We all know there is a talent constraint.

This is THE strategic priority for many organizations right now. The “theory of constraints” management philosophy advises us to solve the biggest bottleneck first, then move to the next one. Talent is the current bottleneck for 80% of our clients; many have lost key employees who found a better opportunity. I can’t skim The Wall Street Journal without seeing an article about people “quitting” the workforce.

The conversation has shifted from talent acquisition to talent retention.

Or, what I like to call, “Oh no, I just lost another key leader.” Yes, it is difficult to find talent, AND yes, your current talent is also at risk. Employees need to feel the love more than ever, along with these “must haves”:

☑️  Sustaining a great culture with engaged employees
☑️   Flexibility
☑️   Collaboration
☑️   Purposeful work
☑️   True leaders

During a recent Stretch webinar, we had a great discussion with Houston District Fire Chief Clyde Gordon about leadership development (a recording is on our website in case you missed it). Here are three key leadership takeaways:

People want confident leaders they can trust.

This is the at the top of the list. Leaders must role model the behaviors and core values adorning the conference room wall. Employees want to know leadership has their back and will sit alongside them in the trenches. Trust is a two-way street: your leaders must trust you and you must trust them. Clyde also talked about the importance of empowering his crew. “If there is burning building and I tell my guys to search the second floor, they have to trust me,” explained Clyde. “But, when they enter the building and see the second floor isn’t safe, I want them to tell me they recommend going to the third floor.” Training is a big part of establishing this kind of trust. Both leaders and employees must commit to the training, so the team has both trust and confidence.

Leaders need to set clear expectations AND hold their people accountable.

For firefighters, Clyde explained daily training is essential to avoid complacency. With the dramatic highs and lows of the profession, complacency can be a real threat. Much of a firefighter’s time is spent waiting, then suddenly someone is in grave danger and you have minutes to assemble a crew and develop a plan. It is the Chief’s job to communicate clear expectations in advance. This is not micromanaging – it is setting a crew up for success so there’s minimal chance for confusion on the fire ground. If a crew doesn’t know what the Chief expects from them, how can they be held accountable?

Be a “kitchen table” leader.

Your people need to “see” you, talk to you, and have a relationship with you. Virtual work has made this difficult, but not impossible. A few years ago, my son was telling me a story while I was washing dishes. He said, “Mom, you’re not listening!”  “Oh, but I am,” I replied. “I am multi-tasking away.” My son countered, “Mom, please listen with your EYES!” Wow – are you hearing from your disengaged employees? With virtual work, many do not feel connected to the organization. This is a leader’s first responsibility.  As Cyndi always says, employees want to know their leaders care – first and foremost. Kitchen table leaders are the ones people want to work for.

We are passionate about growing leaders.

Most of our past work and the current leadership development programs are bigger commitments than we have time for. To solve this challenge, we have developed a “quick hit” program, Stretch Your Impact, for leaders who don’t want to lose. Our goal is to increase their self-awareness and strategic skills. Four (weekly) 75-minute virtual sessions guide participants through our strategic process to create a plan to increase self-awareness, encourage growth, define a vision, and set stretch goals. This personal reflection helps create a Personal Strategic Plan. The Stretch Your Impact program is an affordable solution for investing in your key leaders and providing them with a toolbox to become great leaders.