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From Caring To Performing

“I just wanted to say Thank you for all the years we’ve been working together! Kudos from a former employee who hasn’t forgotten all your support and guidance after 10 years” was the unexpected recognition I received a few weeks ago from a former team member, who was part of my first team. Her message brought back countless memories of those years and of the learnings I had through trial-and-error. Mostly error :)

I remember having my first one-on-ones and focusing solely on the tasks at hand, without building any personal rapport and without trying to genuinely get to know and understand the person. I remember blushing uncomfortably at my first team meetings, when I was challenged with questions I didn’t know the answer to. I remember my surprise and sadness seeing half of the people leave in only six months since my appointment in the role because they weren’t motivated and they didn’t see me as an inspiring leader…or as any type of leader, for that matter.

Their leaving was for me the turning point. It was the moment I decided to embark on a journey to become a better version of myself and a better leader for my teams. Because although I wasn’t good at showing it, I really cared about them and our success as a team.

I started to read countless books on people management and personal development, to take advantage of every opportunity to enrol for training and coaching sessions. To take risks and try new ways of doing things, until I found the style that aligned with my personality and my values. And I haven’t stopped from learning and adapting ever since.

Today, in my private coaching sessions with first line managers, I often get the questions, formulated as goals: “How do I motivate my people to do more?” or “How do I turn my team into a high performing one?” Of course, every context is different and it’s a privilege to accompany each client into exploring alternatives and options that best fit their purpose. There is however one approach that sits at the basis of team performance, when carried out authentically: showing people you care about them and their development as professionals. Show, don’t just tell. Walk the talk. In turn, they will care for your success as their manager and they will perform above and beyond their job description.

I’ve listed some of the ways you can do that:

  1. Ask regularly how they feel in the role and what you can do to support them; don’t settle for “I don’t know”

  2. Give feedback on what you notice they can do better or differently with a genuine interest to contribute to their growth and not only to increase short term performance; support them in their change efforts

  3. Get to know them on a personal level, as much as they let you; what are their likes and dislikes? What are their values? What are their dreams? What makes them happy or sad?

  4. Allow them to know you on a personal level; what are your likes or dislikes and your personal values? What makes you happy or sad sometimes?

You could think it’s easier said than done, when faced with time constraints and pressure to deliver results. Or that it’s not a good return on time investment. Yet it is so valuable and you will be surprised by the sustainable high performance achieved in the long term. And you might just get an unexpected thank you message, as a sign that you positively influenced someone’s career path :)

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