I was talking with a CEO the other day who was brought in to handle a turnaround situation. As you can imagine, he is assertive, forthright, quick to make decisions, and has other characteristics of a change agent.
One of his new department heads could not be more different. She has 30+ years of service with the organization. She is new to a leadership role and promoted without the needed knowledge and skill set for success. She is thoughtful, calm, a slow decision maker, with low confidence in her new role.
As a consultant brought in by the CEO to get this new leader up to speed on her department, I offered the CEO some observations and suggestions for how to support and encourage the new leader to ensure her success. Early into our discussion the CEO defended his current approach: “I don't treat her any different than I treat any other executive.”
“I treat all my employees the same.”
The sirens were going off in my head. There it was. The out. The ‘she’s getting the same chance to be successful as the other leaders’ misnomer. He claimed that he had the same expectations for her, was giving her the same amount of his time, the same feedback, and the same push to excel. His style was his style. It worked with the others, why would he need to do something different for this leader?
Oh boy! Where do I start?
The: ‘I'm a jerk to everyone’ ‘I hold everyone to the same standard’ approach almost sounds reasonable. I treat everyone the same I don’t need to worry about discrimination claims. This logic is flawed for one very obvious reason: the individuals we manage are different people.
Have a Unique Approach for Each Individual You Manage
Back to our CEO. His new leader is somewhat paralyzed in her new role. And, she is intimidated by the CEO’s aggressive style. She doesn’t have the experience or tools to feel confident. If the CEO would spend more time with this new leader, explain his vision and concerns, encourage her to share her perspective and obstacles, recognize her achievements (though they may seem minor to him), support her in front of the other leaders, he will be freeing this leader to do more, to be more. She will have the confidence to speak up, to offer ideas, to take the risk to implement a needed program.
Over time the CEO can increase his expectations, but for now a more supportive and mentoring approach is needed.
Learn About the Individual
How do you know what your employees need to give their best? You want to learn about each employee on your team (and about your colleagues). Understand his/her skills, abilities, interests, goals, fears, what s/he avoids, what s/he is best at or likes to do, what motivates him/her. Learn about his/her personal life – family, hobbies, outside interests. Learn about the full person, not a caricature.
Yes, managing to the individual is complicated; it can seem overwhelming to think about different approaches for different employees. The upside is that the time you spend getting to know your employee and modifying your approach for that individual, is an investment in performance, in outcomes.
If you want a quick way to get to know your team members, there are a slew of tools (e.g., DiSC, Meyer’s Briggs) that explain different approaches and styles. For example, I may need to know how a product will be used; Joe may be more focused on the logistics of implementation; Sue might want to understand the impact for the customer. We all need different information to get us on board. Any tool that increases understanding between team members is smart to adopt. That said, tools are not a substitute for building personal relationships.
If you unlock the secret to maximize each employee’s potential – can you imagine what your team could achieve? This is your job as manager, as leader. One of your objectives is to get the most and best out of each member of the team, and to ensure that the team is working optimally.
Modify Your Management Approach
While it is wonderful to have standards and equity in how we treat our employees, we are all different people, motivated by different things, and needing different supports to be successful. Develop different management styles to tap into the diverse team of individuals you are leading.
Rather than treating everyone the same, strive to manage to the individual.
©Performance Management Services 2017