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Why Imperfect Leaders May Retain More Employees

Emerging from a recession is a relief — unless your over-worked and underpaid employees take to greener pastures. What is the one true thing that leaders fearing employee defection can do to keep them? Be honest...

I just finished scanning the thoughtful blogpost by Martin Lindstrom, Why Brands Should Strive for Imperfection.  You’ll like his central message: brands that consistently show a perfect face to their audience in their advertising and promotion (from unblemished fruit to unblemished babies) mistake perfection for connection.  Turns out, however, that we humans are attracted to flaws. Why?  Because we value what’s real.  And in our house, neither fruits nor babies are free of those small irregularities that make each individual unique and interesting.

Homemade, not mass-produced. Special.

As wary confidence grows in the economic recovery, anxiety is starting to bubble around workforce loyalty and retention.  The concern on the part of many line managers and HR professionals is this:  that the stresses and strains of the last two years will drive their workers, even the most valued ones, to look for new jobs outside the firm as soon as they get the chance.  Part of their motivation may be money. Part of their motivation may be a fresh start.  Part of their motivation may be simple revenge.  How long can you "do more with less" before feeling taken advantage of, no matter what the rationale?

Whatever the mix, these employees are at risk of leaving just as the company most needs their experience in the products, services, markets and business processes required to fuel new growth. If those same workers believe that leadership handled lay-offs and other tough decisions insensitively during the downturn, the danger of employee flight is even greater.  

How can you as a leader bring them back into the fold?  Be honest with yourself. Then be honest with them.  Did you do a good job of leading during the tough times?  Did you manage to balance the human with the business?  Or, like so many quite flawed and well-intentioned leaders under great pressure, did you retreat to the bottom line without due consideration for what that meant for the people?

Think about it. Communicate what you think. Admit your mistakes. Connect your imperfect self into the lives of those around you.

Thank you, Martin Lindstrom.

(Please check out my imperfect new website.  Would appreciate any comments on how to render it less flawed.  And please email me at katejsweetman@gmail.com if you would like to connect with my own imperfect self).