August is here! For me, that’s a signal summer is getting close to winding down and – because I live in Texas – it means we can finally consider going outside and enjoying summer for the first time. Seriously. It’s been 110 with humidity for what seems like eternity. It’s been a nightmare for my hair.
For many others, August signals the month school starts back up. There’s a chorus of joy spreading in neighborhoods across America as parents rejoice that they can ship their kids to the classroom for 8 hours a day. Coincidentally, there’s also an uptick in Facebook posts where groups of teachers get together to drink heavily and relish in the last few days of freedom. Ah yes. Summer. The greatest season of them all!!
As said teachers get ready to shepherd the next generation of leaders through life, I wanted to share a conversation I had with an attendee at a recent event. We were talking about leadership and this person was metaphorically stuck between a rock and hard place. On one hand, she loved the job she was doing and she was comfortable with the life it allowed her to live. She had worked at her company for about five years and was building good brand equity within the company where she knew she would have opportunities down the road to move up, advance, and take on much greater responsibility. On the other hand, she felt the need for a new challenge sooner than her current situation could realistically create. She also struggled with the thought she could earn more elsewhere. After all, a recent colleague had left the company and found the grass was greener elsewhere from an earning potential standpoint. Sound familiar?
In leadership, we’re faced with these situations frequently. There’s always another company – a competitor – vying for talent. We’re almost inherently trained to do everything we can to keep our good talent “on our team” because we know how difficult it is to recruit new ones. So when we’re faced with these situations, our natural inclination is to do everything we can to convince the person the grass isn’t greener elsewhere, they should stay the course, and those opportunities will become a reality if they just hang tight a little longer.
That’s what I was taught in leadership. I’m sure I’m not alone because I hear these same conversations in nearly every speaking engagement I lead across the country. The questions sound something similar to these:
- “Matt, how do I convince these millennials they need to put in a little more time in the job before they expect a raise?”
- “Matt, we’re in an extremely competitive job market. How can we differentiate our opportunity, attract the right talent, but stay true to what’s gotten our company to this point?”
- “Matt, I’ve got a weird pimple on my back. Do you mind taking a look?”
Yes. I do mind. I’m not a doctor. But put some peanut butter and a Band-Aid on it. Peanut butter cures all.
Ok, so maybe that last one was made up. But the others are great questions. They are very real questions. But if we answer them with persuasive tactics to entice our talent to stay, we’re only doing a lip service. Which is why I’d recommend a different approach to tackling these issues. It’s the same approach I took with the conference attendee described above because I think it’s applicable to both employers and employees. It’s fairly simple and requires little effort – albeit it requires a lot of trust in your company/product/service if you’re approaching it from the employer angle.
The recommendation? Encourage them to test the waters. Encourage employees to interview elsewhere. I’m not recommending you do so blindly and without caution. But I am encouraging you to have honest, real conversations with the people you lead (or yourself) about the opportunities which might exist elsewhere so they can make the most informed, bought-in, and committed decision going forward. One of two things will happen:
- They’ll find out they have it pretty good with you/your company. This is the best outcome – the one we’re realistically hoping for as a leader. If your employee finds out the job they thought they wanted wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, it will actually strengthen their view of you and your company. Maybe they interviewed, but didn’t get the position? It’s an opportunity showcase the need to build stronger skills and that’s something you can work with them on for opportunities which will exist at your company down the road. Or maybe the second option happens and….
- They’ll like what they see elsewhere and be equipped to make an informed decision. If your employee interviews and is offered another job which pays, for example $5,000 more per year, now they are equipped with facts and can make a decision if that $5,000 is worth it. As an employer, I’d argue it’s better to know your workforce is ready to leave for another opportunity because of (insert any employment factor you’d like – salary, benefits, work/life balance) in order to identify what changes, if any, you need to make. From the employee standpoint, some will simply take solace in knowing there are other opportunities out there, but when push comes to shove, they’ll realize they got a pretty good thing in their current role. The point is don’t shy away from competition. Use it strengthen your value proposition to your employees. The “what if” scenario a lot of employees play can be dangerous and sap productivity because they spend more time worrying about what could be versus knowing the real picture and making a conscious decision to stay.
Thanks for reading and looking forward to talking more next month. Until then, I’m headed outside. It finally cooled off to 102 tonight! Yay summer!!