When a top employee leaves your company, it's cause for concern. When leaving becomes a trend, it's time to sound an alarm.
If you're the boss and you don't know why people are leaving, it's time for a long look in the mirror. Research shows that across industries, the No. 1 reason good employees leave their jobs is because of bad bosses and bad leadership.
So, take a look at the five key leadership questions below (or maybe ask your boss to). The more you can truthfully answer yes to, the stronger your leadership skills are.
And if you find you have too many "no" answers, at least you'll know where you need to improve.
1. Do you communicate objectives and strategy effectively?
This question has four related parts, but they're pretty simple. To answer affirmatively, you have to:
- Identify a worthy objective. This is one of the most important things a leader can do.
- Have a strategy to get there. You don't have to develop the strategy all on your own, of course, but you do have to decide what it will be.
- Communicate the objective to your team. I know this sounds simple, but if your team can't tell you in one sentence what your overall goal is, that's on you.
- Communicate the strategy. Make decisions and share them. It's that simple.
There are times when you have to keep things close to the vest. But those should be the exception. The more you share with your team, all other things being equal, the happier they'll be.
2. Do you know what the heck you're talking about?
Another two-part question:
- Do you have technical competence? I don't know your industry, so we can only tailor this so much. But you know the markers in your field. Are you among the most competent people you know? Do you continually add to your base of knowledge?
- Do you have confidence in your competence? Related, but slightly different. Would you feel comfortable debating a recognized expert in your field? If you don't have confidence in yourself, how can you expect your team to have confidence in you?
3. Do you know how to delegate?
Great leaders empower teams to handle important things. (If you can't trust your team enough to rely on them, then either you or they no longer need to be part of the team.)
But this isn't just about whether you delegate. It's about whether you delegate effectively.
- Do you stay out of your employees' way once you've agreed on their objectives? Do you ensure they have what they need to stay successful?
- Do you circle back to ensure they've followed through and accomplished their parts?
- When they fall short, do you know how to address the problems with them effectively?
Refer back to question No. 1 on this list, and make sure they understand how their specific tasks relate back to the overall objectives.
4. Do you respect people's time?
One question, many iterations:
- Do you limit meetings in length and frequency? Does your poor planning lead to crises your team has to clean up?
- Do you keep your employees' personal growth and career goals in mind as you lead?
- Are you compensating people fairly, and providing incentives so top performers will see how much you value them?
- Do you respect your employees' work-life balance? And do you lead by example, by taking time off when needed and being a model when it comes to respecting your family and health?
Time is the only 100 percent, non-renewable resource. Employees respect bosses who respect theirs. (Note how this also relates back to question No. 1: Asking people to work hard every day at something they don't see as worthwhile is a really hard sell.)
5. Do you have a sense of humor?
You don't have to be funny. (I'm probably not quite as funny as I think I am.) But you do have to project a sense of balance -- and that's often reflected in whether you have a sense of humor.
- Don't let every problem turn into a crisis. Keep your emotions under control. In the military they call it "maintaining your bearing." Basically, "don't freak out."
- Also, celebrate your wins. Don't let the only reward for hard work turn into, "more hard work."
How did you do? If you can honestly say yes to all five key questions, congratulations. (Also, let us know in the comments if you're hiring!)
But if you realize you're falling short on any of them, take heart. Maybe even communicate to your team that you want to improve.
They'll appreciate it. And if they're any good, they'll support you as you work harder to support them.