But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.1 Cor 12: 18-19
Your Employees Are Unique
We all seem to agree that people are unique; that our employees have distinct characteristics and motivators. But there is also a common bent in the business community to wish we can manage everyone in exactly the same way. Many business managers expect their staff to all respond and behave like that one perfect employee; often that employee, if a real person, is long since gone from the team…. a memory of the way things used to be “when good old Tom or Cindy was here.” Sometimes that ideal employee is on the team which can add to the challenge as you constantly compare and contrast the other people as they fail to measure up.
I’ve wished the same thing in my career where my most natural and comfortable approach was to manage people the way I liked to be managed. A business owner or manager has to decide whether they want to be more comfortable or more effective and that is a difficult decision for many people.
In my case I performed best when given my objectives and then left alone. I’m very comfortable making decisions and finding creative ways to accomplish team goals and have over a twenty-year history of strong performance; but, I don’t recommend my clients adopt a management approach of throwing goals over the wall to their teams and leaving them to fate.
Business leaders often have unique motivational drivers whereby expecting their employees to behave the same way they do is not the most effective approach.
Trying to put all of your employees into a one size fits all box is akin to cutting corners of effective management. Large organizations feel forced to standardize their management approach out of both necessity due to sheer size and to facilitate upward communication to leadership. Where according to How Great Managers Manage People, by Paul Michelman writing in the Harvard Business Review, “Great managers resist the temptation to hire people whose skills are a good match for how a job is already configured; instead, they seek those whose talent will redefine how the job is done.”
Smaller organizations have the advantage of being able to exploit greater flexibility to their benefit. If you are managing a business where you are reasonably familiar with everyone in the organization, use that to your advantage.
Michelman also says “… great managers emphasize the development of their subordinates’ unique strengths so as to help further their talent, while finding strategies to support their weaknesses. The key here is determining how to take greater advantage of what people already do well.”
Play To Individual Strengths
I have experienced great production and achievement by leveraging the strengths of individual team members over the years. To leverage individual strengths, you need to know what those strengths are and that comes from knowing your team members well.
Work on getting to know your employees. Learn their strengths & weaknesses, likes & dislikes, aspirations & fears. Be creative in determining how to take advantage of what people already do well.
Allow your creativity to influence the design of your initiatives and strategies such that you make the best use of your team. As an example: if you have a sales person who geeks out on technical details of your products, develop sales tactics that leverage that interest into a value-added presentation for your customers. Give guidance to the technical sales junkie that turns your perception that they are getting too far into the weeds into a selling advantage by demonstrating technical solutions expertise.
There is a difference between leading the vision for an organization and managing people for performance. Consider the unique gifts of your team members and whether you are utilizing those gifts in the best way possible. Have you built your play book around your players or are you frustrated in asking your players to perform in spite of their diverse and unique skills?
It takes a bit of effort on the manager’s part to get to know the individuals well and work to leverage individual strengths but that is the job of management when done well. We enjoy just about anything more when we do it well. Manage each according to their gifts.