It’s time to get into the heavy lifting of the Leadership Principles. The fifth principle – know your people and look out for their well-being seems like the easiest one of all. Therein lies the trap.
How well do you know them as individuals? What makes them tick? Freak out? Happy? Fearful? What do they do really well? What are they terrible at? Getting the picture yet?
You know I love examples so let’s explore this principle with some stories. First, I encourage you to read this previous post about 7Up. It’s good grounding on treating your folks as individuals which is the first step in getting to know them and looking out for their well-being.
So here’s a story. I screwed up (I know! Some of you are shocked. Some of you are applauding that I’ve finally come to my senses and admitted a mistake.). I had a great guy on my team. He did phenomenal work. He tackled large projects, put order to them, and made stuff happen.
I made some assumptions about work he was comfortable performing based on my prior experiences with folks of similar backgrounds. I asked him to perform said work and present it to our muckamucks (definition – muckamuck, noun: an individual in an organization whose title has a letter in front of “VP” or begins with the letter “C”). He did the work. I didn’t check it because I thought it was pretty basic for him and I trusted he had nailed it. He hadn’t.
The presentation didn’t go well. He was asked a lot of questions he couldn’t answer. He looked bad. I felt worse – I had failed him as a leader. I assumed skills rather than confirming them (which would have been as easy as asking “are you comfortable doing this part of the project?”). I put him in a position where he didn’t shine. Bad Mike! Bad!
Know your people. Know what they’re good at and what they’re not. Know their goals and desires. Have you ever promoted a person who only wanted to stay in the role they were in because it provided them a great work/life balance? Yeah? You messed up Holmes.
How can you get to know them? Lunch. Coffee. Hang out at their cube/office and simply talk. Actually, you shut up and let them talk. Put a cork in it and open your ears. You might be surprised by what you learn.
Now that you know them a little better, observe them. See which tasks or projects they get done first and which things seem to lag. See what they jump at and what they shy away from. Those actions are pretty good indicators of their preferred work styles.
Seek to put them in situations where they can do many of the things they like and feel competent doing because they’ll be more successful in such situations. That’s not to say you don’t challenge them at times and put them in tougher spots but be sure you’re doing so consciously and deliberately. Heck – you might even want to discuss the purpose of such scenarios with them BEFORE you put them in those situations.
It doesn’t take a lot to know your people (and I mean really know them – not know them superficially). It’s an investment of time. That’s it. If you know them, you can place them in situations where they’ll be successful and where they’ll be satisfied and challenged. Doing that looks out for their well-being. If they’re happy and safe in their jobs, they’ll do great things. You just have to know them first.
So how well does your boss know you? How well do you know your people? Have you had great experiences in this arena? Terrible ones? Please share and let’s discuss!
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC