Retaining your top managers should be an ongoing priority - not only are they expensive to replace, your employees will feel the loss of a supportive manager like a wound. Yet many companies don't have the first idea why their long-serving, long-suffering managers are leaving. If you think it's about money, then you couldn't be more wrong.
In fact, it's a company's fierce urge to fit every manager into the same box that's driving the best managers away. Here are the five main reasons why good managers may be quitting your company, and what you can do to buck the trend.
#1: You're expecting them to manage by the book
In any company, there's a broad assumption that management is attractive only to logical, rational, efficiency-driven types with a preference for Thinking and Judging on the 16-type personality assessment. This stereotype is about as far from the truth as you can get.
Every personality style can be successful in a leadership role, but not every personality can be successful in a given environment. If you're blocking your managers on a daily basis by forcing them to manage like a tough, efficient ESTJ when that's not their style at all, then you're setting them up for failure. You're asking your managers to ignore their own unique hard-wiring, and play against their strengths.
Good managers will quickly feel under-appreciated if you don't give them the freedom to listen, plan and resolve issues in their own way. Even if your manager's methods are different to what you expected, remember, it's the results that count.
#2: Bureaucracy is too confining
Managers will understand why your company has red tape, and they'll play along to a degree. But excessive bureaucracy is stifling to every personality. When it gets in the way of doing your job, and you can see first-hand how it slows things down or over-complicates life for your team, then you're not going to stick around for very long.
For managers, being given goals to work toward but not the authority to design the process is an endless source of frustration. Good managers have already ridden quite a long way up the corporate elevator - they expect to have a little more ownership and a say in how things are done. The more you stifle, micromanage and bind them up in red-tape, the more likely they are to rebel. Ask yourself, do you encourage your managers to propose an idea that the organization might find controversial? Do you allow them to take any risks at all?
If the answer to either question is "no," you shouldn't be surprised if your top performers run off elsewhere.
#3: You haven't communicated the vision
Managers are responsible for 70 percent of an employee's happiness score at work and play a crucial role in the motivation and engagement of employees. But if they can't give a clear direction of where the company is headed, how are they going to inspire the team to show up and do a good job each day?
Too often, companies fail to promote their vision clearly, leaving managers feeling clueless as to the future of the organization. The knock-on effect is that managers feel like they don't have any ownership in the corporate message - and that level of disconnectedness often drives good people to look for inspiration elsewhere.
#4: You're not developing them into leaders
Exceptional managers are ambitious. They're passionate about their work and want to feel challenged, valued and engaged. Many wish to explore their leadership potential and use those skill sets to improve the company. Overlooking this is a fatal mistake. Businesses that fail to place ambitious managers into a quality leadership development program risk losing those managers to an employer that will.
Internal development is often one of the first things that gets axed as companies look for ways to save money. But there are some relatively informal ways to develop your talent. Putting managers through workshops can help them to feel re-motivated and developed, or you could have a promising manager work alongside a senior leader to develop the skills needed for leadership roles down the road. Whatever method you choose, cultivating a strong "promote-from-within" culture is essential to prevent your best managers from becoming a flight risk.
#5: You're not promoting them to management in the first place
Companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for management 82 percent of the time, according to a recent Gallup study. That's because most companies have a flawed methodology for promoting people into management. Essentially, they base hiring and promotion decisions on an employee's past performance, not on their potential to succeed in a completely different management role.
One reason you're losing exceptional managers then, is because you never promoted them in the first place. They were hiding in plain sight and you overlooked them, because you were looking for the wrong things. Ignored and underdeveloped, it won't be too long before these star performers take their talents to another organization.
Who are your star performers? Gallup has identified five qualities that cannot be taught, and which predict the quality of performance in all types of managerial roles:
- Motivation - good managers challenge themselves and their teams to consistently deliver
- Assertiveness - good managers overcome challenges and resistance
- Accountability - good managers assume responsibility for their team's success
- Relationships - good manager's build a positive, engaging environment where their teams create strong relationships with each other
- Decision-Making - good managers solve problems by thinking ahead, planning for contingencies, balancing competing interests and taking an analytical approach
This combination of traits is so rare, says Gallup, that it exists in just one out of every 10 people. The only way to identify this leadership potential is through a deep-dive personality assessment like Typefinder or the Big Five. These assessments can also help you tailor a program to develop leadership skills while staying authentic person's true nature.
Summing it up
Your company might have a lot going for it, but if your star managers keep quitting, then you need to look under the hood. Most times, the answer is quite simple - exceptional managers want to do a good job and crucially, want to be trusted to do a good job in their own unique way. Give them that, and the rest should take care of itself.