Finding and keeping good people. Ask any leader and this is usually the most common leadership challenge. If you are a leader would you agree? What makes this seem so hard?
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So what makes someone “a good people”? Their qualifications? Skills? Presence? Track record? Their attitude? Are they confident? Do they know their stuff? Are they relatable and likeable? What does their resume highlight? Have they delivered good results? Are they “hungry”? Can they grow? And what do these people themselves think?
Finding, Onboarding and Keeping Good People
Operating in a supply and demand world, there are many factors enabling and preventing access to good people. While everyone can be a “good people”, not everyone has the right attitude, aptitude and competencies we’re looking for.
Regrettably, most organisations also suffer from inadequate recruiting track records despite all the “tools and techniques” available today. So getting the right, good people on board in the first place is the first hurdle. Usually followed by poor onboarding where often the first disappointments emerge (on both sides). And then we have to lead them properly in order to “keep” them to want to stay, contribute and grow themselves, us and our markets. Certainly not a level playing field by any means.
Keeping the “Right” Good People
In my leadership coaching I frequently paraphrase a great metaphor in Jim Collin’s old book “Good to Great”: “you need to get the wrong people off your bus; the right people onto your bus and have these in the right seats on your bus“. Timeless advice.
I’ve also learned is that only very rarely do leaders get to put together their own greenfields team. Teams are usually “inherited”, right? Through a promotion, restructure or taking on a new role etc. And so whether they are the “right” people is in the eye of the beholder, and usually subjectively so.
Keeping Good People Needs Good Leadership
I remember as a young leader inheriting my first team, it didn’t take long before “economically” I had to “lose” some of my people – a profound challenge, also affecting me personally. Most new or young managers struggle with this initially, right?
I learned to pre-empt the system on how many and who I needed to “lose” and how critical it was to have the right people in the right seats on “my” bus to drive the agendas I was responsible for. And that if I had inherited the wrong ones, to correct that quickly and effectively, with care and empathy. And if I had recruited the wrong ones, that I made sure we acted correctively before the end of the probation period.
I quickly learned to watch for those hungry ones that came to “fetch more”. With the right attitude not waiting to be (t)asked. Typically we prefer to invest in these. However, without falling into the favouritism trap. Of course, just because they’re “good people”, we may not necessarily have the right roles to keep them stretched and satisfied. Provided we have an active succession planning policy and really effective delegation in place, this should just be acceptable and productive business practice.
But it often isn’t like that, is it?
Bob Nelson’s Top 10 Reasons We Come To Work Each Day
I recently came across a great video by Bob Nelson in which he outlined the top 10 reasons people come to work each day: (paraphrased)
- Career growth and learning development
- Exciting and challenging work
- Meaningful ability to work on different contributions
- Great people to work with
- Being part of the team
- Having a good boss
- Recognition for work well done
- Autonomy and a sense of control (empowerment)
- Flexible working hours and dress code
- Fair pay and benefits. (Interesting that this should come last…)
Allowing Good people to Step Up and Contribute
Much is written about delegation, the fundamental tool by which we grow people, our team, the organisation and freeing ourselves up for our own further growth. That entails letting go, which almost everyone struggles with. However, avoiding this is one of the prime reasons we lose good people. Why? Because they don’t feel empowered to really drive the required outcomes. Isn’t that what everyone really wants?
A critical role of good leaders is to match up talent, interest, skill, competence and capacity to the challenges and opportunities required to delight the organisation’s clients and customers. And also to keep stretching and growing them.
Let me remind you that one of the single biggest reasons for (mainly good) people to leave an organisation is due to their boss. That’s you. So as we point an index finger towards the “other”, please notice the 3 other fingers pointing back at us.
We’ve all experienced the “weak” leader that doesn’t deal with poor performance, adding pressure on everyone else that have to “carry” the passenger. Good leaders avoid firm, effective, caring performance management at their and their organisations peril. People are always watching. Like when we are raising children, they don’t respond to what we say as well as they emulate what we do, right?
And this also means allowing people to “step up” and to refrain from interfering, or to worry if they’ll be good enough.
So, particularly if we’re in the latter situation, it’s critical to remind ourselves of how much we wanted to have a go and how much we resented not being allowed to, remember?
Keeping Good People. So What?
What’s the secret to keeping good people? Getting out of their way and letting them be good people. Of course we will maintain a “safety net” to avoid disasters – because we’re still accountable, right?
Time to ensure our ego is well out of the way and that we’re leading from behind. Time to be sure we’ve kept the best and allow them to shine. Preferably to even outgrow us. Why? Because that way everybody wins. You too!