MAnagement and Motivation - One Size Does Not Fit All

One of the most important lessons a manager can learn in his or her leadership career is this:  Everyone is motivated differently.  Sounds simple, right?  Most of us can intuitively relate to that statement.  However, all too often I work with smart, well-intentioned managers who consistently get it wrong.  As human beings, we tend to live by the Golden Rule; that old adage we learned as children: "treat others as you would like to be treated."  Unfortunately when it comes to keeping people motivated, productive, and happy at work, this philosophy doesn't always apply.  

So how do you most effectively manage your employees?  The most successful leaders use this strategy: get inside your employees' heads and identify their unique talents and perspectives.  Think about the way in which a person approaches his or her work.  Is this employee task-oriented?  People-oriented?  Sales-oriented?  Ideas-oriented?  Or something else?  Each person's natural style and approach can be a really strong indicator of what you can expect when working with this person, and therefore how you can most effectively manage them to achieve their maximum potential.  If you're lucky enough to have your employee's StrengthsFinder Top 5 Results, great - you've got a useful shortcut!  If you don't know their Top 5, however, you can still identify their most dominant Strengths, at least by category.  Check out the four descriptions below to see which best describes each of your team members, then find associated tips for how you can effectively manage each person by honoring their unique talent and perspective.  Remember, not everyone will fit neatly into one talent domain, and the most successful teams represent a wide range of diverse talents.  Enjoy!

1) EXECUTING - "I like to get things done! I am energized by achieving goals, organizing things, focusing on details and checking things off my to-do list. If I don't get something done in a day it feels like a waste."  

Working with an Executor?  Know that he or she prefers to have a plan, or a list of things to do.  Clear expectations are critical for these folks, so map out what success looks like and let them get to work.  They like to be busy and productive, so give them lots of responsibility – they can handle it.  After a meeting they’ll likely prefer some very clear to-do’s, so make sure they have action items.  They may check in with you now and then to make sure they’re on the right track, so regular feedback is necessary and helpful.

2) INFLUENCING - "I enjoy persuading others to take action! I am very comfortable meeting new people, speaking in public, and asserting my opinion. It's fun for me to try and win someone over and convince them of my idea or approach. I like taking the lead."

Working with an Influencer?  There is no greater way to value them than to ask their opinion (although they may tell you even if you don't ask!).  They are often great in sales or business development roles, and they tend to work well in a team environment, or one in which there are lots of people with whom to talk and interact.  These individuals are not usually shy, so leverage that natural outgoing talent and get them in front of people.  They are often great at communicating with others, presenting, selling, or closing deals.  They are sometimes competitive so channel that strong energy - if you sense a competitive streak, then push them to their limits - they will often appreciate a challenge or a dare.  This group can have a lot of energy around getting projects started and mobilizing a team of people to get moving; however, make sure you have strong Executors in place on the team to finish the job.  The project completion and tasks/details are often much less interesting to Influencers than the initiation.  

3) RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING - "In my opinion, it all starts with people. I enjoy working on teams, helping people, and providing service to others. I may not be the most outgoing person in the room, but I really enjoy learning about people and connecting with others, especially one-on-one. Sometimes I can read people's emotions really well, and I have a keen sense of intuition about people."

Working with a Relationship-Builder?  Help them excel in a role where long term relationships lead to success.  Customer service, account management, healthcare, anything service-oriented will allow these individuals to shine.  As a manager, expect to invest time in him or her as a person.  Know about what matters to them personally, what their spouse does, what their kids’ names are, and what they care about.  These individuals start with people, emotions, relationships, connection, so start your meetings first with “how are you?” before you move to “what are you working on?” and you’ll build their trust quickly.  

4) STRATEGIC THINKING - "I like to spend time in my head. I enjoy learning, reading, thinking, and strategizing. The more time I have to think about a problem, the more easily I can come up with a solution. I am at my best when I have time to analyze, reflect, research, and process information to achieve the best outcome. I often enjoy brainstorming new ideas and thinking about future possibilities, and even though I may never actually execute all my ideas, it sure is fun to think about."

Working with a Strategic Thinker?  Give them mental space.  They are brilliant in roles where success requires the need to be thorough, thoughtful, data-driven, or creative.  Depending on their specific talent profile, these individuals may be great at research, brainstorming, analysis or strategic/process planning.  They may or may not be quick thinkers, but they are at their best when given time to process information and reflect.  When requiring their input, give them some advance notice before you have an immediate need.  After a meeting, let them think about it and then circle back for additional discussion.  When thinking about driving some type of change, ask them to envision an ideal future state.  Honor their thoughtfulness too – when it looks like they’re staring out into space, don’t chastise them for “not being productive;” remember their version of productivity may look different from yours.