By: Bruce Tulgan
Every employee is different. Yet most managers take roughly the same approach to managing every person in their group. Whatever technique they use to manage – weekly reports, monthly team meetings, or annual reviews – it is rarely calibrated to the individuals being managed. Instead, it is based on prevailing practices in the organization and the manager’s own style. This is what I call “one-size-fits-all” management. Whatever the one-size-fits-all approach may be in any given case, it works fine for some employees but not so well for others. Those who respond well to it appear to be high performers, while those who respond poorly appear to be low performers. Instead of managing every person to success, the boss manages everyone the same regardless of each person’s needs – let the chips fall where they may.
But would you take the same approach to maintaining a car as you would to a toaster? Of course not; you would calibrate your care and maintenance to the specifications of the machine. So why not calibrate your approach to managing based on what works best for each employee? Every person is different, so deal with it.
I’m not suggesting that you cater to the whims of each employee. But, whims are not all bad. When you know the whims of an employee, you know what that person wants and you learn how to gain leverage with them. I’m not saying you need to coddle employees, but if an employee needs you to hold their hand and spoon-feed them assignments, you need to know that. In the end, you need to decide whether you are willing to do that for this employee, but pretending that the employee doesn’t need that kind of attention isn’t going to make the problem go away.
The only way to learn what really works for each employee (not just what they think really works for them) is to get in there and start managing. Those one-on-one conversations are the path inside. When you start having individual meetings with each person, the differences between your employees will jump right out at you.
As you work with each person face-to-face, try to tune in to that person and adjust your approach this way and that, just as you adjust the tuner on a radio. Be aware of how you are changing your approach and observe carefully the effects of each change on each person and their performance.
And remember, you’ll have to keep making adjustments constantly – because people change and grow over time!
The Manager’s Landscape
Try creating for yourself what I call a “manager’s landscape.” Write down these questions across the top of a piece of paper: Who? Why? What? How? Where? When? In the first column – under “Who?” – list each person you manage and make a few notes about what you know or think you know about each of them, who they are at work. Then write notes for each employee under the other columns: Why do I need to manage this person? What do I need to talk about with this person? How should I talk with this person? Where should I talk with this person? When should I talk with this person?
If you lay out all this information on one page, you have before you an instant landscape of the management challenge you face. On that page is your world as a manager. Remember, circumstances change. People change. That means you have to revisit these questions frequently and revise and adjust your manager’s landscape on a regular basis.
Your goal as a manager is to help each person grow and develop – you want the answers to these questions to change! Who? You want this person to become a high performer who is really into the work. Why? You want this person to become so good at their job and so valuable that you can talk strategy and big picture, brainstorm great ideas, encourage them to take on more responsibilities, and help them meet more of their needs so they will never quit. What? You want this person to get so good at their job that in your coaching sessions you discuss their plan for their tasks, updates on progress, ways they can add even more value, and how they can earn even more rewards. How? You want this person to become so competent and confident that you can just sit back and listen. Where? Maybe the person is so successful that they get their own office and you can start meeting there. When? You want this person to become so good at managing themselves that you need to check in only once a week, to make sure things are going as well as you think.
About the Author
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website www.rainmakerthinking.com.