My apologies to millennials and all the futurists who crave the solidarity of a text message, but I prefer a conversation. Texting is great when you need to convey information, confirm a plan, check in on a status or send a warm reminder photo of home. But supervision by text, email or smoke signal doesn’t cut it.
The age-old question has not gone away: How do I motivate my team and my customers to keep moving the dial and gaining ground? While we continue to rely on complicated incentive plans, completion of objectives and commission structures, we know that what works best is a customized approach to understanding what the other person values. If I want to motivate you, it’s best to know what drives your behavior – what makes it worth waking up every day and doing the things you do. Personalized motivation far exceeds a program or system.
Understanding others doesn’t come from a text, it doesn’t come from an email and it certainly does not come from a tweet. I joined the workforce in the mid-1990s. Email hadn’t become the preferred communication device, but we were far beyond the office memo in triplicate, executed with carbon paper ink spreading across the page. Every generation and every office seems to have a way to avoid management by face-to-face communication. Hewlett Packard coined the phrase “management by walking around” (MBWA) in the 1970s. HP knew then that the tendency to hide behind a desk or a messenger was detrimental to developing a working relationship.
Fast-forward almost 50 years, and we still battle the same diversion from the natural tendency to avoid conflict or to assume facts and take for granted that important things will eventually bubble to the service. Unfortunately, good management is an active task.
I, too, fall victim to the easy “check-off” management style of a quick email or text or just assuming no news is good news. It’s time for all managers to eat their management fruits and vegetables and remember that the reason for management is to support organizational success. Before we are all replaced by artificial intelligence, let’s remember that real intelligence is making a connection and supporting individuals to reach peak performance.
Research from the University College of London in 2009 indicated that you can form a habit through repetition over 66 days. Becoming a better manager and leader is worth a 66 day commitment! Try these habits to see if you can ingrain the strategy into your daily routine:
- Reach out to each of your reports at least once per day by phone or in person.
- Meet with each of your reports at least once per week.
- Share a meal with your reports at least once per month.
- Stop writing an email once per day. Instead, pick up the phone, or (if possible) make the interaction face to face.
- Make it a goal to learn something new about each of your reports.
Management is one of the behaviors that we often neglect to develop until there is a problem. Being a proactive developer of your own style is hard. Take the management challenge to develop new habits, eat your management fruits and vegetables, and share your trials and successes with others.