The Idea:  The dirty little secret of the majority of exit interviews is that seventy percent of people leave a company because of their boss and the culture.  Amazingly, that figure is estimated to be even higher since people are fearful of retribution as they walk out the door.  Researcher and author Leigh Branham recently reissued her classic book The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, and has since reminded us that talent often leaves the building because of poor leadership not more pay.  Often times the problem is the front line manager.

After extensive evaluation of thousands of exit interviews in multiple industries, she uncovered seven themes influencing talent retention. They are as follows:

  1. Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders (26% of respondents)
  2. Not Feeling Valued, Recognized, or Rewarded, Pay (22% of respondents)
  3. Stress from Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance (15% of respondents)
  4. Quality of Manager Coaching & Communication (13% of respondents)
  5. Insufficient Career Growth and Learning (11% of respondents)
  6. Unrealistic New Hire Expectations (4% of respondents)
  7. Job-Person Mismatch (4% of respondents)

Michael Schrage, an expert on the relationship between technology and work, states, “You can’t be a serious innovator unless and until you are ready, willing, and able to seriously play. ‘Serious play’ is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation.”  

Leadership deficiencies kill potential. And inadequate coaching, lack of direction, limited recognition, lack of trust and a toxic culture all prohibit people from playing, from innovating.

Sydney Finkelstein’s most recent book, Superbosses, reminds us that the qualities of high performing bosses can be nurtured and taught.  There are many colorful examples of well-known leaders from all walks of life.  They “generate and regenerate talent on a continual basis.”  They care about whom they hire (looking for that something special and finding these people in non-traditional ways), and they love coaching and developing them. And the common denominator between them all is strong emotional health, no matter their background or training.

A boss’s emotional health allows them to create trusting relationships with a wide variety of people.  They are not a slave to perfectionism, and they practice being present with others and possess an outward focus.  They are not threatening.

Finkelstein shares “Superbosses inspire and make people believe that ANYTHING is possible.” They take talented individuals under their wing, always teaching and willing to roll up their sleeves.  They never take their team for granted, and they care about their legacy and making a difference.

We are in a battle for talent and organizations have to get this right to win longer term.  You cannot be a great culture and lose your best talent.  Talent is not replaceable.

“You can’t legislate a culture of honor.  You can only model it.”
(Mack Elevation Forum)