Leadership Failures That Drive Good Employees Away

You can’t ignore the Great Resignation, although I would prefer to call it the Great Realignment. In the beginning, it looked like employees were leaving the workforce to enjoy a work-free life. However, we quickly learned that is not the case. Today we know that unemployment is down, and employees aren’t leaving their jobs to altogether quit working. They are just leaving their current jobs for better jobs, even if it’s their own “gig.” This is employee realignment of the workforce, not true resignation from the workforce, and there are many reasons some companies can’t seem to hold onto their best people.

Dr. Dharius Daniels, a former professor at Princeton University, emotional intelligence expert and author of Relational Intelligence: The People Skills You Need for the Life of Purpose You Want, understands some of the reasons behind the Great Resignation, and they start with leadership. Specifically, he has identified four leadership failures that potentially drive your best employees to find work elsewhere. Here they are, followed by some of my commentary:

Crucial Leadership Failure One: Not recognizing that the employee is actually the primary customer. I’ve written about this numerous times. What’s happening on the inside of an organization is felt on the outside by customers. That means you start your customer service and CX efforts internally. To that point, Dr. Daniels says, “Employees should be treated, cared for, managed and responded to in a way that is consistent with what the company wants to see mirrored in their customers.” In other words, treat employees as if they are customers. Anything less is inconsistent and will erode your efforts to provide a good customer experience. And just as customers want to trust the companies they do business with, employees want to trust the companies (and people) they work for. When employees trust their leadership, are treated fairly and recognized for their good work, they will be working for the company, not just the paycheck.

Crucial Leadership Failure Two: The failure to recognize the difference between leadership and management. Management and leadership are not the same. “Managers have to make people follow, but leaders make people want to follow,” says Dr. Daniels. Leadership creates the culture of the company. Managers ensure compliance with company policies, processes and other operational aspects to ensure continued business as usual. Once leaders understand the difference between management and leadership, they stand a better chance of getting employees to put forth their best effort, especially when it comes to taking care of customers.

Crucial Leadership Failure Three: Failing to recognize that finances are not the only form of valued compensation. Multiple studies have proven that employees want more than money. Dr. Daniels preaches that employees value flexibility over money, meaning that paying people more money to tolerate a toxic environment may have worked for previous generations, but it no longer appeases employees, especially the Millennial generation. They want to be valued for what they do. That means they want recognition for their work, opportunities to learn and grow, and fulfillment in their day-to-day responsibilities.

Crucial Leadership Failure Four: The failure to recognize that EQ is the IQ multiplier. Emotional quotient (EQ), also known as emotional intelligence, is the ability to communicate and empathize with others. Intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measure of a person’s ability to reason and solve problems. Dr. Daniels’ point is that leaders need to be more empathetic and understanding of their employees. Doing so will bring out the best in their people, hence multiplying their capabilities (or IQ). He says, “Raising emotional intelligence should be seen as a core leadership competency.”

We can boil this all down to four simple ideas:

1. Treat employees like customers.

2. Know the difference between being a leader and being a manager.

3. Understand how to properly compensate beyond money.

4. Develop your EQ.

None of these concepts should be difficult for leaders to understand, and while implementing them may not be the final answer to employment issues, it’s a great place to start.

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Shep Hyken is a customer service and customer experience expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author.

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