Transforming Leadership: Management Behavior Creating Retention Risks

I Didn’t Sign Up For This! When you hear your critical talent saying this, pay attention. It’s a common complaint from those recently hired or promoted into a key role. Their mandate is to change things quickly – speed of execution, and bring others along. They hit the ground running and do well at inspiring support yet get stopped by one executive’s actions or inaction. Whenever management behavior is causing key talent to tread water or sink, you have a retention risk on your hands. It is a signal best not ignored.

Talent Management is a young and evolving process. Combined with the speed of industry, economic and technology changes, you could easily find yourself way behind the competition rather than ahead of them. Some leaders still view talent management as a cost versus an investment. This mindset affects priorities, resources and the way that critical talent and the projects they work on are regarded.

The process of creating a talent management strategy has been instrumental in shifting leaders’ mindsets to see their people as a competitive advantage. Leaders used systems thinking to identify who was essential to keep existing business and drive new business. This created discussions forcing executives to work through differences of opinion regarding an individual’s value and contribution.

By using the business strategy as a stake in the ground, it helped shift selection criteria from preferred stars to critical contributors. Some leaders view this as a significant improvement while others see it as an erosion of their power.

A VP of operations, participating in cross functional meetings, heard rumors of discontent. Listening to middle management describe instances of half hearted commitment from another leader gave useful clues. The VP was able to identify which leader was flexing muscle to protect the past versus engaging in true problem solving. The VP engaged colleagues in gaining this leader’s buy in so the teams could get on with their priority projects.

Change begins within the executive mindset and extends through their ability to influence outcomes in multiple ways. It takes courage to lead in new ways yet without it resilience, innovation and employee engagement will not happen. Whenever you hear, I didn’t sign up for this, then it’s a distinct possibility that the behavior of a leader may be creating retention risks within your key talent. It’s hardly what you would expect to be happening.

Judi Walsh is an executive coach to critical talent and management teams. Her discovery driven coaching accelerates development for leaders who want or must lead in new ways. For more of Judi’s ideas on Transforming Leadership visit


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