Managing the Unique Needs of Your Employees

Women's hands holding sphere with database of people inside

Effective management isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity. It involves adaptation and change. It’s about managing to the unique needs and abilities of each member of your team.

While consistency in managing people is valuable in applying policies, it is your ability to recognize, manage, and reward individual strengths and values that will engage your employees and build your managerial effectiveness.

What does your team need from you as a manager?

Start by giving serious thought to the goals of your unit, the varying characteristics of the individual team members, and your own behavior as a manager. Jot down notes in each team member’s file that will help you remember and expand on what you observe. Use these observations to:

  • Become aware of and manage in a way that addresses diversity, without calling attention to differences or stereotyping people
  • Become aware of what motivates each individual on your team
  • Manage in a way that is appropriate for the work you and your team are doing
  • Be open to altering your management style based on different situations

“A situational leader changes his style, depending on the person he is working with and the situation.” – Kenneth Blanchard

Managing for competence and confidence (adapted from Kenneth Blanchard)

To keep employees productive and engaged, think about managing in a way that brings out each employee’s competence and confidence.

According to Kenneth Blanchard, situational managing involves a relationship between:

  1. The amount of direction and influence a manager provides
  2. The amount of support and encouragement a manager provides
  3. The competence and confidence an employee exhibits in performing a specific task

When you introduce your team or individuals to a new or unfamiliar task, focus on employee competence. Provide clear instruction and direction.

When you are leading individuals who have experience with the project or work they have been assigned, focus on employee confidence. Delegate, listen, provide support and encouragement, and involve the employee in decision-making.

Skillful managers know how to avoid one-size-fits-all management and how to be fair while changing their management approach in specific situations and with different people. Here are some suggestions:

  • Understand each employee’s strengths, areas of development and approach to work. Use your understanding of the work and your knowledge of your staff’s capabilities to set the expectations on which to manage performance. The goal is to turn the differences on your team into assets, to help all employees reach their full potential.
  • Give employees credit for what they do know and are capable of doing. Praise from you, as well as more tangible rewards, will help. Be clear with the expectations you set but avoid providing too much direction on how the work is accomplished. This could stifle individual creativity, initiative and growth.
  • Provide opportunities for all employees to continue to learn new skills. Tailor the learning to the individual’s skills, passion, interest and learning style. Don’t make assumptions about which learning format works best for your employees, ask them!
  • Take the time to know your employees as individuals. Understand each one’s preferences and work styles. Try to meet those needs with different solutions. For example, do you know what motivates your individual employees? What motivates one may be very different from what motivates another. Do you know how your employees like to receive communication from you? Some may prefer emails, while others may prefer a quick face-to-face interaction. It’s important for managers to adapt their style based on the needs and preferences of each employee.