Questions Leaders Need to Ask Themselves
March 14, 2022
The Great Resignation commenced as the US workforce began returning to work as the Pandemic has started to wane (hopefully for good). According to Fortune – more than 4.5 million people have voluntarily left their jobs across all industries in December alone and that trend has continued. The reasons vary from operational issues, such as challenges finding childcare, avoiding public transportation, but they are also systemic, meaning employees want a better work life balance, they are looking for better leadership, more flexibility, better pay, feeling included, more time off, and the list goes on.
It is clear, the Great Resignation is still underway, and this means companies are losing talented workers, which not only costs money, but it also has a significant impact on institutional knowledge, organizational growth, sustainability, team morale, etc. We also know employees will be more likely to stay if they feel valued, supported, included, and encouraged, as well as knowing their manager is listening, transparent, and engaged. So, if companies want to retain their talented employees, it is incumbent upon all leaders – at all levels - to look at themselves and evaluate their leadership style and their engagement with their teams.
Leaders need to ask these important questions:
- Am I engaging with my entire team, not just those who report to me?
- Do I actively listen to my team?
- Does my team feel comfortable coming to me with questions or concerns?
- Am I being inclusive, and do I foster inclusion in the workplace?
- Do I provide space and encouragement for all voices and perspectives at the table?
- Am I being up front and transparent with my team about department or company goals, trajectories, etc.?
- Am I supporting my team, lifting them up, giving them credit for their hard work and achievements?
- Do I tell my team how much I value them and more important, do I show them how much I value them?
- Am I helping my team grow and providing professional development opportunities and opportunities for growth?
- Am I challenging my team?
- Am I striving to learn and grow as a manager?
Given the world we currently live in, you probably are not able to say, “Yes” to all of these questions, which means you should take time, reflect on your leadership, and look for ways to improve and grow. You can do this through workshops, training, reading, and in talking to your team to find out what they need and how you can be most supportive.
I am a big believer in reflection, especially in the written form. It helps us hone in on areas we need to examine, and it helps up capture the essence of that need. You won’t improve your leadership skills overnight – reflecting takes time and effort – but I encourage you to try it. To start, simply ask yourself the question, “What can I do to be a better leader?” You may focus on one area, let’s say, listening. Explore how you listen to people in meetings, to your team, especially when they are reaching out with a need, a frustration, or a concern. Jot down specific examples of when you listened well and ones where you did not. Actively think about how you can listen better and write down those ideas. They may be simple, such as make sure to make eye contact with the person speaking to better focus on what they are saying or take a few minutes to record actions items from a previous meeting, so you can focus on the next one and the people speaking. It could also be more complicated in reminding yourself that your ideas are not the only ideas, and you need to give space for other perspectives. Regardless of what you write down, the next step is to go out and practice and circle back. How successful were you? What barriers made it challenging for you to listen? Explore those barriers to get at the heart of the matter. And it may take several trips back to reflecting. That’s okay. In the end, you will learn about yourself, your leadership, and ultimately be a better leader.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Dean, Graduate College
Assistant Clinical Professor & Department Head, Goodwin College