with labels of colors and gems. He found many of them gave the broad-brush assessment he needed.
“For example,” Dylan said. “My R&D department needed someone who was patient with the facts and science and yet willing to encourage and be open to exploration. The past leader really pushed for results and was impatient with explanations—excuses, he called them. It didn’t bring out the best in my scientists.”
2. Skill Sets. Dylan worked to find tools that could accurately assess the skill sets of the rising talent. Of course past performance was measured. But often new skill sets were needed for the future job.
Dylan had current leaders assess the skills needed for their jobs. Then he found ways to measure the abilities of those selected for succession. He sometimes gave them a project that called for these skills.
On key abilities, Dylan asked a co-worker or mentor to evaluate the worker for several weeks. He asked them to look specifically for that talent or skill, and assess the employee’s mastery of it.
When there was a gap between need and skill set, Dylan worked to train the employee in that area before the promotion and the need to have that skill arrived.
3. Drive. In the past, management had gathered to discuss who they felt should be part of the succession plan. “I know this is important,” Dylan said. “But I thought we needed to add another element.” Dylan wanted those interested to “raise their hands.”
“I wanted those motivated enough to step up and say, ‘Pick me,'” Dylan said. “I think that extra measure of confidence, initiative, and drive matters.”
In the review process, they added a series of questions.
- Where do you hope to be 2 years from now?
- What steps do you plan to take to get there?
- What is your next step right now?
As Dylan implemented these tools in his succession management, he saw the talent performance of the newly promoted rise. “I’ve been very pleased with the results,” Dylan said. “I think matching personalities, analyzing skill sets, and assessing drive has helped us step up our promotions. At this point, I feel very comfortable with our succession plan.”
Do you want to make sure your talent performs up to expectations when placed in your succession management? If so, contact Joel for assessment and coaching.
Talkback: What extra steps have you taken to see that your top talent is properly prepared for the succession slot they are expected to fill?
Image courtesy of Blend Images / Fotolia.com
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
~ Lao Tzu ~
Dennis felt excited at this new recognition. He’d just been asked to take a considerable promotion. He wasn’t new to leadership, but this was certainly a new position. A stretch. He was moving into a position of greater responsibility. He now had five teams to oversee. Some of the people he didn’t even know.
Dennis knew in order to succeed at this new job, he needed extra preparation. He didn’t have a lot of time to be up and running. He had to learn the essentials of this new leadership position right away.
One of his first steps was to Google “first 90 days as a leader online resources.” There he found articles and resource books. “I wanted to follow the principle of ‘Be. Know. Do’,” said Dennis. “I didn’t want to shoot from the hip.”
To get himself up and running in the shortest amount of time, Dennis decided to focus on these qualities.
- Resilient. Every leader will face some opposition. He needed to be prepared for a lack of agreement with his vision and direction. Also, managers, especially new leaders, make mistakes. That’s part of the risk taking. It’s why they were hired to lead. Dennis realized he needed to accept that mistakes and failures were part of the job. The important thing was to be resilient. Keep going. Keep confident. Keep motivated.
- Unique. Dennis was not hired to do the same old thing. “I needed to recognize my unique strengths and abilities,” Dennis said. “I bring my own brand, my own personality to the mix—and that’s a good thing.” Dennis knew he was good at cross-pollination, bringing ideas and methods used in other industries and finding applicability in his area.
- Thoughtful. The last leader had been autocratic. Dennis wanted to thoughtfully consider the merits of every team member’s ideas. He expected to research—online, and with company resources—to thoughtfully asses the strengths and limitations of the choices. “I wanted to avoid the ‘ready, fire, aim’ I saw in some management,” Dennis said.
- Vision. Dennis needed to know the course he wanted to go. He had to have a clear vision of his position, his responsibilities, and his goals.
- People. There were many new people for Dennis to get to know. He wanted to understand their strengths, their personalities, their attitudes, and how they fit with the teams.
- Culture. Even though Dennis was pretty familiar with the corporate culture, this new position put him in a different aspect of it. He needed to learn what was expected of him in as a leader in this particular place.
- Lead with Confidence. “Once I determined I was the kind of leader I needed to be, and I knew what I needed to know, I wanted to lead with confidence,” Dennis said. “I wanted my people to feel confident I knew what I was doing. I wanted them comfortable following me.”
- Set an Example. Dennis liked leaders that led by example. He wanted to make sure all his actions were impeccable. “If I asked my people to do something, I wanted them to know I was willing to do it too,” Dennis said. “I had skin in the game.”
- Embrace Change. Dennis works in an evolving industry. It is constantly changing. Rather than being reluctant to move in a new direction or cling to established ways, Dennis determined to embrace the change and lead the way.
Dennis implemented his plan. He used online resources freely and felt that he learned new leader essentials faster than he had anticipated. “I’m glad I put in the work early on,” Dennis said. “It really paid off. I feel comfortable in my position and I’ve heard feedback that my workers respect me.”
Just landed your dream leadership position? Contact Joel to learn the new leader essentials that will launch you to success.
Talkback: What have you found most helpful as a new leader? What tips or techniques would you recommend?