Last week’s Harvard Business Review blog really caught my attention. It shows how bad or incompetent leadership drives many people to entrepreneurship. They get so fed up working for lousy bosses that they decide to start their own business. They get tired of the “glass ceiling” and decide they have more upside opportunity if they worked for themselves. It is interesting that the blog points out that over the course of a lifetime 40% of people will be self employed. This is where the job growth is coming from and this will continue to accelerate over the coming years.
This trend should be a major concern for those working in big companies. The blog points out that most people are not happy at work and the author cites Gallup in saying the reason for this is dissatisfaction with one’s boss. The major concern for companies should be the talent drain that is happening. Those that leave have ideas and it would seem have the ability to create something. Perhaps this is one of the reasons most job growth is not coming from large companies as the “job creators” or those with the ability to come up with new business ideas are leaving and doing it on their own. Even more interesting, 70% admit they came up with their entrepreneurial idea while working for somebody else.
The first thing this begs for is a look at company management today. I would have said leadership, but it seems the major concern is with the employee’s immediate boss. This seems much more than a lack of vision and mission. It seems that bosses are in some ways stifling the work of their direct reports. How much emphasis is there today in teaching people to manage other people? Is this training the same as it was two or three decades ago when employees were quite different? How much effort is placed on teaching managers what motivates today’s worker and how to build an environment where every individual worker can thrive? Perhaps the art of management is a lost art.
The HBR blog should be a real challenge for company leadership. Companies consist of basically two things, products and talent. Both should be treated with tremendous care. Both products and people need to be developed and updated. If products were constantly walking out the door, there would be corporate panic. I might argue that the same response might be needed when human talent walks out. Losing talent is corporate failure. People typically will stay where they are unless driven out by some force that is either so attractive outside or so unbearable inside. This should be closely examined when people leave. Managers should be evaluated at least as much, or perhaps even more, for their people development skills than for their business goal achievement. This is about long-term vs. short-term success.
Workers should seek out opportunities where they can work for bosses that are capable of getting the best out of those they work with every day. This is not always easy, but leadership will take note when employees gravitate to certain areas because they seem to be people development and motivation centers. Managers who have the skills to grow, motivate and excite workers are truly tomorrow’s real leaders.
Perhaps the key question is how can companies unleash this pent up entrepreneurial spirit within the company rather than allowing talent to leave and thrive outside? What changes could be put in place that makes big companies feel like more fertile ground for ideas to grow? What change is needed in the organizational structures so that managers become encouraging and catalyzing agents rather than agents of conformity? Some companies have figured this out and their entrepreneurs stay. They thrive while other companies flounder. I would suggest that this issue might be a “must address” survival issue in today’s challenging business environment.