The Value of Putting People First
Taking the time to learn about what makes your staff tick is time well spent. I have always had greater success when I really get to know the folks I work with. Now this doesn’t mean diving into their personal life to the point of it being uncomfortable, but find out what is important to them.
Find out if they value trips to the coast, taco Tuesdays and what they want out of their job. What do they like and dislike about the work. Demonstrating interest in your team as human beings and not some piece of machinery will show you care about them and that they are valued.
I worked with a wonderful team several years back and the part I loved the most was the size. It was a small group - there were just four of us total. Two of the employees were young parents and what I found after getting to know them was they wanted flexibility with their schedules most of all. It made perfect sense. They had young kids which meant lots of doctor appointments, recitals and school conferences.
They were both wonderful at their jobs but the office culture at the time looked down on flexible schedules. I knew how important it was to them both so I went to the mat with Human Resources and battled it out. Eventually I was able to get flexible schedules for them both.
The new structure worked better than expected and they were extremely happy to have flexibility in their schedules. They never missed a deadline, communication was in fact better than it was before and our little team was praised for accomplishing so much with so few people.
Show them that you care and they will move mountains for the team.
Make yourself available and approachable
We’re all busy with meetings, deadlines and life in general. It is easy to half-heartedly participate in conversations but don’t do it! Make sure you are approachable and really listen to what your team is saying.
I meet with my team once a week with a structured agenda which is a good way to keep things moving north and address any roadblocks your team may be encountering. However, meeting once a week in a group setting does not necessarily allow employees to speak freely and really express what’s on their mind. Be sure your door is open and encourage them to stop by anytime. Giving members of your team a voice, individually and as a collective group, will boost morale, creativity and business growth.
I once had a skillful technical writer on my team who very much liked her job but I could tell she wanted something more. She would provide her thoughts, suggestions and concerns but the undercurrent was something else. Had I not been an active listener, asking probing questions, I would have missed it.
She was interested in trying her skills with another business unit but was a little unsure on how to broach the subject with me. Her worry was that she would be letting the team down.
I got to work immediately on the transfer, and back filled her open position. She spent ten months with the other group and eventually rejoined our team. It was a valuable experience for her and our team benefited as she brought back a fresh perspective and a deeper understanding of the business.
Take the time to listen to your employees’ thoughts, suggestions, and comments. Dig deep, ask questions and read between the lines. Prove that you’re willing to trust their input and also act upon it. The team will be stronger and it will pay dividends in the end.
It’s simple - people first
We all want to meet our numbers, push the business forward and move up. Just remember to put people first - embrace what your heart tells you two or three seconds before your business sense kicks in and trust your instinct.
When you put people first, when you put your team first, you unleash the full power of trust and creativity, and you build highly beneficial working relationships.
Why People Believe What You Tell Them
At some point in our lives, we’ve all been told “you won’t be able to achieve…” something by a teacher, boss or even a parent. For many, this type of discouraging mentoring propels them to do just that thing. However, for other this can prevent the very learning, practice and dedication needed to achieve whatever that “something” is.
Remember this rule; your team will believe you.
It’s entirely possible that some of your team are driven by the idea of achieving that unattainable goal or proving you wrong. The risk of using this strategy is too great. I was once told by a hiring manager that they “couldn’t see me managing people”. If I had even the slightest hesitation, based on that comment, my career would have stalled. I fought the subconscious effect of this comment and pushed through it. I was aware that this comment could subconsciously hold me back. It’s not safe to assume those on your team can do the same. When my manager attempted to give me “advice”, their intention might have been good. I don’t honestly know. It’s possible that this manager didn’t see the qualities they thought a good manager had. It’s possible they also didn’t see the ability to improve my skills either. Regardless of the intention, this advice could have stopped my pursuit towards a leadership role right there. At the time, I had just read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink and was introduced to the idea of priming.
Priming refers to subtle triggers that influence our behavior without our awareness of it happening.
An example that Gladwell uses is in Spain, where authorities introduced classical music on the subway and after doing so, watched vandalism and littering drastically decrease. I was determined not to let priming effect my behavior. I would in fact begin to do the exact opposite of what priming does. I would change my behavior to act more like a leader. I slowly began to change the way I dressed, moving towards more professional choices at work. I began reading leadership books, blogs and listening to podcasts.
Always assume you are priming your team members.
No matter what your thoughts are on a team member’s future career aspirations or goals, don’t shoot them down. As leaders, simply decide that every team member should be given the benefit of the doubt. That way you won’t negatively prime them. For example, that team member that applies for the open management position. Who does it benefit if you tell them they “aren’t management material”. Maybe you, the next time a role opens, won’t have to deal with the discussion again. Does it truly benefit you? The demotivation, the priming has taken place. Why would that team member attempt to work harder, learn more or stick around?
Priming doesn’t only happen with major life changing or career changing situations.
Priming can also happen when a team member presents a new idea or concept. If a team member comes to you with a horrible idea and you immediately respond with “that won’t work”, you’ve primed them. Some people are more resilient than others, some believe they are more resilient than they are. Regardless, it’s not about your opinion on the idea, if it truly won’t work then it won’t work. The objective is to change how you respond to avoid negative priming. The over used term, “it’s not what you say it’s how you say it” is accurate. Instead of saying it “won’t work” ask for more details, or explain the history or approach you’ve tried before. Avoid jumping to the conclusion or verbalizing it. “I’d love to see you in a management role in the future, we’ll build a plan and I’ll help you get there” for the management material example. For that “off the wall” idea that won’t work, “here’s what I’ve tried before, do you think your approach would have a different result”? Have a conversation, after all…..
“People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
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