Define and Maintain a Standard of Leadership

Functional HR: 5 Surefire Ways to Boost Retention, Part 3

BY: Keith Kawasaki, VP of Client Services & Contract Management

In Cultivating Resiliency, we examined the crucial role employee resiliency plays in helping you keep and grow your most valuable assets. Today, we examine the crucial role your company’s leaders play in Solution No. 3.

Define and Maintain a Standard of Leadership.

The No. 3 reason people leave their jobs is because they just can’t take their bosses anymore. Unprofessionalism is neither a trade skill nor a terminal disease. It’s a behavior that can be corrected and removed from the workplace.

A whopping 35 percent who leave for this reason cite unprofessionalism displayed by their leaders.

To qualify for a leadership role in the military, you must meet clearly and publicly defined standards of excellence.

That’s not to say they haven’t had their share of unprofessional leaders, but we’ll get to how they resolve that later. Follow me first on the fact that leadership is clearly defined. In corporate America, this can be quite a bit muddy, and in that, bias and jealousies can take shape. Consider clearly and publicly defining what it takes to be a leader in your organization, both in skill and character—and be loud about it. Not only will you be forced to hire to that standard, but new hires and current staff will be aware of and held accountable for upholding themselves to it.

Corporate definitions don’t need to be as scary as the Educational Decrees Dolores Umbridge had old Mr. Filch bang onto the walls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Instead, weave these statements into your brand positioning and related marketing. At iostudio, we take it a step further and declare company values that not only leaders but all employees are expected to exude. It’s positioned as a source of pride for us and a brand promise to our clients.

Through a series of retention studies on one of our military clients, we found one of the top reasons for servicemembers exiting service prior to retirement was poor leaders.

Here again, we see that regardless of industry, humans are humans, and we collectively become aggravated by similar things—and therefore the solution models can apply across the spectrum. As the partner charged with retention marketing for that client, we explored methods to help define and foster better leadership qualities in the ranks. We responded with functional content marketing* similar to the tactics below (in our case, greater than 95 percent of the audience developed a sense of renewed pride in their service due to the content).

Show what success looks like. Through a series of video profiles, you can capture the story of great leaders in your organization or other organizations that inspire the leadership character you expect to see in your staff.

There are a couple ways to unpack this. You can either produce a video imparting insight disclosed by a leader, or you can interview staff sharing inspirational tidbits about their mentors. Try editing the two together, as we recently did here.

Spread the videos not only on your intranet or internal emails and company briefings, but also externally on your public website and social platforms. Your clients and audiences need to see your brand promise on leadership. Folks want to work with people who display integrity, authenticity, humility, ingenuity and accountability.

Give ‘em the 1, 2, 3 ...

Everyone likes a simple how-to. Draft one-page articles or infographics (storytelling tools laid out in an easy-to-comprehend graphic fashion) that illustrate how to achieve your desired leadership traits. It sounds remedial, but several times per day, your staff members encounter crossroads in communications, productivity and interpersonal relationships. Road maps to success designed in a memorable way will leave a lasting impression and build the foundation for strong leadership.

*Functional content marketing requires intensive audience and client research and audience involvement to achieve audience empowerment. Download iostudio’s Field Guide to Functional Content Marketing.

Next in POV: With your leadership standards defined, where do you go from here? Check back next week or get your own copy of Functional HR: 5 Surefire Ways to Boost Retention here.


Keith Kawasaki is iostudio’s VP of Client Services & Contract Management. With more than 15 years developing HR marketing programs and leading integrated teams, Keith has brought innovative solutions to the Army, Navy, Marines Corps, UPS and McKesson, among others. Keith is an active member of the Content Council, SOCAP and the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. Contact Keith at 615-724-4202 or Follow @keith_kawasaki on Twitter.