Five Ways to Lead Better and Keep Your Best Employees

Nearly two-thirds of people think they can find a better job. Here’s how you can tweak your leadership style—and overall culture—to make them want to stay.

They say people quit bosses, not jobs. And if that’s the case, then it really puts Gallup’s latest statistic on retention in perspective: Nearly two-thirds of workers think they could find the same job or better elsewhere.

What this means is that your leadership style can be the deciding factor in whether that team member leaves. Let’s face it: No leader is perfect. But there are strategies you can employ to create a leadership style and workplace culture that make employees want to stick around and give their all to their work. Here are five ways to do it:

Develop a culture of conversation. Great managers don’t wait until the exit interview to find out what employees think, which is why Gallup recommends having “stay conversations.” Identify top performers whom you want to keep, and ask them why they stay. From there, you’ll have an understanding of your strengths—and how you can continue to cultivate them in your organization’s culture.

Ask for constructive feedback, then address it. It’s one thing to hear about the great things you’re doing, and it’s another to find out about your weaknesses. During conversations with employees, ask what you and your organization could be doing better. It might not be easy to hear, but once weaknesses are identified, you can move forward both individually and organizationally to improve in those areas.

For example, if people mention a lack of transparency, think about how you might deliver more insight to your team. Should you create a biweekly newsletter with organizational happenings or talk more in depth at monthly staff meetings? When your team sees you acting on their input, they’ll feel both heard and valued.

Don’t forget to check in. Just because you talk to a few people once doesn’t mean that every issue is resolved or that you’ve graduated to “Best Leader Ever.” Go back to your team, both formally and informally, to find out how they’re feeling, to get updates on the topics of your last conversation, or just to touch base.

Support your team. Everyone makes mistakes, including you, and the worst thing you can do is place blame. Employees want to feel supported, especially during a mess-up, and to work toward a solution rather than dwelling on the mistake. Great leaders do just that: Instead of playing the blame game, they encourage their teams and minimize damage by focusing on how to make the situation better.

Of course, leaders should address the issue, too, to find out what went wrong so it won’t happen again. But that doesn’t require belittling coworkers and making examples of them in front of the rest of the team.

Learn to adapt. It’s important to remember that no single leadership style fits all. Strategies that work for some teams and employees won’t work for others—and part of the fun of being a leader is figuring out exactly what works where.

Some of this information you can garner from a conversation-forward work culture (see tip No. 1). Other times, it will come from trial and error in day-to-day experiences. The key is, once you’ve identified the part of the process that isn’t working, to adapt as quickly as you can—and then adapt again if your backup doesn’t work—to get everyone back on track and feeling confident.

(patpitchaya/Getty Images)

Jeff Hsin

By Jeff Hsin


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