Supporting Employees Means Customizing Your Management Approach

By Bruce Tulgan

All your employees come to work with different levels of ability and skill: different backgrounds, personalities, styles, ways of communicating, work habits, and motivations. Some of them need more guidance than others. One employee needs the details spelled out, while another has the details memorized. One responds best if you ask questions, while another prefers you tell them the answers. Some need lots of reminders, while others need you to check in just once a week.

Your direct reports each have something different they need from a manager in order to succeed and earn more.

The only way to cope with the incredible diversity among your employees is to figure out what works with each person and then customize your management style accordingly.

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Don’t Cater to Every Whim

I’m not suggesting that you cater to the whims of each employee. But also consider that whims are not all bad. When you know the whims of an employee, you know what that person wants and you learn how to gain leverage with them.

Am I saying, “coddle employees”? No. Still, if an employee needs you to hold their hand and spoon-feed them assignments, you need to know that! In the end, you need to decide whether you are willing to do that for this employee. But don’t pretend they don’t need it, or that the problem will go away if it is ignored.

Finally, I’m not suggesting that you ask each employee how they want to be managed. What an employee wants from you is not always the same as what they need. Often, employees think that they know what they want from you, but in fact they often don’t know what they want until they actually get it and it starts working.


Ask Six Key Questions About Each Employee

Customizing your management approach requires a lot of effort at the beginning. You have to start honing in on the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of each of your direct reports. But you also have to keep fine-tuning your approach over time, as things change.

The best way to keep fine-tuning your approach to each person is to continually ask yourself six key questions about each employee:

  1. Who is this person at work?
  2. Why do I need to manage this person?
  3. What do I need to talk about with this person?
  4. How should I talk with this person?
  5. Where should I talk with this person?
  6. When should I talk with this person?

Together, these six questions can be used to make up one of the most powerful management tools I know of: The Manager’s Landscape.

Click Here for a Printable Version of the Manager's Landscape


Customization Only Works When You Practice the Management Fundamentals

The only way to really learn what works with each employee is to get in there and start managing. High-structure, high-substance one-on-one conversations are the path inside.

But too many managers are not practicing the fundamentals. Nearly nine out of ten leaders are failing to provide their direct reports with the guidance, direction, and support necessary to succeed!



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