The Harvard Business Review (Gardner and Horn 2016) did their own research into whether or not one can tell, behaviorally, a person may be ready to quit an organization. They based their initial research on Buss and Shackleford’s well know study on “cues” romantic partners may give when they commit an infidelity; and on a series of studies by Gottman which demonstrated that small verbal and nonverbal cues recorded on short videos of married couples interacting could predict their eventual divorce.
Like romantic relationships, the HBR suspected that through proper research certain cues or behaviors may predict whether or not someone maybe thinking of quitting. Through a series of surveys given to hundreds of managers and other organization leaders, the HBR whittled down from 900 distinct behaviors 13 generalized behaviors that could be quitting cues.
The pre-quitting behaviors that made the cut are below:
1. Their work productivity has decreased more than usual.
2. They have acted less like a team player than usual.
3. They have been doing the minimum amount of work more frequently than usual.
4. They have been less interested in pleasing their manager than usual.
5. They have been less willing to commit to long-term timelines than usual.
6. They have exhibited a negative change in attitude.
7. They have exhibited less effort and work motivation than usual.
8. They have exhibited less focus on job related matters than usual.
9. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their current job more frequently than usual.
10. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor more frequently than usual.
11. They have left early from work more frequently than usual.
12. They have lost enthusiasm for the mission of the organization.
13. They have shown less interest in working with customers than usual.
When delivered with sincerity two of the most difficult sentences to speak are probably “I apologize” and “apology accepted” or another reasonable proxy of the pair. The first has one admitting to fault, where the second releases it. If only our lives were like the sitcoms where no matter the trouble husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and their children, or co-workers get all the loose ends tied up in a matter of sixty minutes or less. Everyone hugs and the camera fades out.
Unfortunately admitting to and forgiving fault isn’t something most of us are good at. But when this exchange doesn’t occur that can create a toxic cycle inside an organization. But, how does an organization reach a state of honesty?
Pride must be put aside. The issue is that humans are savagely self-protective, it’s an evolutionary reaction to a threatening world. No longer is the danger an apex predator, but our image among our peers. None the less, we fight for it tooth and nail. So, breaking through pride is to against our instinct. It will be difficult. Second, one needs to not take things personally. Everyone makes mistakes. And most mistakes are hardly so terrible as to warrant defining a person.
We have to unburden ourselves of these very human experiences. Helping our peers and mentees realize that everyone needs to go through this process for the greater good is an essential activity for any leader.
The first thing to expect when there is a sudden, unexpected void in leadership is uncertainty and concern. There also might be a sudden gap in experience and knowledge. It is important to remember that sudden change can make even the most productive or cool-headed people act unlike their usual self. Stability in an organization is key and leadership provides that.
While this won’t help those who are currently experiencing a leadership void, planning ahead for the eventuality will, hopefully, help an organization experience very little transitional drama. Having a clear, public plan in place for succession in leadership roles is the easiest way to prepare for both expected and unexpected leadership transitions.
Current leaders should be grooming one or several people to take their place and make it plainly know who is in line for what positions and why. The succession plan should support the values and goals of the organization that are already in place. The people in line should also be supportive of these values and goals.
If one’s organization is in the unfortunate position of not having a plan in place when a leadership void occurs there are some things to be done. Quickly finding a respected, knowledgeable and senior member of the team to take charge will calm many people’s concerns, even if this role is temporary. Keep open lines of communication and avoiding feeding rumor mills is essential. All members, but especially senior members, of the team need to step up and lead by example.
As much as possible all members of the organization should do their part in keeping up the status quo as the team reorganizes itself. Most importantly everyone should remember as disastrous and chaotic as a sudden void in leadership may feel, it is not the end.
One of the most interesting aspects of leadership is that all people bring something unique to the table. Many articles on leadership will talk about qualities like integrity, effective communication or influence, while these are all good qualities, maybe even all necessary qualities of a leader, they don’t mean much if a leader doesn’t put their people ahead of themselves.
In the early days of being in a leadership position many will think that their title is all they need. That with the title will come automatic respect and and inclination to follow whomever bears the title. Many “young” leaders must learn is that leadership is something one must work hard at.
Sometimes “young” leaders will have a peer come to them and confront them about their selfish attitude, but not always. Not only is it a leader’s job to support their people through constructive criticism, feedback and support, but the leader needs to be self-critical and realize that their own attitudes and practices do affect the team.
When leader is doing well their success should be visible in the success of those they lead. The leader should acknowledge these accomplishments in both private and public. The leader should know their teammates, not just their name, position and responsibilities—but the real person outside their responsibility to the team. Leaders must leave their own ego at the door; your teammates are going to accomplish things you cannot and that is OK. Having a peer be able to move on to another opportunity, in part because of the leader’s mentorship should be viewed as a leader’s greatest accomplishment. Give your teammates an environment in which they can become the best possible version of themselves.
In doing these things all members of the team will be viewed as successful when success comes and when it does not, the environment to move on and try again will have already been fostered.
In all aspects of our lives there are always two sets of opportunities in front of us—one set governs where we are, a current job, a current relationship, a current volunteer activity, a current hobby and then there are those things only available if we actively seek them.
Whatever those new things are that we seek, if we find them and develop them we become more versatile. It could be that what we have currently (a job, relationship, volunteerism, hobby) provides us with the tools to become more versatile. Sometimes we need to actively find new things to learn, new skills to develop, new networks to tap into.
If we only remain qualified to maintain our current job, relationship, volunteer activity or hobby we are vulnerable to or unprepared for change.
Every day we should set out two lists of tasks for ourselves: one to maintain that which we already have and one that will allow us to expand the boundaries of our experience and knowledge.
It doesn’t matter who you are—an entrepreneur who created your own job, an employee, a community organization leader or member, a high school or college student, a retiree, or a stay at home parent—you have the capability, this very moment, to prepare for what comes next.
“Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.” John Peter Zenger
While most people have never heard of John Peter Zenger, they may have heard the latter quote or something akin to it. Zenger was an important figure in American history as the printer of the “New York Weekly Journal” and was famously sued by colonial governor William Crosby for libel. When he was acquitted he became a symbol for the freedom of the press.
Zenger was German immigrant to the American Colonies. Zenger and his family immigrated in 1710 as part of a large German Palatines group. The colonial Governor promised all of the children in the group an education and Zenger worked under the first printer in the American Colonies, William Bradford.
It was in 1773 that Zenger printed the article that would cause Crosby to sue him. Cosby wasn’t satisfied with is salary and couldn’t control the local government so he removed one of the judges and placed someone friendly to his party in the former judge’s seat.
Zenger and his paper being part of the opposing party, continued to print articles disagreeing with Cosby’s actions. Alexander Hamilton and William Smith Sr were his lawyers and eventually winning the libel suit against Zenger.