“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” – Albert Einstein
That Einstein fellow was a smart one. In addition to his Theory of Brownian Motion (which somewhat vaulted him into relevance), and General and Special Relativity (and a good many more things than those that are still shaping our modern world), he knew a thing or two about leadership.
The quote above was included as part of a leadership offsite I attended a short while ago. It was presented in the context of a directive to “Treat your team with respect. Have fun.” It turns out that the number one reason people leave a company or organization is that they do not like or respect their manager. [although it passed the “heh, makes sense” test, I did a bit of Googling to make sure the factoid was still relevant today, and it is (the whole list is quite good).]
It is imperative for stability (and all the good things that come along with stability) that organizations recognize and accept this reality. Too many companies ignore the signs of poor employee/manager relationships, and then compound the ignorance by conducting exit interviews in which they conclude that there were a myriad of reasons for the employee leaving when, in reality, one reason trumped all the others.
If you’re the leader of an organization, here are some other questions to ask yourself:
- Does your company have a mechanism in place to conduct 360 degree feedback?
- Are managers’ managers approachable if an employee has feedback or concerns about a reporting relationship?
- If someone were to bring you feedback about a manager, would you truly hear it and act?
If not, then you run a real risk of missing opportunities to retain your team.
Leaders who set an example of respect encourage that behaviour in others and are much more likely to have a positive relationship with their team – a relationship that can withstand some rough patches, disagreements, mistakes, and conflict. Furthermore, when those team members are interacting with other parts of the organization, their behaviour will often mimic that of their leader; show your team how to handle situations, good and bad, and then take private pride when you see them excelling elsewhere. Of course, if someone comes to you to report an issue with team member or describe a situation in which someone on your team behaved poorly, be sure to ask yourself if you’ve in any way set that example or condoned the behaviour.