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Invest in developing your people leaders to retain talent

April 5, 2022
By Crystal Hyde

Photo: Getty Images

Early in my career, it was expected — almost a right of passage — to complain about your boss and what they were doing that irritated you.

The idea of actually talking to your manager, to openly share these thoughts and work through them, wasn’t a consideration. Nor do I think my managers would have been equipped to respond to this level of transparency.

Instead, it was the us versus them mentality.

It was only when I grew into a leadership position that I realized how unhealthy, unproductive and poisonous this way of thinking is — undoubtedly a barrier to doing our best work.


Leaders as advocates

I consciously became a resource and advocated for my team members; most were young, ambitious, eager to grow and be promoted (yesterday if possible).

I saw their impatience, recognized their need for continuous learning, created stretch assignments and had them shadow more senior staff. I distinctly recall a conversation with one employee, who had done everything I asked and was ready to move on. I knew she was looking for a new job.

Without a position to offer, I showed my support instead by asking what she was looking for next, with the intent of plugging her into my network to see if someone could support her search and appreciate her talent.

The conversation didn’t get that far because she completely froze, went red-faced and said out loud — possibly by accident — “I am just not comfortable talking to my manager about my job hunt or future career plans.”

This was when I realized that, while my perspective had changed on leadership, the culture had not and I wasn’t going to change the dynamic in the minds of employees.

This conversation inspired my passion for leadership and redefined it. It all comes back to the “golden rule” – treat your employees the way you would want to be treated. As a Gemini, I was born with the talent to see both sides of an argument, and I can quickly pivot into the employee’s shoes and see exactly how I would want a leader to behave or respond in my circumstance.

It’s a key ability that can redefine your style and transition leaders into coaches who are focused on performance and not managers concentrating on results.

The new norm

Rapid growth, a quick promotion, new job title and employees to manage is the new norm, particularly in tech. As companies grow their teams, the natural order is to move existing and well-performing employees into management roles.

It makes sense to promote knowledgeable, competent and dedicated staff into leadership positions to train and mentor a team to perform like them. The only snag in the process is that people leaders aren’t meant to train up new staff; they are intended to inspire, motivate, celebrate, develop and clear the path for their career success.

This approach to leading takes a particular maturity, confidence and its own tailored development.

Most companies understand that leading requires a specific skillset and have introduced their leadership training program to ensure their values and business standards are embedded in new leaders. However, we know leadership is either the glue that makes employees stick with an organization or the repellent that chases them away. No two employees are exactly alike, and therefore leaders need to have a natural intuition or develop a level of understanding and compassion to connect with each employee effectively.

Effectively training and supporting your leaders is how you retain talent and grow a new generation of intuitive and compassionate people leaders.

Crystal Hyde is a professional certified coach in Waterloo, Ont., and founder of Propel Leadership Coaching, which specializes in communications consulting and leadership coaching.

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