“Is Your Manager Causing You To Leave”

In this episode guest host, Aaron Murphy speaks to Michael Calkins about the topic of “Is your manager causing you to leave?”. Michael has over 30 years of consulting experience in both the public and private sector, with Enterprise Implementation Solutions and Michael has worked for such companies as NetSuite, Teracore, IBM, and Dell just to name a few.

Stream or download Episode 144: “Is Your Manager Causing You To Leave” below.

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Highlights from Episode 144: “Is Your Manager Causing You To Leave” with Michael Calkins


Can you explain your background and how did you end up in the world of Professional Services?

I kind of just fell in Professional Services. So, you know, when I graduated college I had a degree in computer science and I was meant to be a programmer. So, at that point in time, you know, it wasn’t really explained as to the career opportunities you had when you were working in government or in an IT shop or consultant, I had no idea. So, I got an offer to join EDS and went out and worked with General Motors as a contractor and that began my Professional Services career. So, after that, it was just always something I found interesting. It was always a way for a new project and a new work environment, new managers. Everything was new all the time. I fell in love with that and that’s why I stayed throughout my career pretty much it was in the consulting side and Professional Services.

What should people do to keep their good staff?

It all sums up, I think, in a culture. When you interview people today it’s what’s your culture and describing what your culture is and what that is. I think that’s the key component. What do I look for a good culture type of environment? It’s all about growth, people come because they like their manager or they like what they hear about the company but the reason they stay is because of the culture.

What are some of the things that I do to help that cultural situation? It’s to build an environment based upon growth, that you’re allowed to grow in the environment. So, I have a thing I call disciplines and practices. So, a discipline can be a skill set, IT skill, a number of different things, and it’s more loosely defined but it’s a gathering of information and people around that discipline. And then you have practices, which is a more formal organizational structure around a discipline. So it might be, for example, the two or three key things that your organization does.

What these disciplines and practices allow is one, it builds community across the practices and within practices. So, there are no hard boundaries. If I’m a business analyst but I want to get into project management, I can go into the project management discipline. There are no structures around what you can and can’t do. And that kind of builds that growth potential. The people aren’t just pigeonholed into what they were hired for that. That there’s a chance to learn and grow and other means whether it’s technology-wise or role-wise, or vertical marketplace. And then from that, you now have an opportunity to build leaders.

Everyone wants to lead. Everyone wants to learn how to manage. But there are only so many places in an organization where you can have a new manager or someone managing people. But when you bring in these disciplines and practices, now, you have discipline leaders and you have practice leaders and you have people working with other people across places where they typically wouldn’t be. So, now you have more people doing the management components and more people involved in more things. So that’s the one.

The second part is you have to be a good manager and you got to find good managers. I wrote a few years ago, that the number one reason why people leave an organization is because of their managers. So, what do you have to do? You may have to make sure there’s open communication. You have to have the mindset that “I’m there for them. They’re not there for me.” So, it’s a good manager’s role is to open the clearing ahead of people to where they do their job correctly.

I know that I’ve been in places and have seen the manager’s words “You’re working for me.” I don’t think that’s the right view of the world to do that. Then the other component of that quality is conformance to requirements. So, people can’t do a quality job, people are frustrated if they can’t do a quality job if they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. So, you really got to make sure that you set the tone, set the requirements for people to know what the guideposts are and where their end zones are at. That’s what is important to them. So, between the good managers and the potential for growth and organization, I think that kind of gives an environment where good people want to stay.

Should a company spend more money on staff retention or staff hiring?

Well, there’s a little bit of both but I think it’s really skewed to staff retention, but it’s 90/10. You gotta spend a little bit on making sure you find the right people, first of all. So, whether that’s looking at external resources, or putting money into the marketing of those roles that you’re looking for but the big push is on staff retention.

The Society for Human Resource Management had reported that it costs a company six to nine months of employee salary to replace them. So, if you’re looking at a $100,000 that’s between $50,000 and $75,000 in recruiting and training costs. That’s huge, right? Plus all the disruption to the clients that you have or to the internal work that’s being worked on. So, you’re better off sticking the money into staff retention.

So, what does that mean? Making sure that they are being compensated correctly, do yearly reviews, look at the marketplace, make sure that you stay competitive. Organizations will often hire someone at a certain rate. And they try to squeak by and then what happens is people leave because the salary is a component that people look at. You got to keep it up to the tracks. If there’s a place where someone can go out or a certain skill can go out and make much money, you better off knowing that before they start leaving, invest in that opportunity and invest in those people to keep them around.

The second thing with staff retention is – people want to feel they are valued, right? So the little housewarming gifts or the little gifts when children are born or things like that, those make a difference because as a human element that you’re giving back to people. So, it’s some of the little things, but you can get a pat on the back, and recognition in a little public forum, which goes a long way with people, too. I do think you’re better off spending the money on retention versus hiring and there are some easy ways to do that.

How would you empower your staff? Could you provide us with some tips?

I’m going to give everyone the analogy because everyone can relate to it. It is a driver’s education. So, how do you empower a driver? You got to look at that example and apply it to the business world. So, there are some tips on that. One, it’s not access to the keys that count, right? And just because you tell someone “You can leave this, go do it.” If you don’t really empower those individuals and they really aren’t able to be empowered, right? So, it’s this access to the keys, you just don’t throw them on the counter when you’re learning to drive and they go out and take a spin. You don’t do that.

The second is, that you don’t drive by sitting in the backseat with others. Okay. You got to put the person in the front. You got to put them behind the wheel, you got to empower those people to put them in the position where they can drive or lead.

The third one, not everyone’s excited about driving. You really have to look at individuals and different empowering techniques which need to be used by different people. Whether it’s more hand-holding at first, more review, or sending someone to mentor them. Your constant encouragement that “Hey, you can do this.” That hand-holding technique, that’s another tip.

The fourth one that I have is learning to drive is not always a natural ability, just like being empowered. Some people have it. Some people can jump right in. They know what to do to take off, they know what to do to lead. Others don’t, they want to but they don’t have that natural ability. So, good managers have to recognize that, good managers have to coach people and get them going to where they feel that they’re empowered and they can empower others, as well.

The fifth one is a really important one to me – let the driver drive. You can’t say “Here, run this” and then overrun them. You can’t be a micromanager. I always tell people if you’re not making a mistake once in a while, you’re not trying hard enough. So, you got to let the driver, drive the car. You got to let the people that you’re empowering, be in a position of power, you can’t come over the top of them and take away their power by changing directions or step into a meeting and taking control of the meeting, you’re not empowering them. So, you let the driver drive.

Another one, people who learn to drive need to understand their limits. You got to put, put guard rails on where you want them to go. Don’t get them out into the weeds, make them focus on what you want them to be empowered to do. So, you got to establish those guidelines a little bit. And then the other part is you can learn by just being in the car. So what I mean by that, is if you’re in an environment make that environment an educational environment. Make it to where you’re showing how you can empower other people or you know you’re letting people run things, you let them be around those in situations, as well.

I tell people, one of my methodologies is – I want to give people enough rope to hang around a tree but not enough to hang themselves, right? So, you want them to be able to fasten themselves on something. You want them to grow but hopefully, as a good manager, if things get to be to dicey, I’m there to make sure that they’re not going to kill anything or kill themselves in the process. So, I want to give them those capabilities, an opportunity for growth without just letting them go off without any review.

How can staff help when it comes to the great resignation? And would you have any examples or tips that you could provide?

It goes back to, how you’re keeping people. There are two things that an organization comes out into play that, that make people want to look to leave. One is burnout. So, with the right tool with resource management capabilities involved, you now can look at the utilization of your key resources. I know so many organizations, and there are three or four people that everyone wants because they’re comfortable with those individuals, they are on everything.

Well, you get two ends of the spectrum. You got the person that you want to keep, your ace player, everyone wants to use them, but he’s just as tired, right? He just wants to get out. He’s all over the place. He can’t focus on one thing. It’s frustration. At the other end you got the person that says, “I have all these skills to play that. No one’s ever asked me about that I can, I would love to get involved in some of these things.”

So the resource management tool allows you from an organizational point of view, to look at both of those spectrums and find people who can fill roles that you would typically look for. So, that’s one. The other is that there’s frustration because we’re all remote today. Communication is a key element. So, if you don’t have a centralized place where people are tracking their project activities, that there’s communication among those people who are on those teams as being frustrated “I didn’t know we already did this. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I forgot about that.”

So, having personal dashboards, and having a project community in a solution is key. And then, it seems kind of trivial but the time and expense processing. It should be a simple thing. It’s one of those everyone can do but if it’s poorly enacted, if the system isn’t really supportive of the environment, that leads to frustration. So, yeah, software can certainly help resource management, time and expense project management. All those elements can really help people want to stay in your organization and not go elsewhere.

Show Notes

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn here


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