Once more, with…uniqueness?

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Oct 20th, 2010

I recently completed Marcus Buckingham’s First, Break All the Rules for the third time. It is true what they say: the third time is the charm!

Upon revisiting Buckingham’s opinions on succesful management, I realized it’s all about one word. U-N-I-Q-U-E. Truly, you can read as many texts as you please, but none of the books you read will give play by play instructions on being an excellent manager. For some, expertise in management comes with time. For others, it seems as though they are born into management. Regardless of how long it takes to master the skill of management, everything you do as a manager revolves around treating your employees uniquely.

One size does not fit all. If you want to motivate your team, you have to figure out what makes each person “tick”. One-on-ones are excellent tools to figure out what matters to your employees and where they want to go with their careers. But, even your one-on-ones must be unique. I know this from experience.

As a newly minted manager, I had the role down pat. Each month, I would check in with my employees during our one-on-ones. To make my one-on-ones more interesting, I decided they would be lunch dates.

Much to my surprise, one of my employees wasn’t in favor of this idea. She had been doing her job for 30+ years and the idea of a one-on-one was somewhat silly to her. A fact that she did not hesitate to tell me.

At first, I struggled with the concept of changing the format of my one-one-ones. After all, they are recommended. But the point I was so blatantly missing was that the one-on-one is just as much a tool for the employee as it is for the employer. So, what is a new manager to do? Listen to your employees.

I received the feedback my employee gave me and opened my mind to other “definitions” of the one-on-one. Ultimately, my monthly meetings with employees took on various forms — movie dates, quarterly lunches, walks to the car, painting classes…you name it, and I considered it for possible one-on-ones. And what happened after I opened my mind to different types of one-on-ones? I got the opportunity to make the meetings two-way streets. I learned just as much about my employees as they learned from me. I reaped many team building and engagement benefits from allowing employees to design their own one-on-ones.

The lesson learned? Employees want to be seen and treated as individuals. Uniqueness matters more than style. Be authentic with your employees, and you will be rewarded beyond your expectations.

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