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I saw yet another “Staff turnover points towards poor leadership” posts this morning; there are so many out there these days we’re in danger of believing the hype surrounding employee engagement.

Sure, someone out there will have ‘qual and quant’ data linking churn to management style and whilst I’m OK with that probability, there’s far more to the issue of staff turnover and employee engagement than just poor leadership.

I once worked for a so called ‘poor leader’, but he wasn’t the reason I left the company. I left because he was unable to help me reach my potential……but let’s be clear, that wasn’t his fault. He was doing everything within his remit to execute his brief, it just so happened that his brief didn’t match mine.

Those of you in HR or senior management roles will be well aware of the figures which confirm that as many as 65% of employees are disengaged in the workplace – staff are turning up to complete their day but are literally sleep-walking through it without passion or purpose. This is clearly having an impact on productivity, absenteeism and staff retention, but how much of the responsibility to arrest and address this dynamic lies with the company leaders?

All the white papers I read on the subject of Employee Engagement written to provide the answers and so-called solutions point towards the same obvious things like ‘strong leadership’, having clear values and work/life balance – but are they really trying to suggest that these initiatives haven’t been incorporated until now? We’ve been doing this stuff for years, but still the level of employee engagement flat-lines.

You see, I believe we are failing to spot the elephant in the room…..

You can throw as much time management training, stress reduction counselling and employee wellness benefits you want at an employee, but if they themselves aren’t willing to change, you are wasting your time and hard earned cash.

The elephant in the room is you!

Let me help you understand why I say that. Right now you’re in the job you want, being paid what you think you’re worth, agreed? I can make this point because if you didn’t like what you do and believed you were worth more, you’d leave your job – wouldn’t you?

So based on that then, let me make this rather bold statement;

“In life everything you do is your choice!”

This one needs some explaining but come on the journey as there’s real value in this for all of us…..

My guess is (if you drive) at some point you’ve broken the speed limit, correct? So in that example you’ve proved that you don’t have to obey the law.

Do you have to pay your rent or mortgage? No, you could decide to live in a tent.

Do you have to cut the grass this weekend? No, you could let it grow 6ft tall or buy a goat

Wash the car or look after the kids or visit the in-laws……………you get the idea?

The point I’m making is you really don’t have to do anything in life BUT there are clear and in some cases, far-reaching consequences for not doing things.

Disobey the law and get caught and you’ll pay the price which I’m guessing you don’t really want, so you choose to obey it. Don’t pay your rent or mortgage and you lose your house, which leaves you homeless, which you probably don’t want so you choose to pay it.

We do all of these things through choice…our choice…nobody else’s…ours.

Our choices in life are driven by how much responsibility we take – yet the social norm suggests that most people act as if they’re not totally responsible. Correct me if I’m wrong but no-one put your arm up your back and made you go to work today did they…but my guess is you know someone who talks and acts as if they have been.

You see there’s a big difference between agreeing we are responsible and taking responsibility.

When we really take responsibility and for example, leave a job we don’t enjoy, we are in control – let me repeat that – we are in control.

It’s not my boss or ‘poor leadership’ that’s making me quit the job, because would you agree that would be placing the responsibility for my choices with them and who wants to live a life where you are not in control? Not me (or you I’ll bet). Either accept their brief in good grace and go along with it with a far more helpful attitude for you or don’t accept it and move on somewhere else – but please don’t sit there dis-engaged, moaning and complaining while you wait for Sir Alan Sugar to call you up, solve your problem and hire you.

Imagine right now if everyone in your organisation turned up to work on Monday morning realising they didn’t have to be there but were instead choosing to be there? What impact, could that have on staff morale, productivity, innovation, absenteeism and dare I say it employee engagement levels – only massive! Do the math, what would a 10% improvement in productivity look like on your bottom line – too ambitious for you…….OK, how does just 5% look?

Think on…..what impact could that have on so called ‘poor leadership’ if the manager didn’t have to spend so much energy on trying to ‘engage’ 70% of their staff and diverted this time towards business strategy, employee development, mentoring, motivating, even inspiring staff to stay.

Yes there’s cases of poor leadership and for sure it’s a driver for staff turnover, but there’s huge benefit in helping employees increase their level of self-leadership, which could in-turn bring significant improvement in employee engagement and personal and financial value to all concerned.

Maybe the post headline needs to change………maybe it should read;

“Staff turnover points to self-leadership”


About the author: Matt Sykes is founder of Sales Training company Salescadence. He works predominantly with Personality-led Business Owners to help them convert more of their leads into customers via transformational products which improve their Sales Mindset, Sales Ability & Sales Process.

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