Can you imagine treating every student in your class the exact same way?
Sure, you may have general rules and principles that govern behavior in your classroom but you would never appeal to each kid in the same way. You also wouldn’t teach in only one way to appeal to only one learning style.
You would differentiate.
So why would managing be any different?
The key to effective management is, as Marcus Buckingham suggested, to play chess, not checkers.
In checkers, each piece looks and acts the same, and therefore the focus is on the strategy and less on the individual nuance of the pieces. But with chess, as with managing people, the greatest factor to consider is the individual.
What does each piece do?
Of course, in order to do this, you have to invest significant time in the front end identifying the strengths of each piece. When you understand the capabilities and limitations of the pieces you can begin to craft a strategy to win.
The same is true with your team.
Have you spent significant time in the front-end truly understanding the capabilities and limitations of each individual? Do you know what each does well, where each thrives, and have you crafted a strategy to capitalize on that individual diversity?
The answer, from my experience, is often “no,” or at least not to the degree that we should.
The good news is that you can start today by taking a few simple steps:
- First, create a system to gather information about each individual. This may be an electronic file, notebook, folder, or other system but the key is to capture that information because individuals are much more complex than chess pieces.
- Next, begin utilizing each check-in as a forum for understanding your team members. Ask open-ended questions that yield information about who they are, what they do well, and where they thrive. Below are a few questions that may help:
- When was your energy highest this week?
- What was your favorite thing to do? Why?
- What drained you? Why?
- If you could do one thing more often, what would it be?
- The key now is to carve out the time and space to capture that information and weave it into your strategy. This is often complicated by managers booking themselves back-to-back meetings. Spend three to five minutes after each interaction to annotate your files and identify ways in the coming week to utilize what you just learned.
This doesn’t need to be overly complex. The simple act of making an effort to engage your team members’ best selves will pay huge dividends in engagement and productivity, ultimately benefiting retention and getting better results.