On a recent 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guest Steven Gaffney, a communications consultant for Fortune 500 companies.

YS: what do companies need to do to maintain high morale?

SG: a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly half of the workers who moved in the Great Resignation of 2021 want to go back to their old job. What that tells us is the importance of not burning bridges, from both the company side and the employee side. What we want to think about is, when people are leaving our company, how are we leaving them? And when we are leaving a company, how are we leaving? During our last days at a job, are we leaving strong or weak? If you want to know the true character of a human being, don’t look at how they’re treating you because everybody can put on a smiling face. Watch how they talk about and how they treat other people because that’s eventually how they’ll treat you. So, when some employees are leaving your company, we need to be thinking about what message we’re sending to all the employees that are staying.

I worked with a company that brought us in because people were leaving after a major layoff. The high performers were leaving. And the reason why was because the executives weren’t telling people the truth. They surprised everyone with these layoffs, they weren’t being upfront, and then ultimately, when they made that move, the people that they wanted to stay left, in a major part because they felt like they couldn’t trust what the company was saying. All of this is interesting because nearly half want to come back. So, how are we leaving employees and how are employees leaving the company?

What do companies need to be doing to ensure that their team really loves showing up to work?

Love is the key. I’m not going touchy- feely on you. People want to be in a job they love. As leaders, we want to make sure we put people in positions they love. We can’t always love every aspect, but if the majority of our job is not in an area that we love, then we are going to get burned out and possibly leave. We talk about putting people in their strengths and what they’re great at, but what I’ve come to learn is a lot of people are good at various things but that doesn’t mean they want to do it. So quite often, people will lean on others who are very talented at doing something, but they never ask, “Do you really love to do it or not?” Or someone might love to do something, but after five years, they would like to do something else.

There are five loves that a company needs to focus on to keep employees. The first is the love of purpose with impact. We’ve all heard about finding your why and making sure your organization has a sense of purpose, but quite often, the purpose has no impact. I have a client that does advertising, so their purpose would be to give the best advertising to the customer. But what does that advertising mean? For the customer, it means their business will be more successful and generate revenue so they can pay their employees better. And the employees are going to take that home and be able to do more with their family, have better schooling for their kids, vacations, etc. Following that thread, we have a purpose with impact. Are we sharing that, or do we always focus on the goals for revenue and profit, which is fine for top executives but doesn’t motivate the everyday person?

What are the other four loves?

Number two is the love of being somewhere special. There needs to be a sense that we’re doing something special. But this also means, are we appreciating employees? Are we noting how they are special to us? We want to feel like were a part of a special company, not a company in which we could go anywhere and were all doing the same thing. Do employees really understand how your organization is different from another organization so when they get that other offer, it’s not just about money or benefits?

The third love is the love of team. We want to establish a consistently high achieving team. Most of the stuff out there is about high performing teams, but that’s not enough. The word “performing” could be confused with hard work. “High achieving team” describes much more accurately What we want to be part of. If you’re a talented person, and you want to be part of a team that’s performing, you want to be achieving something to be number one,

Number four is the love of freedom to take initiative. We not only want to be part of something special, but we also want to have the freedom to work our magic. As opposed to being in an environment that may be as high achieving but is also micromanaged. We have to be clear on our goals, but then let people do their magic. I often say to leaders, “Let people do it their way. As long as it’s legal and ethical, who cares? Let them do it.” Manage by achievement.

The fifth love is the love of NSB, which stands for “North Star Brightness.” We want to be somewhere that’s great about purpose but is also excited about the future. Where are we going with the organization? It’s not just creating one of those generic vision statements that sound like all the other companies. I use the words “north star brightness,” because it should be bright, it should be clear. Again, when employees might be tempted to go somewhere else, they should think, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to go anywhere else because I feel special here. I feel like we can take initiative, there’s a strong sense of purpose. But also, I want to stay because we’re going places where no one else has gone.”

What’s something that employees should keep in mind in their day-to-day positions?

The biggest problem in all relationships, teams, and organizations is a lack of honest communication. I’m not just referring to the truth or lies, ethical aspect of communication. The biggest problem is not what people say, it’s what they don’t say to each other. It’s what gets left off. It’s when we feel surprised and blindsided. That’s one of the biggest annoyances of employees, but incidentally, I’ve also worked with leaders, executives, CEOs, admirals, and generals, and that’s a big frustration for them as well. When somebody tells them something that they should have known about and they wonder, “Why wasn’t I told?” So, the key is to get the unsaid said.

I’ve found that the number one reason why people don’t get that unsaid said is fear- fear of retribution, fear it’s going to come out wrong, etc. Have you ever had someone ask you for feedback, and when you give them some constructive criticism, they flip out on you? Next time they ask for feedback, you’ll say, “I’m not going there.” I was doing a session where this woman pushed back on me and said, “I think getting the unsaid can get you in trouble.” I asked for an example, and she said, “I gave my co-worker some constructive criticism about the way he was doing his job, and he got very upset.” And I asked, “Why did you share that with Him?” She said,” Because I care about him. I care about the mission, and I want him to be successful.” I asked, “Did you tell him all of that?” To which she responded, ‘No.”

The biggest problem is not what people say, it’s what they leave out. We even leave out appreciation. So, the question is, are we getting that unsaid said? Are we crystal clear on our purpose? Are we crystal clear about our teams? Are we crystal clear on our NSB? Are we creating an environment where people can speak to us?

What are the 12 essential elements of a high achieving team?

Number one is knowing your north star PGS (purpose, goal, and strategy). A lot of times when I’m working with a client, they will say they know their north star PGS, and I’ll say, “Okay, why don’t we just ask the team?” Sometimes, I’ll go around the room and get different versions from everyone. The definition of clarity is by the receiver, not the sender.

The second element is everyone sharing to get the unsaid said, as we discussed earlier. If we’re leading a team, and there are people who are not saying much, we want to call on them and make sure that everyone speaks. Because if we don’t, we can make one of the biggest mistakes leaders can make, which is allowing for the loudest voice to win. A lot of times it looks like everybody agrees, but really, it’s just that loud voice.

Number three is to be clear on the Vegas Rule. What happens in here stays in here. Let’s face it, how many times have you wanted to share something with somebody but were worried they would tell other people? You want to create a cocoon in which everyone really abides by the Vegas Rule.

Number four is to distinguish notice from imagine. Be clear about what is a fact versus an opinion. Have you ever sent an email to somebody who didn’t respond? What goes through your mind? You might get upset and think you’re being ignored. But everything you’re thinking is your imagination, your opinion. So, distinguishing notice and imagine is an interesting thing because it impacts communication.

Number five is no excuses. Developing that kind of environment where we take responsibility. We’re not always to blame for what’s happening, but we are responsible for how we respond.

Number six is being them, the people you work with. Get out of our world into their world. Here’s the test, if you were asked to play them in a movie, would you succeed or would you flop? And when I create that standard, most people realize that they’re so stuck in their own world, they probably can’t.

What are the final 6 elements?

Number seven is having a consistent communication business rhythm. Consistently high achieving teams develop that rhythm and avoid the terrible “got a minute” meetings that always last more than a minute.

Number eight is moving with speed by knowing when good enough is good enough. When teams move fast, it attracts high performers. I’m not saying be rash but move fast. Not everything needs to be perfect.

Number nine is let it go. Have you ever worked with a team that is bogged down by people constantly bringing up the past? “Remember we tried that, and it didn’t work.”  Just ask them, “What would it take for you to let it go and move forward?” We’re not going to be able to move forward if we’re held back from the past.

Number 10 is believing that anything is possible. Whenever there’s a problem, just think, are we coming from the perspective that anything is possible? When we benchmark against other organizations, it can inhibit our growth.

Number 11 is accountability. Create an environment where we’re all in it together.

Number 12 is presume best intent and appreciate. I’ve never met anybody who said, “Don’t tell anybody, but I’m trying to screw it up here.” A person might be messing up, but that’s not their intent. Are we approaching that person and giving them constructive feedback but presuming that they at least mean well?


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