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Posted: May 20, 2013

Best of CoBiz: People don’t leave companies….

...they leave managers!

Laurence B. Valant

Top management determines and sustains corporate culture.

Top management, that is the CEO or the general manager and their management teams, determine and sustain corporate culture through their beliefs, actions, and behaviors, whether spoken or written or simply by their demeanor as they pass others in the hallway. Those top managements which act with kindness, consideration and professionalism (without being stuffy) create a warm, safe and encouraging environment. Top managements which reflect indifference or superiority and who tolerate unkindness foster dissatisfaction.

We have all heard the saying, "They talk the talk but they don't walk the walk." Your culture will mirror your walk no matter how much you talk. Well written mission statements and core values, while important, are just talk. Top management must walk the walk.

There are a few walk-the-walk fundamentals which, if implemented by top management, will strongly influence and sustain a positive company culture. They include 1) hallway demeanor: getting to know the names of and greeting those you pass in the hallway 2) walking through the cubicles / plant and actually listening to those who make your product 3) regularly visiting a staff meeting other than your own 4) insisting that all who report to you demonstrate kindness, fairness and integrity.

These simple top management fundamentals are the foundation of a good culture and without which a positive working culture dedicated to success cannot be sustained.

Management is a skill born of how children have been raised.

Because high self-esteem and high levels of confidence are traits common to the top 5 percent of management, I have always attributed a portion of management success to good parenting. The foundation for our self-perception is developed when we are very young, often before we reach the age of 3 or 4, and guided and nurtured by our parents as we navigate through the potentially harmful minefields of life (especially junior high and high school!)

While one cannot go to a class or a seminar to acquire or repair self esteem and confidence, there are some basics that when acquired reflect self confidence. When I evaluate a person's level of self confidence, I ask, "Does this person walk with purpose? Do they look me in the eye when we talk? Is their handshake firm? Can this person get to the point in few well phrased sentences?"

Those of us who were fortunate enough to have parents who loved and nurtured us, taught us, gave us positive feedback and encouragement, survived with appropriate levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. It is a good idea for the rest to practice!

People don't leave companies, they leave managers. - First, Break all the rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Sadly, while many people in positions of management are not bad people, few tend to be good managers, and so our common experience is that of being poorly managed. Accordingly, we fail to enjoy our jobs. Companies are often personified by a particular manager, and while some may work for great men and women, most do not. Our company view is often formed by a negative experience with a manager.

Turnover among employees occurs, usually, not because of company policies and practices but because of managers within the company. When employees say they have had enough, their reaction is usually because of a poor manager and their negative experience with him or her. Unfortunately, during their exit interview, the departing employee will likely say they are leaving for a better job or more money, and therefore the offending manager remains in place to further add to the company's turnover statistics.

And likely, the offending manager will complain about the need for a better selection and hiring process - which probably should start with him!

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

I couldn't agree more about the "people don't leave companies they leave managers tidbit". I had the pleasure of working with a few of the best managers in a previous company I worked for. Unfortunately that indusrty took a dive and I am now in a completely different field. Unfortunately I now work with a sub-par manager by comparison and it has taken its toll on previous employees who were lucky enough to get out from under this peron. This person certainly has the high self-esteem mentioned above but it has developed into an arrogance leaving no room for humility and meekness even more necessary for top a manager. By AgreeMan on 2010 01 18
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