Over the past year, I have heard so many HR professionals working in different industries complaining about not being able to find the right people, about the great people that “resigned out of the blue”, about juniors with unreasonable expectations, or “seniors with an attitude problem”. I have also met with and listened to the personal stories of my friends, former colleagues or acquaintances that took a leap of faith and left the corporate life. That got me thinking about what we generally call goodwill, benevolence, kindness, consideration or cooperative attitude.
My personal reality check
I started looking back at my own professional career choices and the personal experiences I went through when working across various types of organizations. I thought a lot about the challenges I had to overcome as an organizational leader. I reviewed a lot of my personal notes taken from various researches and books about leadership, recruitment, team management and so on. Last, but not least, took into consideration my learnings over the past year as a consultant advising some companies on how to build organizational digital capabilities.
Yes, there are many reasons why people change jobs, choose a totally different career path, start their own business or simply quit to take a break. And yes again, there are clear market problems related to the availability of qualified professionals. And yet, all these variables and contributing factors altogether do not provide a satisfactory answer.
Wasting the goodwill of people
And one day it hit me! The answer I was looking had been all this time hiding in plain sight. I realized then that there was a common denominator that seemed to transcend all researches, books and professional experiences of all people I had been talking to. Actually, it had something familiar! I just had to read between the lines! Organizations do not lose people. They lose people’s goodwill and high employee turnover is just one of the consequences they hate dealing with.
Too many are leaders are wasting the goodwill of people. They ignore the fact that benevolence, in general, is what builds a great organization, a better world. For organizational leaders, employees’ goodwill translates into trust in the leadership, doing what’s best for the company and/or team every time they make a decision, when dealing with a trouble-maker or when going the extra mile to achieve a greater good etc. I’m positive you can have even more personal examples like these.
Genuine goodwill is an invaluable and very often ignored resource. Unfortunately, some leaders do not even realize how much this intangible resource that never shows up in the P&L contributes to those many and shiny zeros they love so much.
Taking for granted people’s goodwill is putting the business itself at risk. Sure, you might get away with it once, twice, or even more, but you won’t get away with it forever. When you consider such recurrent attitude at the leadership level of any business or organization, things get very messy.
Don’t turn off the goodwill!
The irony I find in this whole situation is that an employee’s goodwill is something that both the organization and the leader gets for free the moment that a man or a woman walks into the office. Consciously or not, they give it to you. Yes, they give to you unconditionally until one day, when those “little things” that seem unfair, stupid or useless, biased decisions, broken promises to them and start eroding their goodwill … and one day they leave as they have lost their trust in their leaders. In other words, the organization has lost its benevolence and respect for good. Consequently, they will not remain your ambassadors, they will not recommend you. Do you remember the old saying, “bad news travels fast”? I am sure you do! Well, there’s so much truth ingrained in it … all sorts of human experiences united throughout centuries.
Turning things around even when you realize your wrongdoings is not a piece of cake and that’s a fact. One way or the other, I think you’ve all experienced it at your own expense.
You can’t legislate goodwill, but you can cultivate it!
Oh no, no, no, you cannot! That would be such an easy-fix! That’s one of the reasons I do believe truly great leaders use their talents to cultivate, develop and nurture people’s goodwill. But they do know that first, it requires a similar endeavour on their part.
Just like reputation, goodwill is intangible, but they are both the keys to business success. I am not saying goodwill is the only or the main ingredient for the success recipe of a business. What I am saying is that goodwill lies at the foundation of any healthy organization.
Finally, I would like to remind you what American entrepreneur Marshall Field once said:
“Goodwill is the only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy.”