You Can’t Manage People You Don’t Know

During the industrial age, we, as managers, found it effective and efficient to treat employees the same – they were a homogenous group of abilities and skills, not a diverse group of distinct people. This has often been referred to as the “cog” economy where the sole purpose of an employee was to get the job done. The more employees blended into each other by acting the same, the easier the process of production.

Today’s service workplace is a radically different environment. Today’s employees need to be able to provide service experiences, connecting more personally with customers and choosing who and how to be in each customer interaction to provide a customer event that inspires loyalty. Employee uniqueness is now a requirement for the work.

This changes how managers must interact with their employees. Consider these two scenarios:

Think of one of your great employees who is ready for more responsibility, based on their current work, effort and performance. How do you know where to direct this employee, or how to develop them to continue their successful performance? Larger roles don’t naturally mean future success and misaligning the employee may lead to their disengagement and departure.

Think of one of your average employees, one who gets the work done but requires more significant management and seems disinterested and distracted. How can you start to investigate what is causing the performance challenge? Unless addressed, this performance could remain average, affecting the quality of their customer interactions, the employee’s engagement level and the success of the business. 

Both situations could benefit from expanding what you know of your people.

Successful managers make the time to gather information about the performance abilities and human attributes of their people. Yes, our days are busy, but there are ways to increase knowledge of your employees without taking away from the work that still needs to be done.

Here are 3 tips to help you create the situation to start to intentionally gather useful and relationship-building information about your employees.

  1. Think like a coach. Coaches are interested in the person they are coaching – to know who they are, what motivates them, what their goals are, what their strengths are, what their liabilities and triggers are. Coaches make time to get fully acquainted with the people they coach to fully understand them so they can wisely guide them. This can only happen when trust is established. Trust comes from taking the time and expressing and interest. This is critical in today’s manager / employee relationships.
  2. Develop a “get to know you” questionnaire or process for your employees. Consider gathering information such as strengths, interests and their favorite way to learn, for example. Expanding what you know of each employee will provide you with the information you need to manage them successfully and build a more personal and supportive relationship.
  3. Make time. People need time to get to know each other. Make time each week to spend even a few moments with each member of your team or, depending on the size of your team, create a schedule to make time with everyone on your team over the course of a month. One-on-one time matters and is a great way to better understand your employees.

It may be easier to manage every employee the same way but it won’t get you the results you want and need. Customization is the only effective way to manage in today’s workplace. When you know the important information about your employees and commit to being more present to your conversations, discussions and interactions with them, you improve your relationship and your management which will better activate their engagement, performance and loyalty.  

Take Action
Identify one employee you know well and one you are not as familiar with. Spend time with each, then assess what you now know about them. How can this help you manage them more effectively? How can this help you build a stronger relationship as relationships influence employee engagement and loyalty?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Pay or Purpose – What Really Activates Employee Performance?

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