Managing All Employees Alike Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

January 26, 2011

By Mark Powers and Andy Kanefield

It has been said that good people don’t leave good companies — they leave poor managers. No one wants to lose their best people, but in the midst of time pressures to produce better results, managers often cut corners — one of which is acknowledging the importance of managing according to the strengths of their people. 

Many parents understand that their children are unique individuals and know when to treat one child differently than the others. Managing employees needs to be a similar journey of better understanding their unique strengths and learning how to maximize those strengths within the context of the shared goals of teams within the organization.

Consider the following broad categories of people within an organization and the accompanying guidelines on how to manage them. 

Futurist employees: These are employees who need to know what’s next. They have a directional focus; they’re looking at the horizon. While there are different types of futurists, there are certain principles that are important to manage any futurist.     
•    Respecting their strengths means giving them an opportunity to help shape the future. Managers can give them roles that allow them to co-create what comes next for the team.
•    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that some may need help implementing their ideas. Place them on teams with people who are good at execution.
•    Helping them develop may mean reminding them that not everyone can see the same things they can and that they need to paint tangible pictures of what the future could look like. 

Analysts: These are employees who excel at execution because they can see the steps needed to get things done. They’re the ones people depend on to get things done. How does one manage analysts?

•    Respecting their strengths means giving them clear instructions of what your desired endpoint is and then giving them the opportunity to create the steps to get there.
•    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that managers may need to check in with them occasionally to ensure the steps being executed are still leading toward the desired end result.
•    Helping them develop may mean reminding them of the necessity to change at times and that the tried-and-true approaches of yesterday were at one time the new approaches. 

Connectors: These are employees who view organizations as a network of people with a common cause, who see the need for a common rally cry or mantra that provides focus and energy. They are the cheerleaders of the organization.

1.    Respecting their strengths means making sure that the team has a clearly articulated shared purpose and that they have a role in reinforcing it and helping keep people focused on it.
2.    Understanding their limitations means avoiding overly conceptual and theoretical discussions that don’t directly relate to improving organizational or individual performance.
3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that other members of the team can still be team players by contributing strengths in isolation that contribute toward team success. 

Interpreters: These are employees who think first about the needs of customers or clients. If the organization is anticipating or going through a change, the first question an interpreter will ask is, “How will this affect our clients?”

1.    Respecting their strengths means ensuring that the team listens to their customer insights. They may not have organized, empirical data for each conclusion, but don’t dismiss their conclusions due to lack of numbers.
2.    Understanding their limitations means making sure that project priorities are clear. Interpreters want to help, and as such, they will overcommit. They need to understand the highest priorities and have timelines based in reality.
3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that great ideas are truly great when you put them into practice. 

Action plan

1.  Look at your employees and your interactions with each of them.  Determine which of these  characteristics best describes each of them. 

2. During your next interaction, modify your management style and see what happens. 

 Question:  What characteristics best describe YOUR style (Futurist, Analyst, Connector, Interpreter)? 

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management.

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Time for Your Annual Tune Up Part Two

January 5, 2011

It’s a new year – yea!  What a great time to set ourselves and our employees up for success to ensure we all meet our 2011 goals!  

Last week, we shared the 6 Steps to a More Effective Strategic PlanThis week we’re sharing some supporting research and tips on the best ways to engage your employees.  

4 Keys to Emotionally Engaged Employees 

We know that emotionally engaged employees are more likely to recommend an employer’s products, support outreach efforts to the community and buy stock in the company, according to a new study from The Brand Union, a brand strategy and design consultancy.

“Our findings demonstrate the importance of companies implementing programs that don’t just reward but further connect employees to their brand,” said Toby Southgate, managing director for The Brand Union. “In order to connect emotionally, employees need consistent and compelling experiences that help formulate a clear understanding of what the company represents.”

The study concludes that emotional engagement drives job satisfaction and has a greater impact than intellectual understanding alone of a company’s mission, goals or financial benefits such as monetary compensation. These findings imply that employee engagement tactics that create dialogue, interaction and provide direction are more powerful and economically efficient in connecting employees with the company.

Furthermore, one of the most critical times to engage employees is during the first six to 12 months of employment.  According to the study, this period represents the lowest engagement period in the relationship between employees and their employer.

Proven strategies to increase engagement throughout the employee lifecycle include:

1.  Link every employee’s day-day job and business goals to the company goals in order to create an understanding of how their work impacts the business and customer experience. 

2.  Foster open sharing of information, to and from leadership and across departments.

3.  Have a performance management system that provides clear expectations and frequent, informal reviews with each employee to build employee confidence and ensure success. 

4.  Understand each employee’s development and career goals and provide opportunities for development and advancement.

For ultimate success, leaders must be sensitive to the fact that one size does not fit all with employees.  Successful outcomes depend on understanding your employees, your team and how best to engage them.

 Action plan

  1. Ask your employees how their job impacts the business every day?  Our customers every day? 
  2. Based on their answers, implement new ways to keep them informed of their value and impact every day. 

Question:  How do you add value and impact the business every day?

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Teamwork.

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Finding Meaning in Work

December 15, 2010

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dave and Wendy Ulrich discuss their new book “The Why of Work”.  It was an inspiring hour for me mostly because I have long been a believer in their findings.  Now, thanks to them, I have the facts to back up my long-term beliefs! 

 When executives were asked “where have you found meaning?”, the answer never came back about work.  It’s typically about being a volunteer, helping their neighbors and friends or about their family. 

 As leaders, it is our job to help people find meaning in their work.   Meaning has bottom line benefits.  When we provide opportunities to engage employee’s hearts and feel a sense of contribution to something bigger than themselves or their individual jobs, people become more engaged and committed. 

Finding meaning in our work does not have to be monumental, like curing cancer.  Most of us want to make a difference – it could be with the people we see every day, the work that we do, the experience we provide our customers.  Here are a few examples of finding meaning. 

  • A taxi driver who gave his fares a hot towel and bottle of water to make them more comfortable.
  • An individual who sold newspapers on the corner smiled and said “have a great day” to everyone he made eye contact with on the street. 
  • A brick layer who, when asked what he was doing, replied “building a cathedral” vs. ‘laying bricks’. 
  • A high school principle welcomed each student at the door with a handshake.  By the end of the year, he knew every one of his student’s names and his graduation rate grew as a result.  

These individuals were connected to something bigger than their job.  They knew that they made a difference every day.  Here are just a few ways you can help your employees find meaning in their work. 

1.  Create a sense of caring – share how they make a difference, how their job impacts others either in the company or outside with customers or others. 

2.  Identify and build on your strengths – use your strengths to build the strengths of others.

3.  Learn from your mistakes and help others learn from theirs.  When a mistake occurs, ask “what did you learn?  What do you feel best about how you handled it?”  Celebrate the learnings. 

When we find meaning and purpose in our work, we tend to give more and strive to make a bigger contribution!   

Action plan

1.  Ask your employees how they think they make a difference every day. 

2.  Select one of the 3 suggestions above to begin to help your employees find more meaning in work.

Question:  Where have you found meaning?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale.

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