There are a lot of urban myths in Corporate America related to performance, employees and leadership. Maybe urban myths are the wrong term—you could go with “cliches,” as well. But the point remains: Misdirection is everywhere related to what an effective manager of people looks like. Consider the following urban myths/cliches:
— You’ve got to be tough on performance to get the most out of employees.
— Happy employees do the best work.
— The best way to manage a workforce is up or out—you need to cut the bottom 10% to keep things fresh.
— <insert your urban myth on leadership/management here>
You’ve heard them all before. They’re glittering generalities related to the craft of management, and they rarely capture the essence of what makes an effective manager of people.
So, what is the special sauce that allows a leader to get the most out of her people? While I think the cliches almost never work, I think there are some common strands that serve to identify what effective managers do. They help employees set goals. They give feedback as a coach. They help employees think about their overall career. They have the right amount of empathy— concerned about everything an employee is dealing with, but not so much that they cease to hold the employee accountable. Books have been written about the common strands—go find those books for more on what makes leaders tick.
Instead, I’m here today to give you an idea on how you should be measuring who your great leaders are. I call it Leadership Gravity.
You know what gravity is, right? It’s the force an object holds that pulls other objects closer. As it turns out, leadership has gravity inside your organization. Leadership gravity is the extent to which any manager in your organization gets more transfers in than transfers out.
Let’s dig in a little bit. Discard all new hires and terms that happen when employees voluntarily leave your company. Only think about internal transfers within your company. Now run reports on where those transfers went. Tally up the plus/minus for any manager, department or executive and you’ve got the relative Leadership Gravity of that person within your company.
The canary in the coal mine that is your company is the individual employee. Individual employees talk to each other every day. They observe when they aren’t talking. All that interaction and observation means your employees know which managers in your organization are the best at developing talent… giving them interesting things to work on, challenging them, giving them all the credit for great work and always—and I mean always—approaching employee development with an eye on what’s best for each individual employee’s career.
That employee development-centric approach creates Leadership Gravity. Employees look for opportunities to transfer into teams that have LG. They look to get the hell out of teams with low Leadership Gravity.
There’s a hundred ways to measure Leadership Gravity. You should start digging into this today. You’ll be a leader in our field and, most importantly, will start reporting on one of the most important metrics that summarizes and measures all of the people-centric practices we know to be kick-ass.
FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at Meridian, who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our learning and development track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). They’re also up for having fun to the extent that they’re sponsoring the Learning and Development Hangout Series. Check it out!
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.