Building great people. Hmmm, sounds a little pompous, right? Most people tend to take exception when someone expresses the desire to build them, mostly because thinking humans don’t care for being likened to a Lego project or model airplane challenge. We see ourselves as fully assembled (batteries included) thank you very much.
Which is why we should probably clarify - when we talk about building great people, we’re referring to the process of providing employees with the support they need to excel in their roles and reach exciting new heights in their careers. It’s this very approach that sets great managers apart from the poor sods who feel like they spend all their time herding very uncooperative cats and cause great walls of silence to descend in the breakroom when they make an appearance.
Let’s be honest. No-one wants to be that guy. It’s too The Office for comfort.
Fortunately, there are ways to build great people that you can start implementing today. It doesn’t even have to cost a whole bunch of money and doesn’t call for a (complete) personality overhaul. Sometimes all it takes is a shift of perspective and a new way of approaching your role as a manager of real, complex, vividly unique humans.
Here's how you can start building great people at your company (today!):
If there is only one thing you take away from this article on building great people today, let it be this - learn how to listen. Not in a 'yes, great, tell me that thing so I can respond with something intelligent and inspiring' kind of way. In a 'cool, tell me everything' kind of way. When you're in a position of authority it can be easy to dismiss the input, advice and ideas of people who rank below you. If you really want to build great people, you should be able to strip away the framing of a message and consider the content thereof. Listen and hear your employees and respond with compassion and strength.
2. Make your feedback constructive (and proactive)
When you’re spending time to build great relationships with your employees, feedback is essential. Once you get the hang of listening, the next step is refining your feedback system. Don't wait until a problem crops up to give your employees constructive feedback on their performance. Small recalibrations over a longer period of time takes a lot less effort than a major overhaul squeezed into a small window. This is why it's vital to up your communication game if you want to build great people. Whether you choose to go the formal route with a scheduled time and a boardroom booking, or prefer to keep things casual with a daily check-in chat at their desk is up to you. Gauge what works the best for your team members. As long as your feedback is authentic, constructive and impactful, the space you choose to provide it in is of fairly little consequence.
3. Help people to find their groove
In a perfect world we would all walk straight out of tertiary schooling into a job that was tailor-made for our skills and capabilities. However, this is very seldom the case. A big part of building great people is helping them figure out how they fit into your organisation and where they can make the biggest impact. Pay attention to underperforming employees and try to get to the root of their unhappiness. Because that’s what it is - unhappiness. People who are happy in their jobs don’t slack off - they step up to the plate and hit all the home runs all the time. Sometimes all it takes to foster engagement and renew focus in an employee is to play to their strengths. Sure, it’s easier to get someone else to take over their role, but building great people calls for a more empathetic approach. Once you’ve helped someone to find their groove, you’ll have a loyal employee for life.
4. Recognise effort & reward it
Don’t you think it’s strange that one of the very first things we are taught when we start is to speak is say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and then we proceed to forget this when we become grownups and make our way into the workplace? It’s weird man. When you stop to think about it, thanking your employees for their hard work should be common sense. And for good managers it is. That’s because they view their workforce as people rather than employees. If you want your office to be a place of good relationships and great work, recognising effort and rewarding it in kind should be one of your main areas of focus.
To really drive company results; it’s important that companies not only recognise employees for ‘hanging around’ but to start building a culture of recognition where employees are recognised and rewarded for values-aligned behaviours that translate to meaningful contributions towards company success.
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