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|By Bruce Clarke, J.D.|
Think about your best manager ever. The one that you trusted, learned from, worked hard for, took problems to and even enjoyed. The one that managed you with both clarity and humanity. The one that knew you as an individual and took a genuine interest in your development. Do you have this person in mind?
Many managers are good communicators and handle workplace issues well. They might even be good teachers and technical geniuses. They may have regular meetings with you to be sure you are on the “same page.” But the human element that makes them truly impactful and inspirational is too often missing.
Somewhere along the way, managers (and some in HR) have lost sight of this important fact: nobody works hard for a robot or simply to earn revenue. They work hard for people who know them as individuals.
The great workplace leaders understand this human element. It builds bonds that allow your organization to solve big problems, face great challenges and obtain extraordinary results from all types of people.
Think again of your best manager ever. Would you work twice the hours for two weeks to get a big project done for that individual? Would you bring him or her your best ideas and best work every day? Would you accept and understand when you received an answer you did not like? Would that manager make your view of the company much more positive, making you much more likely
I bet your best manager even knew quite a bit about you as a person and showed it in appropriate ways. Maybe you both enjoyed discussing your family, your hobbies, common schools/teams, your dog or even political topics. Maybe you shared your feelings about free time, what you hope for or what you are concerned about. What about the time your manager attended that awards ceremony on your behalf or that soccer game you played? How did you feel when a manager did something nice for your child? The point is, your manager knew what you cared most about in this world and showed that s/he cared, too.
It is not a great deal more complex than that, but managers tend to avoid the right kind of personal topics with employees, while a few spend too much time on the wrong personal topics. I’ve seen lawyers scare good managers away from positive personal conversations and relationships (with fears of lawsuits) while failing to sufficiently scare the harasser away from negative personal interactions.
The human element is key to maximizing both work performance and enjoyment. One of my favorite workplace authors is Patrick Lencioni (The Three Signs of a Miserable Job). He says this human element means taking a Genuine Personal Interest in employees and each other. Each of those three words was chosen carefully. The opposite might be called an Insincere Prying Irritation.
Other non-genuine interactions: asking the same question each day to the same people (“How ‘bout them Heels?”), forcing the interaction, focusing on things YOU care about, doing the same thing for everyone or treating interaction as a one-way street. Employees: your manager would appreciate a Genuine Personal Interest from you as well.
Maybe this is natural to you. Keep it up! If it is unnatural or stressful to you, find ways to bring the human element into your workplace interactions. Observe what employees display in their workspace. Chances are they care deeply about those things and people. Think about the power of a Genuine Personal Interest in improving conversations, building trust and creating a common language . . .and boosting performance.
The only person who wants to work hard for a robot is the technician who changes its oil.