A few years ago, when I was chairing a meeting, I looked over at a member of my team who’d been quiet for most of the time. I was frustrated, annoyed even, because I knew that the subject matter was something that she knew a lot about, that she’d add a great deal to the conversation, and be able to help people to see things from a wider view point than the rabbit hole we were rapidly heading down.
Why wasn’t she speaking? Why wasn’t she contributing?? Why wasn’t she engaged???
The reality, of course, is that she wasn’t speaking much because unlike most people in the room she didn’t need to.
The reality, of course, is that she was contributing, which she demonstrated at a few well timed and executed moments when she articulated and quickly summarised what everyone else had been banging on about for the past 10 minutes, and in doing so, moved both the conversation and agenda along that I’d lost sight of.
The reality, of course, is that she was engaged, very engaged. This was a meeting she could add great value to, she knew it and she was doing just that. She just wasn’t doing it in the same way that the rest were, and with the ‘slap me with a wet fish’ realisation that hindsight provides, in the way I thought she should…
So why the short story?
Well, as someone who now spends most of their time helping managers and organisations to understand that to develop engagement they need to stop trying to ‘do’ engagement and instead think about how they can ‘be’ engaging. The moral of the story is that to ‘be’ engaging to all the people you manage, you need to change shape, be flexible and you need ‘many’ different management styles, not ‘a’ management style.
At the meeting, my distorted view was expecting her, even wanting her, to be like the rest, or worse still if I’m honest, like me and not recognising that she needed to be the person she was.
People come in many shapes and sizes and most of them are a very different shape to you. They’ll ask, need, do, see and say things in their own unique way and you as their manager, will need to manage them as the person they are not the person you want them to be.
As a manager, regardless of what you manage or the industry or sector you work in, you’re given three things to manage, time, budget and people. Your job is to spin those three plates in the most productive way you can. Managing budget and time is easy, it’s just stuff after all and learning when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’, experience and the knowledge that put you in the position in the first place will likely see you though without any major catastrophe.
But people are a bit different, no amount of knowledge or even experience guarantees you’ll get it right. The only thing that will help is how much you care, genuinely and authentically about what ‘they’ care about, what’s important to ‘them’, how you demonstrate this to them and by finding out what they need from you.
Unfortunately, you’ll probably have some sort of behaviour framework, values set, measurement criteria or convoluted appraisal framework that your organisation will make you use at some point in the year. But outside of that, in the real world, manage people with your gut feeling, your instincts, your emotional intelligence and your ability as a manager to understand people and by coaching them to be the person they can be, not a diet version of the person you are.
If you’d like to find out more, and how we at Loving Monday can help you to ‘be’ engaging rather than just ’do’ engagement, then get in touch.