Nine box models. Four box models. Forced ranking. Up or out campaigns. Mentoring and coaching. Training and development. Engagement surveys. Action plans of every shape and size to retain talent. Having led Human Resources in three different types of industries for thirteen years now I can say I’ve done them all. Well, maybe not every one of the nine boxes. But close. And truth be told it is critical to have a solid succession plan. I’ve developed succession plans for executive management and line level roles. And, it’s critical to have solid individual development plans with rich content for every single employee. I’ve developed hourly wage housekeepers and corporate directors alike with clear cut programs combining LMS and coaching and kinesthetic hands on training. Point being, tools matter. Tools like strong performance management systems, content rich training programs, formal leadership development programs, a firm and communicated pay-for-performance culture, and all that goes into the HR formula are a must to have a shot at developing and retaining your human capital.
I would assert, however, that all of the above activities will be entirely in vain if one critical ingredient is missing.
No system to retain and develop talent, leading to strong performance output, will work without the right leader at the helm. Bad leaders corrupt good systems. I’ve seen engagement scores skyrocket on the heels of removing a bad leader. I’ve seen productivity more than double when a superior leader was instituted. In my profession I have the chance to interview individuals when they leave. I think the number one reason I’ve seen people leave, other than a rock star job they just couldn’t decline, is that they didn’t respect the leadership. Top reasons cited have been inauthentic ways, autocratic ways, hypocrisy, love of power and greed, punitive and not positive ways, control and micro management, poor communication, not caring and ignoring the staff, failure to coach and develop staff, failure to solve problems and remove bottlenecks, and simply lack of intelligence in leading the department/team in the right direction.
Conversely I’ve seen people flock to follow good leaders, leaving jobs to accompany the boss they like to a new corporate home. I can think of one leader I know who merely has to post a job opening and suddenly employees from a prior company start popping out of the wood work. Truth be told, if it weren’t for my deep roots in Chicago, I’d have followed my “work dad” who used to be a director over me but now as the CHRO over a small university is blessing many others. Funny thing is that I only worked for him for four months. I grew more in those four months than all my corporate years working. That’s because he led well and took keen interest in me and all those working for him. He grew us with tough love. But he grew us.
So, the message of today’s blog is pretty simple. Pay attention to who is allowed to lead. Take warning signs seriously when the followers stop following. And, when you find a person with leadership talents, develop them. I don’t care if it’s a new college grad that is ten years away from that VP job. If they have inspiration genes and a good mind, invest, invest, invest.
Check this out too. It’s a Forbes article about the top seven things great leaders do, which range from igniting enthusiam in others to encouraging their potential. It’s a simple list but a good one: http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2011/07/06/the-7-secrets-of-inspiring-leaders/2/
“Every leader needs to look back once in a while to make sure he has followers.” – Anonymous
“A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.” — Robert Townsend