Have you ever had a “bad” boss?
If you’ve ever led a team, you’ve probably encountered a life-sucking person, problem, or habit that’s restricting your potential. But a challenging situation doesn’t guarantee a poor outcome, especially if there’s a good manager in the mix!
Managers have the power to make or break their organization. Strong managers can lead teams, help them grow, and bring out the best in each person. These leaders don’t just produce great work; they inspire it. Why is that?
While effective managers are goal-oriented, they also have an innate ability to bring out the best in people. And while these people come in many flavors, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it.
Marcus Buckingham, head of people and performance research at the ADP Research Institute, characterized it this way:
“Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack. This is the exact opposite of what great leaders do. Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can succeed in this only when they can cut through differences of race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share. The job of a manager, meanwhile, is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way.”
Positioning People for Success
When you want to bring out the best in your team, here are some specific steps to consider:
1. Ask the Right Questions
To assess your team’s strengths and skills, try using questions like these:
- What do you like best about your work?
- What skills do you have that are being underused?
- What was the best day you had at work in the last three months? Why?
- What was the worst day you had at work in the last three months? What drains you?
2. Find Optimal Triggers
Everyone works for a purpose.
Some work for money. Some for the personal challenge. And still others for relational equity they build through personal and professional friendships.
Managers can bring out the best in people by finding unique ways to motivate people. One company that does this exceptionally well is HBSC, a London-based bank. Each year it presents its top individual consumer-lending performers with “Dream Awards.” Each winner receives a unique prize, precisely tailored to something especially motivational to each employee (though capped at $10,000 and redeemable in prize form only). At the end of the year, HBSC hosts a Dream Awards gala and shows a video about the winning employee and why this person selected a particular prize. From college tuition funds to dream vacation airline tickets, the celebration of individual dreams is a win for the entire company.
Beyond individual awards, other performance triggers may include financial incentives, ownership shares, public recognition, increased autonomy over key projects, workday perks, or even quality time with key leaders.
When you tailor perks to your team’s unique strengths, they will feel more motivated to give their best effort.
3. Invest in Training Opportunities
People are more likely to excel when they feel valued.
One simple way to invest in people is through training. Did you know an astonishing 87% of Millennials say that career development opportunities are very important to them? When you want to motivate and shape your people, look beyond daily tasks, and encourage people to grow their skills. And as you’re evaluating training opportunities, look for those that fit each person’s unique learning style, like analyzing, watching, or doing.
Great managers look to build and mobilize people. By investing in individual people, you will work with them, not above them. And that’s a win for everybody!