Why should your staff follow you?
One of Sir Richard Branson’s quotes is ‘train your staff well enough that they could leave and then treat them well enough that they want to stay’. Although the first part of this quote is easily achieved, I am more interested in the second part – or rather, why is it that staff want to leave an organisation? Because, if you know why staff leave then you can recognise what will make them stay – and, if you are a senior leader, the reason they leave is usually you!
I have recently spoken to a number of people looking to leave their job and there is a consistent theme – poor and / or unethical leadership. This really shouldn’t surprise me, as the Chartered Management Institute published a research document in September last year, ‘Managers and the Moral Maze’, which showed that 80% of workers do not think their managers set a good example.
60% claim to have witnessed colleagues behaving unethically; the vast majority being managers. Unfortunately, the examples I have recently been given as to why people are looking for another job reinforce this research.
Just consider a couple of examples:-
- a company has a strict dress code, requiring their male employees to wear plain suits, plain shirts and plain ties and women employees must be appropriately dressed for business – and every Friday the CEO comes dressed in jeans, motorcycle boots and a leather jacket….
- another public sector organisation has put severe restrictions on travel; which is only to be standard rail tickets and economy air-fares – except for two Directors who found the necessity to fly first-class to a meeting in the middle-east, having travelled to the airport in a private-hire car….
It is disconcerting to see the number of current, high profile, examples of unethical leadership – both within the UK Government and some major corporate organisations. One of my mother’s favourite sayings springs to mind here, ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ and I often wonder why some senior leaders cannot see why their unethical leadership behaviour has an adverse effect on both their organisation and their staff. In my role I regularly say to senior leaders, “your staff will not believe what you tell them – they will believe in what you do and how you behave.”
A personal mantra of mine is that leadership should be recognised as a profession in its own right. There are plenty of leaders, many in senior positions, whose reputation and position has been built on quantitative performance results – usually financial – that do not give consideration for the ‘collateral damage’ they leave in their wake. At some point their behaviour exposes their true nature and they seem to implode – and we are watching a couple of high profile people doing exactly that at the moment!
By becoming a ‘profession’ leaders would have to agree on a code of ethics that also carry accountability – and it is the lack of accountability that nurtures unethical leadership. This should start with the leaders of this country; politicians. Whether it is the expenses scandal, publicly dismissing a person in a senior role in the public sector or wasting millions of pounds on a failed initiative, politicians appear to have no accountability – and this model of leadership is then followed by corporate organisations, such as a number of banks paying significant bonuses for failed performance with no accountability.
And yet, as a senior leader, you do have accountability. You have accountability to the staff who are following your lead; who see you as their role model. If you are concerned about the culture in your organisation and / or the attitude of your staff, I’ll give you a free tip – look in the mirror. The chances are that you will be looking at a significant factor in your organisation’s culture and you will, most definitely, be looking at the person who influences their attitude. Another free tip – ‘train your staff well enough that they could leave and then treat them well enough that they want to stay’ which starts with ethical leadership!
Just a thought….