Good managers versus great. What’s the difference? Both achieve positive outcomes for their organizations and both treat employees with respect. So, what differentiates a great manager from a good one? The difference is that great managers take time to learn what makes every employee unique and capitalize on their strengths while good managers may simply be effective team leaders despite treating employees uniformly. In other words, “average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess”1.
1. Identify strengths and foster them. Great managers are those that encourage unique talents in order to translate them into higher performance. That is why it is essential for managers to capitalize on the unique strengths of every team member rather than simply treating them uniformly.
- How to identify them. One key strategy for identifying individual strengths is through observation. Managers can learn a lot about what their employees excel at by simply watching how they react to certain events, tasks or interactions and identifying the patterns of what they do and don’t do well. Another strategy managers can use is to simply ask employees “what was the best day of work you’ve had in the past three months?” By doing so, managers can gain a better idea of what kind of work individuals really look forward to even if it doesn’t involve something they are particularly good at.
- How to foster them. Great managers use information about what individual employees either enjoy or are good at in order to energize them. In doing so, great managers are better able to focus on the uniqueness and use this to delegate tasks, rather than delegating them blindly. For example, if there is a task that one employee enjoys doing whereas the rest of the team sees it as a chore, delegating that specific task to the individual that actually enjoys it gives them something enjoyable to work on while freeing up the rest of the team.
2. Tailor recognition to fit the employee. While money can be a great motivator, recognition is by far the greatest. Even the highest paid employees do not respond well when ignored by their managers. That is why tailoring recognition is crucial when addressing what triggers good performance in an individual.
- How to tailor recognition. When it comes to tailoring recognition, it is up to managers to determine what employees respond to best. For some, it might mean having a one-on-one conversation with the individual and explaining what they have done well and why they are so highly valued within the organization. However, another employee might be motivated when given open praise where they can celebrate publicly. Still another might be motivated by specific awards that recognize a specific accomplishment or achievement.
3. Customize learning moments to fit the employee. Just like with fostering strengths and tailoring recognition, great managers should customize education and professional development through learning to employees.
- Learning through doing. Learning through doing is the dominant learning style for most. For those that learn best through doing, floating to different areas can be a great way for them to learn through hands on experience.
- Learning through watching. For others however, the most effective way to learn is through watching others complete specific tasks from beginning to end. Most watchers learn from being able to see the whole task so for them, shadowing a high performer can be a great way to encourage continued learning.
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