Unlock potential in others so they thrive

We are all different, we are motivated by different things and we need to be handled and motivated accordingly. Managers need to recognise people’s individual potential. Many companies initiate rewards programs hoping that bonuses, commissions, an award plaque or the carrot of an overseas conference will do the trick.

It’s really worth knowing what makes a person tick. You can still set goals and KPIs, but there’s no need to insist that staff goose-step to prove you’ve got it as a leader.

So for those prepared to recognise and reward individuality, how do we unlock potential so that everyone loves to achieve their best?

Get to know everyone in the team

Does s/he love structure or flexibility? Is s/he quiet, ebullient, needy, independent, prefers to work late, likes to come in early? The list goes on but you get the drift.

Find out! For example, a team member writes punctilious emails wanting to be sure that she’s got everything you requested just so.

Her sense of reward is knowing that she did and better still, that she’s discovered something fresh. No amount of praise compares to the silent satisfaction she has in chasing every rabbit down to the last burrow. She’s an excellent researcher but dislikes group meetings.

Astute project managers leave her to get on with it and don’t demand that she goes to company barbecues where she sits in pain and suffering.

Ask and be interested!

How do they like to work and learn?

Some people detest lots of paperwork and prefer to learn in a “hands on” way. Many of us know someone like this – they were not academic stars but give them something tangible to play with and they display an astonishing grasp of the intricacies. This sort of intelligence is vital in any workplace.

Communicate expectations

Deadlines exist, and tasks and goals must be achieved, but why not let people approach what must be done in the way that works best for them? This is where some elbow-grease (from you) is required. You can’t sit back and hope for the best, congratulating yourself on your progressive acumen.

Many people need guidance and minimum standards, otherwise they’ll complain that it’s all in your head and you’re actually both vague and self-serving. Even seemingly free-wheeling work environments like Google and Virgin don’t allow employees to wander in circles (many such companies are Darwin in sneakers and ear-buds).

What is the strategy for growth?

There’s already lip-service regarding individual learning pathways – and the tech now exists to achieve some of it – but making time to discuss with your team the tools and accreditation they need to progress is very worthwhile. They perceive your interest in their career and in turn they value your input.

Don’t assume everyone’s a greyhound, forever pursuing that rabbit. A big English sheepdog looks after the flock. A trained labrador will happily guide the visually impaired.  As for cats – you’ll get affection if you give them plenty of independence.

Don’t lose your way focusing only on brand and financials. Consider your “people zoo”.  Bring the zoos into the future and treasure each inhabitant’s well-being and welfare.

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.


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