Alpha Mode: The five most-important success factors for employee retention

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Upstate Business Journal presents the next installment of Alpha Mode, its new digital feature that appears each month on upstatebusinessjournal.com in partnership with Manfred Gollent (QLI International LLC ) and Alex LaCasse (MTN LLC).

Recently, I participated in a roundtable discussion with a group of 12 business owners and executives to talk about currently pressing business challenges. My first question was “What keeps you currently awake at night?”

I expected to hear about issues like health care cost, the impact of tariffs or something similar. Nine out of 12 participants, however, stated either retaining the best people or finding and acquiring promising new talent.

My second question was “What do you consider the biggest challenge within your organization?”

The top-two answers were people engagement and communication! One can easily recognize the underlying connection, and from my perspective the common thread is leadership — or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, I don’t know many people in leadership roles who would voluntarily admit that they may not be as effective as they could be. In my profession as a certified business coach I work with leaders on different hierarchical levels. I often ask my (potential) clients how much time, effort, and money they have invested into becoming educated in their profession as an engineer, accountant, lawyer, or medical professional.

As can be expected, most can claim a four-year college degree, and many have advanced and post graduate degrees as well. But what about leadership skills and leadership development?

Leadership is a profession and highly effective leaders command an extensive leadership toolbox and the necessary skills to use these tools expertly. Add to it the right success habits and you are on your way.

Even if one has invested into leadership development, the growing pressures of global competition and a fast-paced business environment fuel the demand for increasingly effective business leaders. These leaders bear the responsibility for setting the tone and culture for the organization, their teams and any individual they interact with. They are also affecting cultural shifts to meet changing values and expectations. Consequently, leaders themselves must change, and they must be prepared to continue to change.

I use a very simple definition: Leadership is creating results through people. The keyword here is “through.”

In the context of talent acquisition, employee retention, people engagement, and communication it would be highly advantageous for anyone to become the company’s favorite leader everyone respects and likes. When that becomes reality, the road becomes much easier to navigate and expected results will be met more often.

Truly effective leaders stimulate a highly engaged workforce to produce consistently tangible results. Effective leadership is the most potent ticket for business success, and personal development makes the difference. An organization’s success hinges on the personal effectiveness of its leaders. Increasing self-awareness, adaptive leadership, communication skills, and the ability to influence beyond formal authority enables the entire organization to reap the benefits.

Consider a much under appreciated fact: People hire into a company, but they perform for their leader.

What are the important contributors to a strong culture of engagement and performance?

Benevolent leadership presence

The effective leader must master how to project mature self-confidence, poise under pressure, authenticity, empathy, warmth, and strength. It helps to acquire a blend of persuasive leadership competencies that inspire trust, enthusiasm and, most importantly, buy-in.

Authentic communication and interaction

Whether it’s a high-stakes meeting, a hallway chat with a colleague, or a town hall meeting with the entire organization, failure to get the right message across can be costly in many ways. Effective leaders need to communicate clearly and confidently at every level of the organization, from the boardroom to the watercooler. Consider that it is not important what one says; however, it is critically important what is understood!

Proactive conflict resolution

Effective leaders recognize and manage conflict constructively, resolve disputes quickly, develop the skills that build collaboration and common purpose, and maximize employee engagement, productivity and retention.

Maximizing emotional and social intelligence

Considering the accomplishment of shared objectives, EQ matters as much as IQ. Acquiring and implementing the skill sets that drive success — like team leadership and collaboration, how to build trust, influencing skills, managing emotions, resilience, and conflict management — are essential in achieving organizational results in a sustainable fashion.

Creating a result focused culture of accountability

Effective leaders use their skills to consistently challenge the status quo, establish meaningful objectives, define clear key results in a transparent format and follow through with the right conversations, feedback and recognition.

When the leadership of an organization becomes consistently attentive to these contributors, ideally on all hierarchical levels, and manages them well, everyone in the company wins. As indicated earlier, leadership is a profession like any other, and requires the acquisition of an extensive toolbox supported by the right skills and habits. Employee retention is a result of effective leadership.

Manfred Gollent is a certified business coach with QLI International LLC. This monthly video release provides insights into building foundations for successful, sustainable businesses in the Upstate. Alpha Mode episodes feature entrepreneurs, business owners, and a diverse group of business executives and professionals.

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