Management Articles


Keeping Good Employees Means Having Good Managers

By: Gregory P. Smith

Greg Smith's cutting-edge keynotes, consulting, and training programs have helped businesses reduce turnover, increase sales, hire superior people, and deliver better customer service. As President and founder of Chart Your Course International, He has implemented professional development programs for thousands of organizations globally. Greg has authored eight informative books including Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High Turnover to High Retention and 401 Proven Ways to Retain Your Best Employees. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, visit or call (770) 860-9464.

When an employee quits they don’t quit the company they quit their boss. A survey I recently completed showed half the people quit their previous employer because of their supervisor. A painful statistic when you consider how difficult it is to find good people. This is sad when you look at the bottom line and stupid when you do nothing about.

Managers today walk a thin line . . .the job is not easy. The responsibilities and demands are more difficult. People expect more; some are plain difficult to work with. It should go without saying that those businesses that do a good job selecting, training and developing their managers will enjoy higher productivity and lower turnover. The two go hand in hand.

Soft skills reign supreme and are critical for success. Most businesses do a miserable job selecting and training their managers. Many management development programs focus entirely on technical aspects of the job and not people skills. Some managers are tyrants and make life miserable for those they are supposed to lead. Duh! It is people skills that make the difference.

I am sympathetic to the plight of people who get selected to become new managers. These are good people. Many are great technicians, but unfortunately are clueless on the art and science of managing people. Some are thrown mercilessly to the wolfs and to no fault of their own succeed or fail, usually the later. Your odds for success are better with Russian Roulette. To me this is shameless and organizations should know better. This is why the trend is growing for people avoiding becoming supervisors and managers. At least send these new managers to one of those “shake-and-bake,” $149.00 day-long, “How to Become a Good Leader” courses taught downtown. Which is cheaper? Running off your employees or training new supervisors?

I went into the Army right after college. My boss was a great. He was an experienced veteran and a former Special Forces medic in Vietnam. He was the type of person who always put the needs of others before his own interests.

I remember pulling duty and having to stay up all night on New Years Eve. It was early Saturday morning and I still had several more hours to go before I could go home. A few hours later, the phone rang. It was Joe, my boss. He wanted to know if I had made any plans for lunch. He and his wife had made something and he wanted to bring it over to me. I don’t remember what the food was, but it was a meal I will never forget.

That one small act of kindness showed me he really cared. That act taught me more about leadership than all the degrees and diplomas hanging on my wall. There is an old saying in the military, "If you take care of your troops, your troops will take care of you."  The point is, management is an 8-5 obligation, but true leadership is a 24 hour a day responsibility. There are more managers than leaders in most businesses today. Here are a few suggestions to consider in your management development program:
  • Have company executives share their expectations with your managers.
  • Allow your employees to start evaluating their supervisors using a 360-degree evaluation.
  • Hold managers accountable and responsible for retention.
  • Have HR train managers on reward and recognition.
  • Provide the support and tools to help managers do their job.
  • Start measuring turnover and applying the cost to the bottom line.
  • Conduct post exit interviews finding out the real reason for the employee’s departure.
  • Train managers on how to be good leaders.
  • Reward managers for positive retention and productivity.
  • Conduct an internal climate assessment at least twice a year.

© Copyright 2000 Gregory P. Smith

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