Like they would carefully select the best internet solutions provider, every company wants the best people to work for them. The “best people” are those who bring a unique combination of talent, experience and high productivity to whatever roles they occupy. In fact, the success of many companies can be judged entirely on the quality of their people – both leaders and employees.
The best people don’t need to work for you
The word “employee” actually makes me uncomfortable. A long time ago I stopped using this word entirely and began referring to employees purely as team members. This changed my thinking profoundly and went a long way toward building a company culture that made hiring and retaining the best people much easier.
Let me explain. The best people don’t need to work for you (or me). They can take their skills and experience, and get great positions at any number of companies of their choosing. The battle to attract great people is real, and you can bet that your top people often receive calls and emails from recruiters.
Leaders need to work as much for their people, as their people do for them. Great people are constantly judging their leaders, colleagues and workplace in general. When a great team member chooses to leave a company, they are effectively choosing to fire their boss and hire a new one.
They don’t work for you, they work with you
As leaders in the modern workplace, we need to gather teams, not hire lots of employees. We’re just part of the team, with various responsibilities, that help everybody get their work done.
Performance management therefore becomes a two-way process, where both managers and other team members are able to rate each other’s work, attitude and overall contribution to the organisation. An organisation where leaders are treated with any level of immunity to this two-way evaluation process won’t be able to retain the best people for long.
It took me a while to change that ego-boosting conversational habit of saying something like “she works for me” to “we work together”, but the results have been spectacular. All leaders could use a little more humility and accountability, and meeting all people in a company on the same peer level does wonders for company culture.