Leadership Thought #197 – You Have To Know Your People

August 17, 2011

How well do you know your employees? | Tedco Business Support

Business is all about people.  Leadership can be a delicate balancing act.  You want to push your people to achieve high performance and exceed what they thought was possible, while also appreciating that you hire employees and people show up with all their human needs for understanding and support.  If you push too hard, they resent you and find you harsh and uncaring.  If you don’t push hard enough, then you enable mediocrity and stunt their growth.  It is not always easy to know where the line exists.

I always advise my clients to focus their people development efforts on their direct reports.  If they get this right, it can’t help but set an example that will trickle down throughout the organization.  To do this well, the leader needs to know the individuals on his/her management team:

  • Their personality type/profile – how they are hardwired as a person
  • What makes them tick professionally and personally
  • Their unique talents and abilities
  • Situations in which they thrive
  • How to best motivate them
  • How to give them feedback in a constructive manner
  • Where they need to grow
  • Situations in which they struggle and get in their own way
  • Any significant personal events/issues that may affect them at work


You cannot manage everyone the same way.  For example, some people want feedback in a direct manner.  They excel when challenged and pushed.  Confrontation is easy for them.  Other people wither under too much direct pressure and scrutiny. They require more subtle means to get your point across.  Most people will shy away from conflict and must be taught how to have constructive professional disagreements.   Some people are self-motivated while others need some level peer pressure and to feel part or a team.   The list gets exceedingly long when you are dealing with the differences between people.

Leadership is both an art and a science.  You need to know the right things to do but also figure out the best way to get them done given your specific circumstances.  Unless you are a solo practitioner you need to achieve success with and through other people.    There is no magic formula on how to do this except to understand that people are individuals, and it is best to meet them where they are rather than try and turn them into what they are not.  Sometimes this does mean recognizing that you have someone who has needs you can’t meet or is a bad fit with your style or personality.  However, often, if you invest the time and do the work, people will respond well to your customized efforts and surprise you with their capabilities.