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Employee Retention Through Agile Leadership

Employee Retention Through Agile Leadership

In his book, “Wheelspin: The Agile Executive’s Manifesto,” Mike Richardson identified 5 main roles of the everyday agile leader; “Chaos Coach, Triage Facilitator, Insight Trainer, Luck Consultant, and Journey Architect”. Mike Richardson talks about the ever-changing landscape and how these roles, if not done properly, can cost organizations money – actually a lot of money.

These roles can also be applied in today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) world for the retention of employees. Employee retention is a problem that seems to be steadily escalating instead of decreasing. In the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data, “4.4 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in April 2022 alone. That’s among the highest levels in figures going back to 2000.”

Here are the 5 roles of Agile Leadership that Mike Richardson defined and how organizations can use them to help retain employees today.

  1. Chaos Coach. With the constant change of government regulations, political polarization, pandemic recommendations, and supply chain issues, people are on change overload. Mike Richardson says leaders have to “coach people to change their relationship with chaos”. He says, to do this we have to help people move their mindset from “Disorganized Chaos to Organized Chaos”. He says one of the best ways to do this is by using a Jet fighter Pilot technique to shrink their “OODA loop” (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act). This is the ability to observe the current situation, orient themselves to options, decide the best course of action, and then act without hesitation. People who get good at this can become more efficient and lower their stress levels. This in turn will help retain more people.
  2. Triage Facilitator. Mike Richardson talks about this being more than prioritizing tasks. He says there is a need to be proactive and have preemptive conversations within the organization that allows prioritization to tie the tasks to full situational awareness and organizational strategy. This allows people to quickly perform sequential tasking of the most critical tasks. People that feel they have all the information to make informed decisions and are given the authority to do so are more empowered. People feel they are accomplishing more and contributing to the organizational vision when this is done consistently. This can help create a connection to the vision and a sense of increased loyalty.
  3. Insight Trainer. Leadership is a never-ending journey with insight. Past failures and successes can give us important insight into the future. But Mike Richardson talks about leaders needing to train their people to move from “learning from hindsight to learning from foresight”. This means that instead of taking the time to gather all the facts and data for every situation, as people get busier and try and triage faster, decision-making needs to become more intuitive. If people have already learned to “Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act” when dealing with chaos, adapting to situations and making decisions; foresight allows them to be more proactive and preemptive in addressing situations in the future before they occur. Regular communication with the team and insights they have will help them feel like they are not just trying to put out fires all day but truly contributing to the success of the organization. Dale Carnegie wrote, “People support a world they help to create”. This support can help increase employee retention.
  4. Luck Consultant. We hear a lot of people playing the blame game, “I just had bad luck” or “I just was not lucky enough to…” This type of thinking is what Mike Richardson called “Just-ification” and leaves success in the hands of chance. According to Mike Richardson, “luck is where preparation meets opportunity”. In other words, people can influence the “luck” they have. Positive luck happens when chaos is organized, and decisions are made with foresight. Mike Richardson mentions former Navy Seal Bob Schoultz stating, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your preparation, training, and practice”. This talks to the fact that people can rely on their “muscle memory” to succeed when they have been trained to deal with chaos. People become more resilient when they are comfortable with chaos which lowers stress and frustration levels. More resilient people have a higher probability of staying with an organization longer.
  5. Journey Architect. According to Mike Richardson when you adopt the Agile Mindset of “time is fixed, tasks are variable” you can shift from the traditional “Waterfall” thinking of starting with the end in mind to architecting a more Agile Journey starting with the start in mind. Mike Richardson takes the Google motto as an example, “launch early and iterate often”. This takes all the previous roles mentioned above and creates a flow of conversations about “hidden assumptions” and the pivotal success and failure factors of the unfolding journey. In particular, embracing failure and adopting the Agile Mindset of failing fast, often, and cheaply, to shift from catastrophic failure to smart failure and learning. When this is done correctly, we create a psychologically safe environment for people to make decisions, fail, learn, and grow. People will stay longer in an environment where they are not constantly worried about what will happen if they make a mistake.

The business environment is a very different world today than it was even 5 years ago. The rate of change and chaos coming at organizations is accelerating day by day. In order for businesses to survive and thrive in today’s VUCA world, businesses must hold on to their most valuable asset, their people. Using the 5 main roles of the everyday agile leaders mentioned above, it will not only create a more agile organization it will help people develop an Agile Mindset. This new mindset creates a more resilient attitude and in turn increases the retention of valuable people.

Interested in learning more, attend our complimentary webinar on “Retention Strategies for Leaders” on August 25, 2022, at 9 AM.

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