By Tim Hayes []

Look, opinions are like belly-buttons – everybody’s got one.  Especially when it comes to managerial techniques.  Loyal readers of this blog know that we try to concentrate on helping leaders do their jobs better by understanding and implementing solid communications practices.

So in that spirit, this week a Business Week article written by workplace consultant Liz Ryan caught my eye.  Ryan lists a few less-than-stellar strategies deployed by far too many managers that only serve to drive great talent away.   Two of Ryan’s more potent observations hit home with me.  Excerpts from her article are seen below, followed by my reflections.

Here’s the first:

If you want to drive talented people away, don’t tell them when they shine.

Fear of a high-self-esteem employee is prevalent among average-grade corporate leadership teams. Look how hard it is for so many managers to say, “Hey Bob, you did a great job today.” Whatever the reason for silence, leaders who can’t say, “Thanks—good going!” can plan on bidding farewell to their most able team members in short order.

Sad but true.  We’ve all experienced this, I would guess.  You complete a complex project with many moving parts; multiple constituencies to involve, engage, and motivate; and performance metrics to meet or exceed – and you do it – but with one minor aspect that perhaps didn’t come off flawlessly, or that caused some self-important jerk to rat you out to the boss.

And that’s all the boss remembers – the 0.1 percent that didn’t work, not the 99.9 percent that did.

I once had a supervisor confront me with: “You know what your problem is?”  “I have many problems,” I replied. “Which one is bothering you right now?”  Then he unloaded this gem on me: “You have an irrational need for external praise!”  My retort?  “That’s because I don’t get any praise internally.”  Not a month later, I had shaken the dust of that dysfunctional place off my feet, launched my independent consultancy, and have never looked back.

Here’s another great observation by Ryan:

If you prefer a team of C-list players, keep employees in the dark.

Sharp knowledge workers want to know what’s going on in their organizations, beyond their departmental silos. They want some visibility into the company’s plans and their own career mobility. Leaders who can’t stand to shine a light on their firms’ goals, strategies, and systems are all but guaranteed to spend a lot of money running ads on

This is basic PR 101.  People will fill in the blanks, connect the dots, paint the picture, play the music – whatever cliché you like best – whether they have the correct and complete information or not.  Isn’t it better to provide them with the right information, so that everyone’s operating from the same playbook?  Duh. 

I suppose insecure managers twist the old chestnut that “Knowledge Is Power” into such a pretzel that only by hoarding information do they believe they can retain their power.  But guess what, Sherlock?  When your staff underperforms based on your sorry communication record, who looks bad?  (Psst!  The correct answer is: You.)  Double duh.

Employees resent being treated like mushrooms – constantly kept in the dark, as dung is dumped on them.  That’s why some studies suggest that, as the economic recovery continues, the best people will be heading for the exits seeking greener pastures.   And nowhere will this be more true than where they unfortunately labor under the thumbs of managers who can’t, or won’t, communicate effectively.

Copyright 2010 Tim Hayes Consulting