People seldom leave companies. They leave managers

The exit interview says they left for another position, yet that is seldom the full story.

The statement, “People seldom leave companies.  They leave managers” was confirmed by Gallup research several years ago and popularized in the book, First Break All the Rules, by Buckingham and Coffman.  We have all worked for someone who called themselves leaders, but demonstrated few of the qualities and characteristics necessary to engage their people, and draw out the best from them.

Do any of these managers sound familiar:  How about the leader who relies on one successful business venture as sufficient credibility that should cause employees in the new company they lead to overlook their over-controlling behavior?  Or the leader who stays riveted to the scoreboard and never inquisitively engages his customers or his employees?  Or the leader who is so introverted and conflict avoidant that they never have direct performance management conversations with their direct reports, then, without warning they simply terminate them and  declare their presence in a “right to work” state as justification for their poor leadership?  Or how about the leader who is so insecure that they frequently tell you they are threatened by your presence, competence, gender, and the confidence that senior leadership in the organization has in your skills and abilities?     Or how about the senior executive who believes she has an open door, but never ask department employees how they are doing, or how effective her leaders are.  (Check out my January 2013 posts regarding the Open Door)?  Or the leader who has a 50% turnover rate in their department and never addresses it? Or how about the leader that makes it clear that you “should” join him in his after-hours frivolities that run counter to your values? Or how about the leader who yells, screams, cusses, and swears out of one side of his mouth, while preaching the company’s core values of respect for others out the other?  These are just a few stories I have heard in my years  coaching.  I am sure you can add to this list of leadership horror stories. 

People who work for these leaders will generally give their best out of their own integrity while trying to survive in these dysfunctional environments.  But they know they have so much more to give.   The leader’s track record of success or promotion leaves little incentive to change their management style, leaving employees with limited choices.  Knowing they will not thrive or reach their potential in such an environment, the bail at the first opportunity. 

It is worthwhile noting that as we move into 2014, job satisfaction rates are back at pre-recession levels.  People are no longer simply satisfied to have a job.  They are actively looking again.  On top of this, it is predicted that the availability of Obamacare will finally provide many with the freedom to launch out on that entrepreneurial venture they have dreamed about. 

When this happens these same leaders will blame employees for their lack of engagement, decry their high turnover, as if they had nothing to do with it, squall about the 50-60% “derailment” rate of the leaders they lead, and refuse to look in the mirror, to take responsibility, and recognize that they are what’s really broken in their organization. 

Other organizations, recognizing that leadership is totally responsible for engagement, satisfaction and turnover will bring in new leaders to right the ship.  We see it everyday.  Great leaders take underperforming teams, even those that have been labeled as a problems (by one of the leaders described above), and turn it around to achieve stellar results.  The organizations that take up this leadership challenge and correct or eliminate the dysfunction, and develop leaders with the skills, values, desire and accountability for leading and developing people for stellar results; these are the organizations that will come out on top when the talent churn begins.  They will be talent magnets.  They will outperform their competition at every level, and they will have a culture where employees want to work and where customers want to spend their time and money.
How are your leaders doing?  Don’t be deceived.  Ask their employees.

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