People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses — ways you can level up your leadership in 2022

This month we have been discussing retention and reward in workplaces, especially geared towards post-pandemic climates. 

“If you don’t want to be a leader, you’ll notice it now,” says Managing Director of Bespoke HR — Paulette Kolarz. 

“If you don’t actually like people, and you can’t enjoy solving people problems, you’re going to have a problem with being a leader that is required in this current climate,” she says. 

Leadership has now centred even more heavily on a people-based focus, and it is clear that process and task-orientated leaders are getting left behind in 2022, with more staff leaving if they don’t feel a personal or human connection with their leaders. 

“Leaders could happily experience 90% workload, 10% people in the past, but this has now entirely flipped,” says Paulette.

“If you can’t lead people, talk to people, relate to people and display empathy and compassion, chances are, the retention and staff turnover rate will significantly increase post-pandemic.”

So what can you do to improve your people-based leadership skills? 

Leadership vulnerability

What are your ‘ick’ standards? What is your story about how you got to where you got to? 

“Every leader has a leadership brand,” says Paulette. 

“Your leadership brand is made up of how you got to where you are today. It also communicates the ‘why’ behind your standards. When we refer to ‘ick’ standards, it’s the things you simply won’t tolerate in your business.

“If you fail to share the story behind why you have these standards, it can be misunderstood and disconnected for your team. Sharing stories often requires vulnerability. You’re human, and when staff realise you’re human and connect on a personal level with you, they’re more likely to be able to understand why you do things the way you do.”

Being vulnerable and owning your shortfalls, mistakes and challenges can remind staff that you are only human, and put any differences aside. 

Safety and transparency 

Creating a safe space for people to share their challenges and be heard is an important skill to have as a leader.

“When a person feels safe to be themselves at work, and have open conversations, they feel accepted and heard,” says Paulette. 

“Creating psychological safety for your team is a skill that can take some practice, but has a profound effect on the sense of comfort and confidence of staff.” 

Some ways to increase safety and transparency include listening without judgement or reactions, managing your emotions during tough or stressful situations, taking a deep breath and pausing before responding to something, and acknowledging ideas and feedback that is presented to you. 

Listening and openness to feedback

“Often as a leader, when a staff member comes to you with a problem, it’s easy to go straight into problem solving mode,” says Paulette.

When a staff member is sharing a problem, a common mistake many leaders make is the misinterpretation that the staff member is wanting to have their problem solved. 

“In many cases, a team member may be communicating with you something entirely different, and simply wants to be validated and heard. They don’t need a solution, but a sense of knowing their problem is valid and they’re being transparent that they may be struggling.

“It’s not about solving problems, but simply listening and validating. Even more so with our personal lives being so blended with our work lives, the lines are now often blurred between the two thanks to remote working and flexible hours, so leaders need to acknowledge that staff are wanting a more personal connection with their bosses.”

Physical time with staff

“We’re seeing team members across a range of organisations requiring more one on one time — almost three fold,” says Paulette.

“We believe this is the result of the increase of remote working and increases in isolation. Staff are wanting to connect more, and if there isn’t physical time carved out to have regular one on one check in sessions with managers, staff are left feeling alone within their role.

“The issue we’re seeing is that managers simply don’t have capacity or time to do that, however those that are failing to prioritise this are seeing larger turnover rates and less staff engagement.”

Even if it is a 10-15 minute catch up once a fortnight, schedule in regular, consistent check-ins with your team on an individual basis. 

Encouraging staff to go beyond their comfort zone 

Gently guiding staff to aim for the stars and reach beyond their comfort zone has become a responsibility of a great leader. 

“This may include having tough conversations in an open and gentle way, but with the best interests of the team member and the business,” says Paulette. 

“It’s about providing the appropriate resources and a little reassurance to strive for greatness while instilling confidence and competence within an individual.”

Additional Rewards & Appreciation — what you can do as a leader

  • Financial rewards: equity, bonuses, employee share schemes, commissions
  • Appreciation: work is noticed and time is appreciated, acknowledgement of the time and effort that is put into a task, focus on the recognition of the task and value of the task — how is it connected to the business vision? Where is it going to be used? 
  • Instant gratification and acknowledgement: Giving live time feedback in the moment, ensuring people are truly hearing acknowledgements as opposed to saying it and it not being heard. 
  • Being clear and specific on positive feedback: Eg. “I love this, I love the design and fonts you’ve chosen and the colour blocking really makes our brand pop — well done!”

Want to learn more about reward and recognition and how it can support positive outcomes in your business? The 90 Day Culture Accelerator covers in detail a range of incentive schemes you can use and implement for your staff. Find out more here.