Monday, March 26, 2012

Why Top Talent Leaves: Top 10 Reasons Boiled Down to 1

By: Erika Andersen, Forbes Contributor

Eric Jackson, a fellow Forbes blogger I follow and find both funny and astute, wrote a really spot-on post last month about why top talent leaves large corporations. He offered ten reasons, all of which I agreed with – and all of which I’ve seen played out again and again, over the course of 25 years of coaching and consulting. The post was wildly popular – over 1.5 million views at this writing.

So why do we find this topic so interesting? I suspect it’s because we’re genuinely curious: What would make a very senior executive – someone who most certainly has been courted by his or her organization and then paid huge sums of money to join – decide to pack it in? Is it greed (an even richer offer down the street)? Hubris? Short attention span? Or do 1%ers actually leave jobs for the same reasons as the average Joe or Josie?

According to Jackson (and, again, I agree with him) top talent does indeed leave for the same reasons everyone else does. If I were to distill his ‘top ten reasons’ down to one, it’s this:

Top talent leave an organization when they’re badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.

About half of Eric’s ten reasons are about poor people management – either systemically, as in poor performance feedback, or individually, as in, my boss sucks. And the other half are about organizational lameness: shifting priorities, no vision, close-mindedness.

It really is that simple. Not easy, mind you, but remarkably simple. If you want to keep your best people:

1) Create an organization where those who manage others are hired for their ability to manage well, supported to get even better at managing, and held accountable and rewarded for doing so.

2) Then be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization – not only in terms of financial goals, but in a more three-dimensional way. What’s your purpose; what do you aspire to bring to the world? What kind of a culture do you want to create in order to do that? What will the organization look, feel and sound like if you’re embodying that mission and culture? How will you measure success? And then, once you’ve clarified your hoped-for future, consistently focus on keeping that vision top of mind and working together to achieve it.

I’ve worked with client organizations that do those two things, and people stay and thrive. I’ve worked with and observed client organizations that don’t – and it’s a revolving door. And that’s true at all levels – not just for “top talent.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fire the Wrong People Today

By Eric Markowitz

Kevin Ryan has hired--and fired--plenty of people in his day. Here, the Gilt CEO explains why not firing an employee can cause a bad situation to "fester."

"If you have a 100 person company, someone is No. 100," Kevin Ryan told the audience at the Inc. 500

5000 Conference recently. "If you have a 20 person division, someone is No. 20."
Six months ago, Ryan was tasked with hiring a new manager to oversee a division of Gilt. He gave the new manager three objectives, to be completed within the first few months. They were:

-Evaluate the people you have now and lay off the people that don't fit.

-Promote people internally.

-Maintain and retain your best people.

After six months, Ryan knew the manager hadn't built an effective team. Morale was low, and a couple of key employees left the company. Rather than giving the manager more time to solve the problem, Ryan let him go immediately.

"A bad situation will fester," he says. "It is your job as CEO to make sure those situations don't happen. You're ruining the DNA of that company…by letting it go."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ten Commandments of Business Behaviour

Being efficient and productive aren't the only keys to a successful career.
Keep these rules in mind for a healthy and happy workplace.

1. Thou shalt have a positive attitude.

Everybody has bad days. Nobody has the right to take it out on others. Rudeness, impoliteness, surliness, ugly moods, unprovoked displays of anger, and general unpleasantness can be costly to your career - and your company's bottom line.

2. Thou shalt be on time.

Keeping others waiting is the ultimate power play - whether it's a meeting, an email, a telephone call, or that charmingly Jurassic example of business behaviour, a letter. In the end, it's self-defeating. Everybody's busy. Everybody's time is valuable. Being late only makes you look like you don't have your act together.

3. Thou shalt praise in public and criticize in private.

If you intend to improve a situation or someone's performance, public criticism is the worst approach. It serves no purpose except to humiliate the other person, and possibly lead to cutthroat retaliation. Remember that the office gossip looks far worse than those being gossiped about.

4. Thou shalt get names straight.

We all forget people's names. There is nothing wrong with saying: "Please tell me your name again. My brain just went on strike." But there is something wrong with not checking on correct spelling whenever you write a name. That's lazy. It can cost your career. And remember, it's a big mistake to assume you can call somebody by his or her first name. We have four generations working in a truly global marketplace. Each generation feels differently about using first names.

5. Thou shalt speak slowly and clearly on the telephone.

Texting makes us forget how we sound, or when we speed-talk. Again, remember those four generations in the work arena, as well as the diversity of cultures. A smile can be heard in your voice. So smile or you will sound irritated and put out. Not a good move when business is on the line.

6. Thou shalt not use foul language.

KIND is the only four-letter word for the workplace. Don't accept vulgarity, poor grammar and slang as your personal standards. They are three of the top reasons people don't get hired. On the other hand, liberal use of "please", "thank you", and "excuse me" can be most helpful in one's career ascent.

7. Thou shalt dress appropriately.

Don't enter your workplace without knowing its dress code. If you must, call the human resources department and ask. Good grooming is at least 10 times more important than making a fashion statement. Good taste and fashion are not always synonymous.

8. Thou shalt take clear messages.

It pays to take time to be sure the messages you take are clear, correct and complete.

9. Thou shalt honour social courtesies at business functions.

Etiquette is just a matter of common sense with a large dose of kindness. Make sure you respond to invitations promptly and never bring an uninvited guest without permission. Never be a no-show when you said you'd show. Good guests contribute as much to a party as good hosts.

10. Thou shalt be accountable.

We all make mistakes. That does not give us license to blame someone else for them. There is no shame in admitting you don't have all the answers. Yet there is shame in not being willing to look for them.