There are far more people I have managed whose names I can’t
remember than people whose names I can. Besides having a poor memory
with names (I’m working on it), the key driver is the fact that I did a
poor job early in my career of getting to know the people I worked with
as real people. I knew them as employees. I knew their statistics, the way
a baseball manager might know his players. I knew their tendencies. I
knew their strengths, and their potential to improve.
As I changed teams or people came and went, I would pick up on the
statistics and begin the exercise to get to know the new numbers. I had
failed to truly get to know the people I worked with. I once had a senior
leader say, “Us being friends is merely a convenience.” He meant that our
personal relationship was not important. Since I had heard this prior to
being a manager, I took it seriously and was self-driven to find my way to
get to the next level. Once I became a manager, I steamrolled through the
people I worked with to drive them to maximize their statistics the way I
had when I was in their shoes just a few months before.
I did not get to know the people who worked for me at a personal
level. As their manager, I was missing part of each of my employees’ stories.
If I had learned the value of knowing the personal side of people
early in my manager experience, I would have known what makes a person
tick. I could have adapted my feedback to better meet their style, gain
more buy-in, and probably gain their respect. We would have had more
to talk about and I could have built up our relationship. Instead, we simply
talked statistics and I would ask, “How was your weekend?”, although
I really didn’t want a real answer to the question. I was missing a chance
to become a more effective leader and, more importantly, I was missing
a chance to get to know the people to build a lasting relationship that
would assist in everyone’s growth—mine included.
I have matured enough to learn to get to know the people I work
with better. We have personal conversations. I ask pointed questions
about their pets, kids, or spouse. I remember things better because I have
been more engaged in the conversation. I like the people better, because
I actually know them. I had gone too long being professionally driven. I
was given the unfortunate advice, “We do not have to be friends to succeed.”
I didn’t go to work to make best friends. However, we all need relationships
in our lives. If you nurture these relationships, everyone wins.
If you happen to get a good friend out of the deal, then you will be better
off. If you happen to only strengthen a working relationship, then the
organization and both individuals are still better off.
Leaders flexible enough to tailor their styles to each individual’s drivers
and motivators are an asset to any company. I am now in a much
better position to motivate the people who work with me because I
understand what inspires them to come to work each day. In fact, many
times, I simply ask the question, “Why do you come to work every day?”
There is nothing like getting straight to the point. Now, I know whether
the person is working because of family, pride, money, promotions, or
simply a pat on the back.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby