Lessons Learned: Six Leadership Skills that Increase Employee Retention

Carol DunniganWritten by Carol Dunnigan for Modern Restaurant Management

There’s an old saying…people don’t quit jobs, they quit their boss. Managers have a big impact on turnover and retention: the number one reason employees quit their jobs is because of a poor manager performance.

Behind every great business is a great leader.  While some people are “born leaders,” the most important leadership skills can be learned through training and experience.  At Compeat we believe in practicing six leadership skills to improve employee retention. All of these skills do not need to be learned at once – start by practicing them one at a time. Once you see how improving your leadership skills directly affects employee retention, you will become increasingly more inclined to incorporating additional traits.

Lead by example.  There is another common saying: “managers have subordinates, leaders have followers.” There is no better way to build a loyal following than being a leader who earns their employees’ respect.  A leader who helps out the team, gets their hands dirty and positively motivates others will garner a stronger following than someone who simply manages their employees’ daily duties. Reflect the values that you want to see in your employees and they will follow suit.

Articulate your vision with tangible strategies.  The vision you have for your business may not mean very much to your employees.  For example, a restaurant manager saying that they want to increase monthly sales to $60k does not motivate an employee to sell more.  Breaking your vision down into specific action items will help get you closer to your goals.  Vocalize how their individual contributions affect the overall business.  Saying “Bob, over the next month, let’s work on getting to four turns per table during weekday lunches” or “Sally, I need you to really concentrate on selling at least 20 of this week’s special”, for a restaurant setting, creates specific actions that can be measured.

Build your team with people who possess strengths you lack. The best leaders are not always the most well-rounded person, but those who create well-rounded teams.  Successful leaders possess a keen self-awareness of their own weaknesses and surround themselves with others who excel in those areas. Take an assessment of areas that you may need help in and hire for those traits.  Not only will your business thrive, your employees will feel appreciated for their skills and less likely to seek employment elsewhere.

Practice empowerment. Good leaders set a clear vision, then get out of the way.  If you have done a good job of building your team with smart, hardworking employees, then you do not need to micromanage their daily activities.  It’s best to empower your team to achieve the daily, weekly, monthly goals on their own terms.  Afterall, an empowered team learns to make decisions based on the situation and does not need to escalate every decision to you.  It is imperative that that employees can function in your absence; especially with decisions that have an urgency about them.

Build up rather than tear down. While watching Gordon Ramsay one day, I began to think about his bullish management style and his treatment of his staff in the in the heat of the moment.  I couldn’t help but think about how would you like it if someone addressed one of my family members in that manner?  It is important to remember that everyone is somebody’s wife, daughter, grandson, or father and to treat them in a manner worthy of your loved ones. Good leaders motivate their people without yelling.

Balance confidence with humility. Too often, leaders overestimate their own contributions to success and underestimate their contributions to failure.  While, as a leader, you are expected to be the expert, the best leaders know that they can’t do everything themselves.  They are aware of their own limitations.  Displaying a certain amount of humility and vulnerability will help build a deeper connection between you and your employees, motivating them to want to be a part of the solution.

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