To get the most out of your team, get a sense of the way each employee works and adapt your leadership style to it.
With a variety of personalities come varied leadership styles. When I was working in “Corporate America” in the ’90s and early 2000s, two of the predominant leadership styles espoused by the then-in-charge Baby Boomers involved fear and intimidation. These did not produce a very pleasant workplace.
As a Gen-Xer embarking on my entrepreneurial journey, I promised myself I would create a positive work environment where people would be happy and flourish. In a workforce that is increasingly populated by millennials who expect fulfillment from their careers, an adaptive leadership style can elicit high performance. This means assessing individuals’ style of work.
For example, some people are very open and like to share more of themselves. They want their managerial concern on a personal level and gain a lot of gratification from social affirmation, be it in person, in the workspace, or by phone, email, or instant messaging. They are the ones who want to feel the “One Horn Love,” and enjoy chiming in on group email with “Atta boys!” to congratulate colleagues on successes.
Others are all business. They understand their role in the company from a business perspective and just want to get their heads down to work at their career objectives. You can often identify this by the person’s behavior at the beginning of a meeting or conference call: Those who are all business have no interest in chit-chat. They don’t much care for about interpersonal bonding, and don’t need to “feel the love.”
I take my cues from each employee and manage them accordingly so that I can elicit their best performance. I have a nurturing personality, so the ones who favor interpersonal bonds appreciate my genuine interest in their lives and successes. For the others who just want to get down to business, I do just that. Even though I feel inclined to want to learn more about every employee on a personal level, it wouldn’t enhance and could even hinder their performance. So taking their cues, I am all business as well.
The advantage of adapting your style is that it gets the best performance out of everyone. But it has to be authentic. It does not come naturally to everyone. If you are not a people person and don’t really care about your employees’ personal lives, inquiring about spouses, kids, or hobbies wouldn’t feel genuine to you or to your employee, and could undermine your relationship. In this case, I have seen leaders find success by identifying a buffer, someone who can manage and interact with the employees on a more personal level.
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