Managing Personalities for Profit
I have worked with many different management styles over the last three decades – some good, some mediocre, and some … well the less said the better.
So what makes a good manager? The answer you will get from most large corporations is typically based around the person’s ability to lead the company to achieve its goals … and more often than not, that means profit. Someone who will tirelessly and ruthlessly drive the business to success by pushing staff, increasing productivity and keeping overheads to a minimum.
Short term KPIs are met … executives get their bonuses … shareholders get their dividends. Everyone’s happy. Or are they? How’s the voice of the customer – do they feel they are getting the same level of service as they once did? What about quality – is there an increase in faulty products? How’s the inventory situation – sure, there is less money tied up in the warehouse, but what do backorders look like? And most importantly – how is staff morale?
Don’t get me wrong, the end game of any company should be about profit, however many leaders focus so hard on appeasing the shareholder gods that they forget about the very people whomake the money for them – their staff.
There are some fundamental problems with this ruthless management style. I have noticed time and time again that extremely driven or “serial ambitious” leaders as I like to call them, surround themselves with people who think the same way as they do. Why? It’s easier. They neither have the patience nor the people skills to manage different personality types. They promote those who agree with them while making life uncomfortable for those who challenge the status quo. Like-minded individuals end up making all of the key decisions,narrowing the thought process, creating a lack of diversity and narrow perspective –ultimately increasing the company’s risk of failure.
Thankfully there is an alternative management style that can both create success and a happy and healthy company culture.
Earlier this year, Richard Branson posted the following on his Facebook page: “If you look after your staff, they'll look after your customers. It's that simple”.
What an amazing philosophy – so inspirational and motivational. Given his success, it clearly works!
So if you’re running a business, how do you achieve a balance of profit while nurturingstaff at the same time? By leading them as people, and not simply a resource.
1. EMBRACE DIVERSITY
It’s human nature to feel more comfortable around people who are like-minded, however as I mentioned earlier, companies require diversity to give them a broader perspective. Embrace the variety of personalities across your organization. In fact, go one step further, encourage as many different thought processes as possible – ask for opinions across a wide range of topics. You may not necessarily get the answer you want, however you will get ideas that are all food for thought. Anyone who contributes to the company’s success has a right to have their opinion heard without fear of ridicule or persecution. Remember – there are no bad ideas!
2. IDENTIFY PERSONAL MOTIVATORS
The first lesson I ever learned in sales training was make me feel good, and I won’t let you down. This simple but effective principle reigns true whether you are trying to make a sale, socializing with family and friends, or managing people. Everyone has different personal motivators, or things that make them feel valued and important. For some it is power and authority. Others need to see monetary gains. Job security may be paramount. Flexibility can be important. Or, in my case, simple recognition and appreciation is all it takes. If you can identify what motivates your staff, you have a much greater chance of getting the very best out of them at every level. But a word of warning … it has to be sincere! I have seen companies abuse this knowledge to manipulate employees, with results that are disastrous to both the staff and the company. Likewise, think twice before offering a “one-size-fits-all” approach to staff incentives – they can actually feel patronizing and token-like. I cannot stress the word sincerity strongly enough!
3. SEEK TO BE CHALLENGED, NOT VALIDATED
I was once accused of “suffering fools lightly” by my manager. While I admit, I do have trouble biting my tongue; the issue in this case was that I strongly disagreed with something, and for the sake of the company I felt compelled to share my point of view. This doesn’t go down well with A-Type personalities. When you dictate your ideas rather than presenting them, you not only undermine the value and confidence of your team you also risk missing out on the opportunity to get a different perspective – one that just may be better. A good leader will present their ideas and then ask their team what they think. They should invite conversation, questions, debate and even challenges. It is imperative that this can be done openly and honestly - without fear of being belittled or worse still, flatly told you’re wrong! Talk through every idea with the same sense of enthusiasm and encouragement – and thank the person for their contribution before moving on.
4. TREAT EVERYONE EQUALLY
I have a real distain for Boys’ Club mentality, in other words management who has their inner circle of favorites. There is nothing more toxic or demotivating than when certain staff members are always included, while others who have contributed equally are left on the outer, feeling as if they have done something wrong or are not appreciated. I have always attempted to treat all of my staff, and in fact, everyone across the organization equally and without prejudice. That’s how I want to be treated – so why wouldn’t I treat others the same. For example, when I arrive at work in the morning I make a point to walk through the warehouse and the assembly area to simply say good morning to everyone. I do it with sincerity and because I truly appreciate the value that everyonebrings to the company. And guess what, when I need a favor, those guys bendover backwards to make it happen for me. Once again … make me feel good, and I won’t let you down. It’s not rocket science!
5. ARTICULATE CLEARLY AND ACCORDINGLY
Different personality types require different communication styles. An engineer for example, will want every single detail and specification before proceeding. They live for that stuff. Give the same level of information to someone in the marketing department and watch their eyes glaze over and attention wander as they suffer from information overload. They can’t absorb technical details and be creative at the same time. The answer is change the way you articulate your message according to your audience. More importantly (and this is CRITICAL) do not become frustrated when someone who has a different role or personality type either doesn’t comprehend what you are asking or doesn’t seem to share your level of conviction or commitment. It’s not that they’re not taking it seriously, it’s that their brain literally works differently from yours and it can’t process information in the same way. Find ways to cross the communication bridge … write things on a white board and discuss backwards and forwards to ensure you both have total comprehension of what the other is saying and a clear understanding of what is expected. I have actually had a good laugh with a very left-brain guy I work with (I’m extreme right-brain) as we’ve gone round and round in circles before finally discovering we were both saying the exactly same thing – only differently.
Whether you’re heading up a Fortune 500 company or running a small mom and pop business with one or two employees, by embracing and implementing these simple principles you will have happier, loyal and more productive people. And what does that mean? Better staff retention, better company culture and ultimately a healthier and more profitable company. There is no down side!