Attracting and Retaining Human Capital: Developing Strong Leaders

Trust, between leaders and employees, is an often overlooked element of retention strategies. With proper attention paid to attracting and retaining human capital, organizations can build strong leadership teams that improve talent management.

“Participative decision making may send a message that the leader enacting the program has confidence in, and concern and respect for, the subordinate; it may also affect followers’ overall perceptions about the character of the leader.” – Kurt Dirks & Donald Ferrin, Journal of Applied Psychology, August Vol. 87 No. 4

The Origin of Anti-Leadership Behaviors

Employees’ trust in leadership is predicated on their faith that leaders will exhibit honesty and meet their expectations. If there is disconnect or friction between a leader and his direct report, that tension can lead to a host of negative consequences. That particular relationship can lead an employee to produce poor work outcomes, decrease motivation, decrease loyalty toward the organization, and a high likelihood that the employee will leave. A distressed employee can also impact his colleagues’ work by failing to meet deadlines or by executing tasks poorly. Therefore, organizations need to take a comprehensive approach when developing leaders so that an unconstructive relationship that develops between a leader and an employee, the antagonism does not have a domino effect on the entire organization. By viewing those fractious relationships as minor problems, executives may unwittingly create workplace that allows anti-leadership behaviors to emerge.

In their research article, “Trust in leadership: Meta-analytic findings and implications for research and practice,” the authors Kurt Dirks and Donald Ferrin found that trust in leadership has a strong relationship to work attitudes, organizational citizenship behaviors, and job performance. The trust that employees have in leaders colors how they interpret their leaders’ actions and motives for those actions. Leaders who are supportive of some employees, but display little interest in others, signal to the latter that the organization does not appreciate their efforts. Those employees may lose trust in the leader as well as the organization, and likely show signs of turnover intentions.

Invest in Attracting and Retaining Talent

Leaders can build strong relationships with followers by instituting a corporate culture that rewards clearly and equitably. For example, including employees in the decision-making process or using their input when creating recognition programs or project assignments. Leaders who put into effect supportive practices will have a positive influence on their employees’ behavior toward the organization. Behaving consistently and with integrity is essential for leaders to maintain productive relationships with employees. This in turn will keep employees from expending energy on trying to infer the leader’s opinion of their work, rather than investing their efforts on their performance.

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Avoiding Managerial Dysfunction in your Workplace

“The workplace, like the home, can become psychologically toxic if dysfunctional people are in charge.” – Adrian Furnham, Financial Times, November 29, 2000

What supervisory behavior impacts voluntary turnover?

Yes, your company’s organizational climate and productivity are significantly impacted by supervisory behaviors. Seasoned managers are assumed to be skilled,reliable, and knowledgeable. However, many are not able to translate those valuable assets into managerial communication or employee motivation.

Often overlooked, managers may not exhibit counter-productive behaviors until they are settled into the organization or promoted into higher positions. Managers employing an autocratic leadership style are unsuccessful at building long-term commitment with their subordinates, and the organizational climate can become toxic and unproductive if they advocate an environment built on fear. However, it may not always be their fault. Some managers are never taught to address the needs of their people and cannot handle the stressors of the new position. These are the hallmarks of this management style that you can recognize:

  1. Inconsistent, unpredictable messages that lack clarity (which creates insecurity among direct reports);
  2. Lack of emotional control when encountering a stressful situation;
  3. Inflexibility when managers repeat mistakes and do not take steps to improve or learn new skills. To often, these characteristics are compounded with
  4. A lack of mentoring knowledge; or
  5. Disinterest in guiding their direct reports’ long-term career goals.

Solutions for leadership development.

Essentially, the above-described managers focus on how team performance reflects on them rather than acknowledging the effort and quality that went into the finished product. Managers who fail to see (or recognize) individual contribution will stifle productivity and creativity amongst their team. They also cost the firm talented employees. If left unaddressed, it can lead to mass exodus or anti-leaders in the ranks.

New hires (especially Gen X/Y) take cues from their direct supervisors. Management must be aware of the influence that it has over employees’ burgeoning leadership potential. Learning how to master interpersonal skills gives managers the ability to control their influence as well as motivate talented employees. Setting clear, specific, and realistic goals and rewarding open communication creates a supportive environment that produces high quality work from a loyal employee base.