HR Forum


What makes your staff tick?

Many accolades have been given to great leaders of organisations who lay down the vision and lead their teams to unbelievable success and rightly so, as they set the direction and provide the inspiration for the rest who follow.

At the same time, many great visions have come to naught, especially when the organisation is big. This is often the result of the failure to win the complete understanding and buy-in of the majority who may have little direct contact with the chief executive officer.

Just like the childhood game people play where a message gets distorted after it has been passed along from one person to the next, the broken link could lie somewhere in the middle.

Are middle managers getting the message right from top management? Are they passing the right message to their team, with the passion and enthusiasm of the chief executive officer?

As English playwright George Bernard Shaw said: “The single biggest problem with communication ... is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

While a company can have the best chief executive officer to lay down the vision and direction, it still must have the best staff to act upon them. Most importantly, the company must have middle managers who:

  • Understand the requirements, goals or targets of the top management;
  • Communicate these back to their staff as “smart” goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound); and
  • Engage and motivate staff to take action and produce the desired results.
However, without proper tools, middle managers would have a tough time working with their various heads and delivering what they want, let alone communicating it down the line. They would lack the skills to manage each team member effectively, a prerequisite to get the needed buy-in and action from them.

What sets a great middle manager apart from the rest is a tool that provides a clear understanding of his bosses and his team.

To understand their working styles, the manager must understand their personalities and how he can talk to them using their individual “language”. Equipped with this skill, he could be the driving force for corporate excellence.

Psychological studies and research have produced many tools that can help managers to accurately assess and communicate effectively with their teams. However, with so many profiling tools available in the market, middle managers need to select one that will help them to easily understand a person’s driving forces towards success. The key question to be answered would be: “Why does this person achieve results and how?”

Below is an introduction to three types of workers and how, as a manager, you can manage each effectively:

1. Against people

These workers who will push ahead to get what they want and not back down. You can expect confrontation from them. When they decide that they want something, they will get it, no matter what others say or do.

To handle them effectively, first, give them support to garner their trust and reduce the number of confrontations. Next, ask questions to discover the real reason why they want something. As this group could behave compulsively, work together with them to come up with a logical plan to get the results that align with their needs and management goals.

2. Towards people

These workers will do what is dutifully right to get what they want. They have internalised rules and principles. They usually strive to become figures of authority within the organisation, setting standards or improving them.

It is important that you first identify what their values are before imposing your own rules or expectations on them. Once you are able to align their value system with the project’s desired results and show how their rules would be able to ensure a high quality of work, you would have garnered their strongest support. In addition, give them a systematic execution plan.

3. Away from people

These workers prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves. They are less vocal, but as the saying goes, “still water runs deep”. Only when they are comfortable will they voice their opinions and thoughts.

You need to allow this group of employees more time to process the information presented to them. Make them feel engaged. Exercise patience when you don’t get a quick response because these people usually have a lot of ideas. Once you are able to get their opinions and they feel that they are heard, you will face less resistance from them during the execution of the plan.

The key to working with these three groups is to first understand their different needs; then, try to fulfil those needs without compromising your integrity. With the right assessment tool to help you and a little practice, you will find yourself working with a team of people who are committed to supporting you. - Source: ST/ANN

Article by Ken Koh, a certified professional trainer (IPMA UK) and personality profiling consultant.

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