Help Every Employee Soar!

Well, it’s happened.  I’m actually going to use a sports example to make a point (this from the woman who, some years ago, made it a goal to learn one new sports analogy a month so she could understand her colleagues!)  Anyway, I now actually have a very minimal understanding of and some interest in college football.  So, when I read this coach’s comment about UW quarterback Jake Locker at the Senior Bowl, I thought wow! – that absolutely fits into a workplace context!  Here’s the quotation from coach Ken Zampese:

He [Locker] doesn’t have any preconceived notions that it’s got to be like this or that. No, no. He’s ready to soak it all up, and that’s going to serve him well as he goes, because the only way you get better is to jump in with both feet. You can’t go in and fight something. You’ve got to go full in. 

 As a supervisor or manager you also have to go “full in” without “preconceived notions” about how best to work with each individual employee.  You need to adjust to each person, and to the individual situation, and respond with what actually works – not what you think ought to work.

I’ve written in the past about people having different styles, different temperaments.  They’re also at different places with regard to their ability and motivation to do their jobs.  One very useful tool for thinking about that has been around for many years: Situational Leadership.  In short, it’s a way to quickly sort out how best to lead and supervise someone.  Here’s the summary, applied to fictional employees:

Henrietta who lacks both skills and motivation.  Though she’s been around a long time, she has resisted learning new technologies and seems burned out.  She’s no longer skills, and she’s not motivated.  You need to tell her what you want her to do and how to do it.  Cncentrate on the tasks that need to be done, not on your relationship with her.  If she continues to be unwilling to learn and become more capable,  she needs a different job.

Carlos has also been with you a long time.  He, however, has continually improved his skills, but also seems burned out.  Treating him the way you treat Henrietta (by telling him what to do) will only get you resentment and actually demotivate him.  He needs coaching and encouragement (even selling the job to him) to help him find what motivates him, what excites him about the job he once loved and knows so well. 

Contrary to Carlos, Amma is a very excited, highly motivated employee you recently hired.  So, she doesn’t yet have all the skills, but she sure has the enthusiasm!  You need to teach her the work.  Be sure she learns well, because then she can move to the next level which is where you’ll find Kim.   

Kim is highly competent in his work, and loves it.  Delegate to him: give him the job and leave him alone other than providing  him the resources he needs.  Then, stand back and watch him soar!

So remember coach Zampese in his comments about Jake Locker, jump in with both feet and soak up the information employees give you every day about how you can best supervise them.  Don’t fight what you see and hear from them because it doesn’t fit into your preconceived mold – use the information as data to determine how best to work with each person on your staff.  Remember: one size does not fit all!

Have you successfully adapted your supervisory style to the skills and motivations of your employees?  Have you faced a challenge when you tried to supervise everyone the same way?  Tell us about your experience so we can all learn from it!  ~ Daphne Schneider

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