People Don't Quit Their Jobs, They Quit Their Bosses

The Parallels of Lifeskills and Leadership

Have you noticed that there is a symbiotic essence to personal relationships and leadership? If you are acutely attuned to your own development, you will notice as you grow as a leader, so too will you relationship-wise.  Of course, this is not an absolute, but if you are doing it right, you should see parallel growth.  So what we are talking about here is, no kidding, life skills.  And what I hope is that you will take these skills with you regardless of what hat you’ll be wearing that day or hour.  I found that through coaching others that leaders tend to have these hangups at home when they have a completely full utility belt at the ready.  It is kind of obvious but I will say it for the people in the back row—the talents you use in leadership are the same you’ll employ in relationships.

Let’s pull on this thread together by examining personal relationships.  Shall we?

Parallel 1.  After you meet, you check in with them regularly. You get to know them beyond the veneer. You begin to ask them what they need or how you can help. You may even do something for them that they didn’t even ask you to do; like pick up their dry cleaning, fix their computer, or snip a job advertisement that they’ve been looking for to advance their career.

Why wouldn’t that be the same for your workers?

Parallel 2.  When you sense they are sad, frustrated, or happy, you stop to check on them, offer advice, or give them a listening ear.  You ask, “Is there anything I can do?” or maybe solve the issue in the background for them. You may even give them something to brighten their day or a momento to highlight their success.

Why wouldn’t you do it similarly for your teammates?

I am proud of you.
Thank you for the hard work. It paid off
I am glad you are on our team

Parallel 3.  You see that they did something great and you cheer for them in public. They take on a challenge and you become their ultimate hype-man or woman for that matter. Just so you know, hype-men are mostly physically present, always observing, adding drama, in the shadows, and not sharing the spotlight.  When it’s over you make sure everyone knows what they’ve done. But also, when they’ve done something damaging, you tactfully address it by pulling them to the side, and this…

  1. Identify that ONE thing they did with as much detail as you can from your perspective
  2. Describe how it made you feel without saying “you always” or “you never”
  3. Explain how what happened caused a problem and to what detriment
  4. Ask them for their perspective and what could have caused the perceived issue
  5. List solutions together and agree on the best option(s) in the future

What if you applied this to leading your people?

Read: Extracting the Leader from Within: An Experiential Leadership Model of Influencing Optimal Performance

If you noticed with #1-3, it is only communication.  Communication, meaning, A to B (and not B back to A). But with #4, it starts the conversation. Conversation is so important and necessary. It’s with conversation that there is an exchange of ideas, an elimination of assumptions, and the sharing of perspectives. If you allow interpersonal matters to be limited to #1-3, then you will surely miss critical details that you may not have considered when you discovered them. That leads to explosive emotions, hurt feelings, and an unfortunate loss of a relationship.

I won’t ever say or suggest for you to treat your workers like you would your significant other, but I will say there are amazing similarities to leadership that will improve engagement and increase retention at both home and at work. Emotional Intelligence is a life skill and should never be confined to any institution. Just think of the EQ skills you bring to leadership that can also apply to your personal life. Empathy comes to mind immediately. Connecting to your workers on their emotional level, especially in crisis, builds trust and inspires confidence. Why wouldn’t you want those effects at home? In fact, empathy, or any other skill, cannot be looked at as a nice-to-have—it’s an absolute must. If your BFF was struggling with their third-trimester pregnancy, how would you respond? How about if your worker was? There’s an opportunity for congruency here.

Read: Trust on Trial—When Your Boss is Too Impulsive

I will end this by saying that through the years, we’ve been talking about leadership through this 9 to 5 lens. As if you don on and off your leadership skills to a wall-locker or center desk drawer. As if you dump your interpersonal approaches at the front door or at the time you remove your badge and hang it over your rearview mirror. Although that’s surely not what thought leaders intended to imply, but it has not also been explicitly stated. The utility of expressing self-awareness and self-regulation is just as effective at home as it is in your office. Just like in your many leadership courses, they’ve encouraged you to practice active listening. Your partner or child could benefit from your effort—try it. There’s a litany of skills you’ve been asked to leverage for 12 hours of your day to improve the performance of your team. What about skills like change management, critical thinking, people management, and motivation?  Just saying those out loud highlights opportunities where you can apply them to you personally.  Let me break it to you, those skills travel and are guaranteed to change the trajectory of your relationships, friendships, and life.

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