Much is written about how to keep our employees happy, how to motivate and inspire them, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves about the simple mistakes we make that will really set them off. And of course, send them directly in to the waiting arms of our competitors.
Some level of turnover in any organization is inevitable, but there are ways we can mitigate this and build a strong culture of which great employees want to be a part of.
So here is a short list of what not to do.
1. Lack Clear Vision
The team needs to know what they are a part of, the purpose behind their work and the general direction of the company. Otherwise, how can they connect the dots between their day-to-day duties and the big picture? The answer is that they can't.
Having a clear mission and vision is imperative either way. The leaders must define it, evangelize it and gain buy-in from the team. I have spoken to and consulted with countless companies and much of the time middle management and senior leaders can't even articulate the mission and vision of the organization. And if they can't, it's guaranteed the rest of the team can't either. Having a clearly defined vision gives the employees something to connect with.
2. Be Inconsistent
Inconsistent messaging from the top kills drive and causes mass confusion. The team can't possibly understand the direction and priorities when they are changing constantly.
This doesn't just apply to directives and priorities either. It applies across the board to how employees are rewarded, compensation models, which customers to target, and basically anything directed by senior leaders. Consistency starts with alignment and it's up to leaders and managers to have regular check-ins in order to ensure priorities and messaging is consistent across all channels.
3. Break Promises
Like any other situation, this is the fastest path to breaking trust. And many studies show that productivity, income and profits are directly negatively or positively impacted depending on the levels of trust within and organization.
I've seen this happen and been guilty of it myself. Most of the time this isn't coming from a malicious or purposeful place. Sometimes leaders simply forget what has been promised and lose track of things amidst the chaos of ongoing operations. The best way to avoid this also goes back to alignment and never making promises without a solid path defined for executing on those promises.
4. Don't Lead by Example
Leading by example must be done on and off the battlefield, so to speak. Leaders have many responsibilities and one of them is to live the vision and values of the company every day.
When leaders fail to do this, their credibility is immediately damaged. The team will lose faith and morale suffers. Inspiring people can actually be easier than we often think and it all starts with walking the walk, getting hands dirty and showing by doing instead of talking.
5. Lack Emotional Intelligence
Many business leaders and executives think this is nonsense and that it has no bearing on their ability to effectively lead a team. Can leaders with low levels of emotional intelligence get results? Sure. Will they really be connecting with employees and inspiring people to proactively take actions beyond what they think possible. Probably not.
Being self-aware, understanding how our emotions impact others, having humility and empathy and developing great communication skills are imperative for driving a team to take collective action toward achieving common goals. And of course, those actions will lead people to behave in a similar fashion.
6. Be Disloyal
One of the first articles I ever wrote was about how many "successful" leaders today lack loyalty to their employees. They see them as a means to and end for lining their own pockets and turning the spotlight on themselves. When a customer or client complains, they immediately turn to their own team to point fingers as opposed to gathering proper data and getting feedback from employees.
As a former Navy SEAL, one of the core components of our leadership culture was to take complete ownership when things go wrong and to direct praise to the team when they go right. Loyalty starts when leaders own the fact that success and failure ultimately falls on them. (I've written more about leadership and high-performance teams in my new free ebook series, From the Battlefield to the Boardroom.)
7. Don't Provide Resources
Being set up for failure, or even marginal performance, sucks. When employees can clearly see that management isn't willing to invest in their development simply to keep margins at a specific level, they will leave. Oh and the margins suffer anyway.
Investing in the team's personal and profession development improve their ability to perform, shows the company's willingness to develop their career path, increases morale and decreases turnover. Motivation is key. "The most effective way to motivate a team is to recognize individual talents and then knowing how to leverage specific team member's attributes.Providing resources for building on those talents is important. When combined with measurable goals team members are able to contribute more effectively and obtain a deeper level of personal satisfaction with their deliverables." says my friend and colleague Brian Clark, the CEO of ACLS.
All people are different and people are motivated by different things. The first step to effectively motivating your team is to gain a deep understanding about each person on your team. Find out what makes them tick - what makes them feel good about their work. Leverage your findings to create a strategy to keep each individual member of your team motivated to do great work," says my colleague Brandon Lewis, President of Lewis Revenue Group.
Being in a leadership position at any level can be tough and lonely, but it doesn't always have to be. A high-performance team relies on one another to be accountable, stay aligned and make the right decisions. Avoiding these pitfalls is easy. We just have to remain vigilant in supporting the team.