Employees leave their managers, not their companies -- we've all heard the saying. Unfortunately, it's a phrase that accentuates the significance of effective leadership and the organizational impact of poor management. 

But what exactly do bosses do to make people leave great organizations? If you're in HR, a CEO or founder, this is a question you should be asking yourself regularly. With that much power and influence, ensuring your managers are equipped for leadership should be a top priority. 

We've all experienced bad-boss horror stories -- micromanagement, berating, and being unsupportive are usual themes. I've had bosses literally stand over my shoulder while I worked, chastise my every mistake, and turn their backs when I needed them the most. 

But those instances are few and far between (or at least I hope they are). Most poor management stories, in my experience, start simply as bad habits that accumulate into critical issues.

Over the past couple of years working with and training new managers, I've found there's a common denominator preventing supervisors from realizing the damaging effects of their actions -- a lack of self-awareness. 

Self-awareness, in a nutshell, is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize the impact your thoughts, actions, beliefs, and emotions have on others and yourself. Conversely, when you are practicing self-awareness, you can objectively recognize what is influencing your behavior and adjust to achieve desired outcomes. 

Unfortunately, most don't. They discount the consequences of their actions or are oblivious to them, losing sight of other people and leaving a wake of destruction wherever they go. 

According to this Harris Poll conducted for Yoh, here are the top five management issues causing employees to quit: 

  1. Showing disrespect for employees in lesser positions
  2. Breaking promises 
  3. Overworking employees/having unrealistic expectations 
  4. Playing favorites 
  5. Gossiping about other employees

In all these examples, single instances are normally not enough to send someone packing. But the inability to recognize the prolonged effects results in voluntary turnover. 

To ensure you're on the right side of self-awareness and not unintentionally repeating destructive behaviors, I'd recommend consistently asking yourself these questions: 

  • What type of leader do I want to be? 
  • What am I doing that is working? 
  • What am I doing that is not working? 

It's simple, but the habit of reflecting will help you build a mental inventory of your actions and their impact on your team. To ensure that you're picking up the right signals, take it a step further and ask your team for feedback. The key is to use this information to objectively analyze your behavior and make tweaks.  

Self-awareness is a little awkward and takes practice, but the aggregate results include richer relationships, improved empathy, and better critical-thinking capabilities. 

Published on: Jul 18, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.