The idea that people leave managers, not organizations, is hardly new. Still, many organizations are so engrossed in the daily details of doing business, they merely pay lip service to the idea of leadership development. But to get the upper hand in the war for talent, senior managers need to do more than give verbal validation to leadership training — they need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
When leaders send managers to development courses but then complain these activities take individuals away from their work, it sends the message that learning isn’t really a part of a manager’s job, said Julie White and Rick Tate, senior managing partners at Impact Achievement Group, a leadership development training company. And without active senior leadership involvement, it can be difficult to align what the business says with the things that are actually happening on the ground.
“I can say one thing all day long,” Tate said. “I can make it a part of my corporate speeches, and I can make it a part of my meetings, but if my actions and behaviors don’t support that during the routine day, then the process of training and development — nobody buys in. Nobody believes it.”
To align managers’ daily behaviors with corporate policies, companies should have their management teams sit down in one room and hash out what they want their overarching leadership philosophy to be. Supervisors need to execute the same policies consistently to give workers a reliable sense of what is expected of them, White said.
“Members of your management team should all be working from the same basic philosophy about how they go about motivating people or holding people accountable,” she said. “If every one of those people is doing their best job, but they’re not all on the same page, then you’re very clearly going to get the conception of unfairness among employees because behavior that’s tolerated by one manager won’t be tolerated for a second by another one.”
Because managers set the prevailing tone for their employees’ work life, how they deal with conflict, hold people accountable and relate to their direct reports (on both a personal and professional level) often has the strongest impact on their organization’s retention rate. Retaining high performers helps improve company performance, but it is also an important factor in increasing customer loyalty, White said.
“If I’m doing business with a company, and my rep is changing every couple of months, I have to start all over again and retrain them in how I like to do business,” she explained. “That really affects my loyalty to that company.”
Although the short-term demands an organization faces might seem to take precedent over its long-term development initiatives, a company’s survival might hinge on its ability to keep its best employees, Tate said.
“While we have this huge competition for market share and customers, I think the competition is even tougher for talented, engaged employees,” he said. “I think there’s a high correlation between winning the competitive battle in the marketplace and winning the competitive battlefield for good and talented employees.”