You can bend luck.

I was having dinner with a senior leader at my company a few weeks ago.  We were discussing the challenges within our respective business units, and a major one we both face is employee retention.

As in most businesses, for us, a stable team is essential for success.  So we focus on retaining employees, particularly for the first year after they join the company, and managers are rated and compensated in part on the retention within their team.

But, at the same time, so many factors combine in an individual’s decision to change jobs.  Particularly when frontline managers have relatively small teams, a tremendous amount of luck and chance play into the turnover in their organization for a given year.

So I posed this question to my friend:  How can you hold someone accountable when so much of this number is luck?

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Whatever our stars, our own actions still make a difference.

While he recognized the complexity, he gave the straightforward answer: “You have to be able to bend luck.”  Leaders need to be able to get results, even for difficult, multifaceted metrics.

I think this is a great insight.  But I think the more empowering insight is the assumption at the root of this statement:  A good leader can bend luck.  

When you care about people, when you have good processes, when do what you can on the factors you can control, you can make a positive impact, even on complicated and tough problems.

There are many things we can’t control–as individuals, as managers, as leaders.  But don’t lose the belief that the things you can control will change outcomes for the better.

 

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