the cold war you didn’t know you were fighting

“I wish I could fix our employee turnover,” my friend told me. He sat across the table from me with his coffee and leaned back in his chair.

I’ve heard this story before. I’ve watched people turn to wages, benefits, awards, recognition, incentives and more to fix the retention issues. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to have a fair, livable wage for your team members.

However, turnover happens for many different reasons. One common blind spot is around culture.

Jim Wilder, in his book Escaping Enemy Mode, makes a fantastic distinction. At any given time, we as leaders are operating from one of two modes:
Relational mode
Enemy mode

Enemy mode happens anytime we disconnect ourselves from relationships.

This comes in many forms:
ignoring other people’s needs (“leave me alone, I’m typing an important email!”)
saying and doing all the stupid things when we get frustrated
an all-out cold, calculated war to destroy other people (in the most extreme cases)

To make matters worse, most of us don’t recognize that we’re in “enemy mode” when we’re in it.

The trouble is, enemy mode is quite popular in business (as well as politics, nonprofits, and religious institutions). It’s actually quite effective for getting short-term results. 

Leaders who learn this early often end up relying on it to get things done. However, it requires you to manipulate people through shame and fear.

It utterly destroys trust and relational capital. As a result, the relationship ends prematurely. (And if it doesn’t end, you have a dysfunctional, drama-filled relationship that sucks the energy out for everyone.) This downside far outweighs any potential long-term benefits from its short-lived impact.

Let me be very clear: This is not about personality.

This is about being an emotionally healthy, emotionally intelligent leader.
If you’re facing issues with retention and turnover, it’s worth taking a look at how much of your day you’re spending in “get it done, forget about people” mode.

Leadership is whole-brained. Rational and emotional. Excel in both, and you’ll win.

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