I often hear managers complaining about losing their best people, and I don't blame them. Turnover is costly and disruptive.

And while I listen with patience and understanding for their bickering to end, it never fails: Most will point fingers somewhere, and when I look at the data (exit interview reports, engagement surveys, etc.), I find multiple fingers pointing back at them.

Gallup stated it a long time ago that "people don't leave jobs; they leave managers." In fact, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton said in a profound statement:

The single biggest decision you make in your job--bigger than all the rest--is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits--nothing.

That's really where it starts and ends. And whoever is privileged enough to hold a "manager" title, your first step is realizing the most common reasons why the best people leave their companies.

6 Reasons Your Best People Will Walk Out on You

I am always collecting data and pouring over the latest studies and our client reports to pinpoint the challenges facing today's managers. If you're in a leadership role, let me offer you six reasons I've seen for people leaving their companies.

1. Managers who can't control their emotions.

I speak of bosses that express visible and public anger, yelling across hallways and conference rooms at the drop of a hat, or marching to other departments to "tell someone off" without realizing the fishbowl they work in (yes, people watch, take notes, and many are affected by it).

Case in point, Gary Friedman, head of Restoration Hardware Holdings Inc., who earlier this year went off on his whole company with a flaming internal memo written mostly with the caps lock on. Unfortunately, he was loud enough to catch the attention of several in the media.

I wrote about it extensively and offered some ways to manage these extreme emotions so it doesn't get the best of you and kill your culture.

2. Managers don't recognize and praise their people for good work.

If you're reading this with a skeptical eye, you underestimate the power that comes from recognizing high performers who are intrinsically motivated.

In fact, The Gallup Organization has surveyed more than 4 million employees worldwide on this topic. They found that people who receive regular recognition and praise:

  • increase their individual productivity.
  • increase engagement among their colleagues.
  • are more likely to stay with their organization.
  • receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.
  • have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.

3. Managers don't think and consider all options before they act.

This is the flying-by-the-seat-of-his-pants leader (or leadership team) that steamrolls ahead by making important decisions without soliciting the varied perspectives of the team.

A manager with shortsightedness and an itchy finger on the trigger of impulsivity will not practice the leadership art of getting feedback and buy-in. The end result may be burned bridges, decrease of trust, low morale, and disengaged workers.

4. Managers don't set clear goals and expectations.

Every manager should be asking the question "do my team members know what is expected of them?"

Research shows that many great workplaces have defined the right outcomes; leaders/managers will set goals for their people or work with them to set their own goals. They do not just define the job, but define success on the job.

5. Managers don't care about meeting the needs of their people.

Great leaders show an interest in their people's jobs and career aspirations.

They look into the future to create learning and development opportunities.

They find out what motivates their best people by getting to know each tribe member's desires that will drive them. This is about emotional engagement.

6. Managers don't listen.

Authentic listeners in the truest sense of servant leadership will listen for meaning and understanding with the other person's needs in mind.

The listening has one MO: how can I help this other person? This will give you the edge as a leader to build trust when you have their interest in mind. How can I help this person.

And you benefit from this style of listening because, well, the more receptive you are to helping them, you make it a safe place for them to be open enough to give you great input, great ideas, great contributions.

Bringing It Home

Want your best people to stick around? It all comes down to how you treat and serve them. As you know (and they do as well), high performers are instantly marketable and will have one foot out the door tomorrow if they don't feel valued, respected, and engaged.

Remember, they are intrinsically motivated. Your job as manager is to connect to them in a relational way, and provide for them what they need to succeed. Give them plenty of reasons to want to get up in the morning and run to their job because they can't wait to contribute.

Published on: Nov 16, 2016