Jeff is a leading voice on how to create and grow momentum for organizations and leaders. He has launched three thriving churches in Atlanta, Georgia, author of the business book, “Know What You’re FOR,” led Chick-fil-A’s National Marketing Strategy and coached thousands of communicators through his online coaching programs.
Last week, my wife Wendy and I went to a restaurant that only had a few customers. When we walked in, the hostess informed us the wait would be 35 minutes.
“We only have one server tonight,” she said.
Our Date Night met the Great Resignation.
As you’ve probably heard, millions are packing up their work belongings and moving on. The impact of this kind of turnover on a business is devastating.
Years ago, I saw how employee engagement and retention directly impacted the business health of Chick-fil-A restaurants. Part of my role when I worked there was helping Restaurant Operators build their businesses. As we looked at their restaurants, we began to notice a direct correlation between employee retention and momentum.
Employee engagement led to employee retention.
Employee retention led to greater momentum.
It was that simple, and that hard.
That was true years ago. It’s still true today.
The labor shortage isn’t exclusive to the restaurant industry, though. It’s pervasive and causing a lot of concern.
Nearly 4.3 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in August, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That’s 3% of the workforce in just one month. It’s also the most in the two decades the government has been keeping track.
As a result, now more than ever, leaders are taking a hard, honest look at the culture within their organizations.
When they have the courage to do this (and it does take courage), they often discover a glaring reality:
They Don’t Have A Strategy Problem. They Have A Culture Problem.
It’s not a head and hand issue. It’s a heart and soul issue.
Somewhere along the way, the organization lost its soul.
A key indicator of this is when quality, once-committed-to-the-mission, people start leaving.
Sure, turnover is always a reality. But when it starts to happen at a frequent rate the key issue isn’t strategy. It’s culture.
Something’s just not right.
When this starts to happen in an organization, leaders tend to double-down on strategy. It sounds something like:
“We’re going to try harder.”
“We’re announcing a new and improved strategy.”
“We’re going to start promoting the company more.”
While trying harder, introducing new strategies and increased advertising efforts aren’t bad, none of these address a key question that leaders often fail to ask when team members start walking out the door:
“What’s It FEEL Like To Work Here?”
On the surface, this question seems like a touchy-feely, emotional, sappy question. It seems like the answers are hard to measure and activate. It’s far simpler, and less time-consuming, to launch a new strategy or give an inspiring speech than it is to ask this tough question and give it the time it needs.
And yet, the point isn’t giving this question the time it deserves.
The point is to give the people in the organization the time they deserve.
This happens when you have the courage to ask this question and listen to the answer. It’s also a test of integrity for leaders.
When quality people who were once committed to the organization start to leave, denial starts to rise. “It’s them, not us” can be the usual refrain from leaders.
To survive this labor shortage, thriving organizations will assume the opposite.
When quality people who were once committed to the organization start to leave, denial starts to rise. “It’s them, not us” can be the usual refrain from leaders. To survive this labor shortage, thriving organizations will assume the opposite.
“It’s us not them, so let’s find out what it feels like to work here.”
It’s why Exit Interviews can provide helpful answers to this question.
The problem is that exit interviews are often a waste of time because very little happens as a result of the feedback. My hunch is that the information gleaned from these meetings rarely even finds its way to the leader or leadership team.
When exit interviews aren’t taken seriously, especially when quality people leave the company, it’s an indicator of a systemic culture issue.
When exit interviews aren’t processed thoroughly, it also reveals a dangerous threat simmering below the surface of the organization — pride. When leaders don’t feel the need to think through exit interviews, it’s often because of pride, defensiveness, and/or an unwillingness to embrace what’s really happening within the organization.
A key indicator of this is when the leader or leaders talk more about what’s outside the organization (results and strategies) than they do what’s inside the organization (culture.)
This isn’t a plea to disregard results and strategies. Far from it. Don’t forget, we began by talking about the direct connection between employee retention and the health of the organization.
Results and culture eventually travel together. As Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And it greatly determines the health of the business.
When key people start leaving an organization, the first place to begin isn’t denial. The first place to begin is asking why.
It’s why we need to go back to the question: “What’s it feel like to work here?”
If people feel safe, they’ll bring out their best self.
If people feel heard, they’ll be quick to listen.
If people feel believed in, they’ll return the favor.
The bottom line is simply this: If people feel cared for, they’ll do more.
It’s why this question isn’t a nice gesture. It’s an urgent question because Resignation Nation is a real thing.
This isn’t a call to cater or crater to people.
It’s a call to genuinely care for people.
When an organization cares for the team, the team cares for the organization.
On the contrary, if the team doesn’t feel cared for, they’ll eventually start walking out the door.
All of which leads to a question that is the foundation of the one I’ve already given you. This question is one every leader needs to quietly, honestly ask themselves:
Do I Genuinely Care About The People I Lead?
Every great organizational culture begins here.
A tell-tale sign of the answer is what happens when people leave. If the leader or leaders shrug their shoulders and take a “Next person up” mentality, it is quite revealing. The people there are just a means to an end.
Again, it’s easier to get lost in data, focus on the work, instead of honestly seeking what’s really happening within the culture of the organizations.
It’s why, honestly and thoroughly processing the question, “Do I genuinely care about the people I lead?” is one of the best gifts you can give your organization and the people you serve.
If the answer is yes, you’ll weather the challenges of the Great Resignation.
If the answer is no, you might just have found your answer to the question:
“What’s it feel like to work here?”
EVER FEEL LIKE YOUR STAFF ARE UNMOTIVATED AND UNDERPERFORMING?
Effective leaders ensure their team has a healthy and productive culture. One where everyone is bought in to the mission.
But it isn’t easy to achieve that. It’s something that many leaders spend years figuring out. To get those results, you need a mindset and strategy that will help you:
- Delegate and engage your team members
- Lead both in-person and virtual staff effectively
- Create meaningful team values
- Let your team know you’re for them (not against them)
So, if you want to learn this leadership mindset and change your team’s culture, you can get instant access to my free mini-course on leading better teams. Get free access here.
Written By: Jeff Henderson