“I'm just not a people person.”
“I hate this touchy-feely crap.”
“See that! I'm a ‘C' on the DiSC assessment this just doesn't come naturally to me. Now let me get back to work!”
Of course, all this may be true, for you, or for a manager that you're working to develop. It's also true, that if you want results that last, you can't ignore the human side of teams.
Three Ways to Help a Task Master Focus on People
So how do you help a task master focus on people? The short answer, turn the “people thing” into a task.
If this makes your stomach turn, hang on. We're working on a means to an end here. People matter. And we need more managers who feel confident in their ability to connect. So if it takes a spreadsheet to hone the skill…
People can be scary for task masters. But working their way down a to-do list feels a heck of a lot more manageable. Once the connections start to happen, and results improve, the focus on people naturally evolves into something more organic.
1. Make a spreadsheet
If you're working with a manager who loves pivot tables but has trouble remembering simple “thank yous,” ask them to make a spreadsheet of the members of their team. In column A have them list their team member's names. In column B list strengths they are looking to encourage. In column C behaviors they are looking to develop. And in column D how the person likes to be recognized.
Building the spreadsheet is an intervention in itself as it forces the manager to think about (or in some cases go figure out) what each person needs. Then have them track each time they actually do the recognition. Here's an example of a planner we built to help one of our engineering clients. Winning Well Encouragement Planner.
We've also seen managers build spreadsheets to keep track of personal details of their team member's lives (e.g. their kid's names, what they do for fun). There's no reason not to build processes for things that don't come naturally to you.
2. Build connecting into your routines
We were working with one manager whose team thought he was unapproachable and unfriendly. We challenged him with a task. Every time he went to the bathroom, we encouraged him to use the one on the other side of the office. Then as he walked back to his desk, his job was to engage with people on a personal level on the way back. That seemed doable. After all, we weren't asking him to be friendly all the time, just on those short walks. Taking a friendly walk became a task.
Of course, the side effect was that as he began showing up friendlier some of the time (while he was completing his focus on people task), he was breaking down barriers which made him more approachable at other times. People shared more information and asked for what they needed to be more effective.
3. Track your conversations
When I was in my sales exec role at Verizon I had 14 direct reports scattered over a 9-hour radius. Even though I'm a people person, with that many direct reports I found that I naturally talked to some of my guys more than others. I finally started keeping at tick sheet of touch points I had throughout the week. Some called me. Some I contacted. But if I got to Thursday and there was the manager I hadn't yet connected with (which I knew by my tracking system) I'd give them a call to just say “hi” while I was driving. Some of those informal, “just checking in” conversations turned into the most valuable brainstorming, #NoPressure.
If you or a manager you care about is finding it hard to find the time or energy to connect, try turning the effort into what you do best– a task and create engagement from that place.