If you’re a good (or even just halfway decent) manager or leader then you probably already know most of this,
1. be dishonest
Integrity matters. Most good employees – and all great ones – have integrity. So, lying to them, to their co workers, or to customers / suppliers is sure to turn them off. Even just “little white lies” are all sure to catch the private ire of those employees who can best help you and your organization succeed. Don’t think they don’t notice; they DO.
2. don’t say “thank you”
It’s a small thing, but it really does make a difference. Even small gestures of appreciation, complements on good work, acknowledging that someone stayed late / came in early help keep talented people motivated and engaged. A small gift card, permission to leave early for the day or work from home the day before a holiday (if work is getting completed), a kind word, an email, all of these things cost very little but go a long way. I suggest making a point of doing them.
3. forget the values that made your organization a success
I’ve been part of organizations that truly lived their core values. We all knew what they were. We all agreed they were important, or at least accepted them as such. I have been in companies that barely even mention their values – and really, what that says is, “Our core value is to make more money for our owners, whatever it takes.” Not exactly compelling, but that’s what is being conveyed.
4. don’t take time to listen (to their concerns)
Good people almost always actually want what is best for the organization. They may have differing opinions on what that is, but they can be passionate, even fiery about it. If you’re dismissive of their concerns, you’re headed down the road to losing top performing people. Just what kind of weak, arrogant, incompetent, narcissistic leader doesn’t want to hear things anyhow?
5. ignore their personal and professional development
Note that there are two dimensions to this – professional development and personal development. I would include leadership skills, street-smarts, maturity, self-awareness, EQ, general health and well being all as part of this. Leaders only follow stronger leaders, so be sure you are mentoring them. Let them learn from you; telling good stories from your experience can be a great way to do this. Help them become better professionals – and better people. Additionally, don’t delude yourself into thinking that their career growth is their problem. It isn’t; it is your problem so make a point of investing in it and top notch people will likely repay you for this with good work.
6. don’t be selective who you hire in the first place
We all know that hiring people who really fit and are highly talented is tough. We know that the repercussions of a bad hire are awful for everyone. Make sure people really will fit into your organization. Let’s face it, a half hour “get to know you isn’t really enough to get to know a prospective employee well enough to make a truly informed decision. Talented people often don’t mind a tough (within reason) selection process because they are usually competitive people who thrive on challenge. Invest the time needed to really explore what makes a person tick before you hire them. Oh, and by the way, talented people want to be around other talented people.
Do I really need to go here? Yes, unfortunately. It’s not just classical micromanagement either. I’ve seen truly exceptional people who excelled in their role end up with their jobs “dumbed-down” to cater to the lowest common denominator, and to the point they were no longer challenged or motivated. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before they were looking for an opportunity somewhere else.
8. set the bar low
Great people will get discouraged and either leave or adapt to mediocrity if that is what they perceive is deemed acceptable. I’ve seen mediocrity accepted, rewarded, applauded, and even promoted! The impact of this on team morale (and on the highest performing team members) was palpable. Set the bar high and then become a cheerleader – even if people don’t make it over the high bar, point out how high the bar was set and how high people did get, and celebrate the success they did have at the right level. They may just make it over that high bar the next time.
9. be cold and uncaring (to them and to their co-workers)
People are human. Why do we seem to forget this so often? They have personal struggles, ambitions, families, crises, etc. One of my favourite bosses from the past was a gentleman who knew my wife’s name, my son’s name, my dog’s name, and more. He didn’t go beyond appropriate boundaries, but I really knew he cared about me as an employee and as a person. I knew I could talk to him and he’d help me out however he could. He got a lot of loyalty from me in return. I should also point out that talented people watch how you treat other people, and they take note of it.
10. the “usual” things (under-pay them, intrude into their personal lives, harassment, etc)
Yes, the “usual” things will usually get a good person out of your organization as fast as they can possibly find an opportunity elsewhere. Incredibly, I’ve seen organizations under-pay very good people. One executive even said to me, in private, “Well, just what are they going to do? Leave? They have no place to go. This was disappointing to say the least, and I lost a lot of sleep over it. Plus, it wasn’t long before people actually did have someplace else to go, and go they did.