We all quit jobs for a myriad of reasons. But according to recent research by Gallup, 75 percent of these reasons are work-related and within the scope of management to impact and reduce. In other words, “people quit managers, not companies”. Retaining talented employees goes beyond just offering competitive salaries and benefits. When surveyed, many people rate recognition, contribution and team spirit as three of the major reasons for staying with their employer – all of which fall squarely under the realm of impact of their manager and his or her management skills.
Valuing individuality is a management skill that is crucial for all managers. Think about your team members like pieces in a game of chess: each piece has an individual function, and you can’t play the pieces right if you don’t know how they move.
Winning a game of chess is about carefully coordinating the different strengths of each piece, rather than just moving them all in the same way as you would in a game of checkers.
According to Marcus Buckingham’s book ‘The One Thing You Need to Know’, this is truly what sets apart a great manager from an average one. To be a better manager you must know and value your employees’ unique abilities and character, and learn how to coordinate them into wider business objectives.
This means assigning people to the right roles that will allow them to excel whilst still leaving room for them to grow. It also means knowing your employees well enough to not put clashing personalities together, but rather people who complement each other’s strengths.
Why you should capitalize on individuals’ uniqueness
Capitalizing on the uniqueness of each team member is a key management skill that will help you to be a better manager for four main reasons:
1. It saves time
Time is a very valuable asset to any manager. And you can save time by sculpting a role for your employees that instantly taps into their natural abilities, rather than spending hours trying to force an employee into being who they’re not and reaping very little results.
2. It makes each person accountable
Allocating responsibilities to your team members according to their strengths means you can give credit where credit is due, and employees can be held responsible for their roles. They can take ownership of their contribution to the business, and practice and refine it over time.
3. It builds a stronger sense of team
Aligning people’s roles to their uniqueness helps employees appreciate each other’s skills and strengths. This creates a healthy interdependency amongst staff, which ultimately contributes to business success.
How to manage each employee
Another essential management skill is the ability to manage each employee individually to bring out the best in them.
There are three things you must know about an employee to manage them well:
1. Their strengths
The best way to identify someone’s strengths is by asking them this simple question: “What was the best day you’ve had at work in the past few months?” This helps you to gauge their predilections, even if they’re not necessarily good at it yet.
Another way to identify strengths is through observation: being alert and taking note of people’s idiosyncrasies, how they respond to certain situations, walking around the “shop-floor” and simply getting to know your employees for yourself.
2. What triggers their strengths
Sometimes people need certain triggers to stimulate their strengths and abilities. For instance, an employee’s trigger may be related to the time of day or recognition of their work and achievements.
In fact, research has shown that recognition is a far more important factor in motivating employees than money. And again, some may value recognition more from their managers, peers, or directly from the clients themselves.
3. How they learn
Learning styles vary from person to person, but there are three predominant ways that adults learn:
- By analyzing
- By doing
- By watching
Overlooking your employees’ learning styles can distort their proficiency, and inept training generally wastes valuable time and money.
A great managers’ focus should always be on their employee’s strengths: research has shown that self-assurance is the most important factor in a person’s ability to aim high and withstand obstacles.
However, to avoid detrimental overconfidence, managers must be able to create the ideal state of mind in employees. This includes a realistic assessment of the challenges the tasks ahead will bring, but a highly optimistic belief in their ability to handle it.
Nonetheless, weaknesses must be managed carefully, and there are five approaches to this:
1. Identify them
Identifying a weakness from the start will allow you to keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t become a significant problem. Similar to strengths, a great way to identify an employee’s weakness is to ask, “What was the worst day you’ve had at work in the past few months?”
2. Offer the relevant training
Sometimes a weakness is simply a result of unfamiliarity with the necessary skills. As such all an employee would need is the time and training to help them develop those skills.
Great managers should always be invested in developing the skills and careers of their employees.
If after some time the employee still struggles to incorporate the skills into their work, then the reason is more likely that they are lacking certain talents.
3. Find them a partner who is strong in their weak areas
An alternative approach would be to partner the employee up with a peer whose strengths neutralize their weaknesses. This way the job still gets done and the employee may even end up learning few things from their colleague.
4. Discipline and routine
Another effective approach would be to tailor the employee’s work routine so that it involves a technique that ultimately helps them achieve through discipline, what they cannot achieve through talent.
5. Make their weakness become irrelevant
If none of these approaches work, then the fifth approach would be to restructure the employee’s role to make their weakness become redundant.
For example, an employee in an administration role may struggle with face-to-face interactions but be highly competent in other aspects of their job. The manager may then rearrange the employee’s work so that they do not have to work directly with customers.
This allows you to continue to benefit from your employee’s strengths whilst increasing employee engagement and productivity.
“One of us”
Great managers should be seen as “one of us” and not just “one of them”. Emotional and cultural intelligence are essential management skills to enable your employees to relate to you. And, in fact, managers with high cultural intelligence are shown to be more effective in their jobs. Your daily interactions with your employees should assure them (without words) that you have their back. And this will inspire your employees to have yours.