I've given a number of speeches lately to HR professionals and business owners. One of the challenges I've presented each group is: What would your managers say about your leadership style if I happened to bump into them today? Would they say they're staying with the company because of your leadership? Or, would they admit they're looking to leave….because of your leadership? That thought caused me to remember this article I pulled from the archives. What types of managers have YOU helped to develop?
The owner of a fairly large firm recently commented that none of his former managers have done as well with their careers since they've left his firm – and he seemed pleased by that. When I asked why, he said, “Because now they realize how good they really had it here.” I don't know about you, but to me that’s a terribly naive way to view your former employees, their departures, and your management skills for three very basic reasons.
First, if your former managers are so willing to leave their positions with you for jobs that are less challenging, less financially rewarding, and lower on the career development track, working with you must be a nightmare. When mature adults knowingly make several career sacrifices, just to work somewhere else, their actions are saying a lot about their job satisfaction levels with you – and what they're saying isn't good. Think about it. If employees would rather put their families in even tighter financial situations, set themselves back in their careers, and work at new jobs that are mind-numbing, instead of continuing their employment with you – they've decided that taking a few professional steps backwards is more attractive than taking any more steps “forward” with your organization. That alone should be a wake up call to you about your management style and your organization.
Second, if your employees leave to take on new and possibly more challenging positions, but fail in them, that should be a wake up call for you as well. Why don't they have the skills to succeed elsewhere? Why aren't they prepared to meet their new challenges? What training didn’t they receive or what situations didn't they learn to resolve while they worked with you? One of your primary management responsibilities is to develop your employees. Having a former employee fail elsewhere is a reflection on you. It’s a reflection on how well, or how poorly, you’ve prepared that employee for future challenges. Have you ever hired an employee who had great references, but once hired, you wondered about his former employers because this new employee wasn't bringing the value you had anticipated? The same holds true of your former employees. The skills they take to their new employers are a reflection of you.
And finally, if your managers aren't happy working with you and aren't growing or gaining skills, how can they possibly manage their own staffs or projects effectively? How can they do their jobs well? What you think is being accomplished within in your organization, probably isn't, and you may not be aware of what’s really happening in your business.
One of Jack Welch’s greatest contributions to GE, while he served as its CEO, was to develop an unwavering commitment to developing GE’s employees and raising the bar on his team's ability to perform. A source of pride for him was to see his employees grow inside the company, and then take on new and even greater challenges elsewhere – and succeed. The progeny of GE’s management have taken over leadership positions in hundreds of companies successfully; because they left GE well prepared for the challenges ahead.
What’s happened to your management progeny? What is happening to your business?