Employee engagement and the leadership practice

Two of the modern-day leader’s biggest dilemmas are talent retention and employee engagement. Yes, the HR does its best to incorporate some of the best proven practices to keep both the issues in check. The challenge, however, is that these practices can only take you so far. Two specific reasons:

  1. They’re overly focused on employees as if they’re a thing to be fixed
  2. Nobody’s paying attention to the direct managers while it’s pretty much proven (just like the practices) that people leave people not companies

I believe the root of all evil, particularly talent-related problems, is almost always the manager. They either don’t know how to set expectations, lack the empathy to understand, or simply don’t have the skills to deeply listen. All they have is the metrics set by the levels above and their own ideal that’s fueled by their personal biases serving as the yardstick to measure performance. And failing to comply means you’re either blacklisted or given repeated verbal warnings (or threats) as a way to get things done.

It’s insane!

Luckily, for all the wrong reasons, that sort of ‘arm-twisting’ works for these managers. At least temporarily. What they don’t see coming is all the pressure that builds up over time to explode.

Of course, I don’t blame them. They’re not perfect. Nobody is. They, however, can get up-skilled on managing people effectively. I firmly believe that organisations should seriously consider leadership development programs for all its managers, regardless of the levels they’re at. I’m not talking about a 3-day intensive workshops that crams 341 leadership theories of the 21st centuries but a proper program that incorporates workshops, hands-on training followed by at least a 6-month coaching engagement. Why? Because nobody graduates from a workshop as a leader. It takes time.

Developing these managers into leaders will have a positive impact on how they lead their teams because leadership is all about influence. And the latter cannot be achieved if they resort to their old ways. Leadership is a practice and one needs to build those core habits that enable them to be a better person first before they can become better influencers.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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