As a leader, I never bought into the philosophy of treating everyone the same. I tried to treat each person on my teams as an individual, according to their specific needs and personality. I didn’t treat everyone the same, but I did treat all with equity.
On my teams I found that there are some team members who are consistently solid. They aren’t looking for any advancement and just love what they are doing. In fact, if they could, they would stay in their positions for a long time. In my experience, there were two categories of employees that I spent the most time with.
- High potential employees who wanted to continue to grow and advance within their role or the organization. The individuals in this category were highly motivated and demonstrated excellent attitudes. Many were interested in advancing to a leadership position, while some were working toward a promotion in their current role. I would help them to find stretch assignments to continue to grow, as well as suggest some mentors for them. Also, in this category were those I was mentoring. I always enjoyed working with mentees, and never turned anyone down who asked to be in a mentoring relationship with me. I always saw it as giving back to others, just as my career mentor did for me.
- Those with performance problems. The individuals in this category were struggling with their performance for one reason or another. It could be that they were in a position that was not a good fit for their skills, they may have been struggling with attendance issues and thus not able to consistently produce for their teams, or they were not be fully engaged or had a poor attitude. The goal of working with these team members was always to help restore them to being solid performers. Many times, that was the result, but unfortunately there were some times when that was the not result, and those were some of my most difficult times as a leader.
I love a good redemption story. Someone who fell into this second category turned out to be one of the most pleasant stories in my career. For whatever reason, she had a year in which she did not perform up to expectations. Her leaders knew it and she knew it. Prior to that year she had been a solid performer. When she came to my team, she told me that level of performance wasn’t her, and she would show me just that, which she did. She immediately re-established herself not only as a solid performer, but as a top performer. Within a few years she was in a leadership development assignment, capping off the most significant turnaround I saw in my career.
I would encourage you to treat each person on your team according to their own talents and needs. As a leader, who did you tend to spend the most time with on your teams?