Adaptability isn't just about adjusting to broad external circumstances. At the micro level, it's also about treating people as unique and adapting to the person and situation at hand. Learn how to gear your approach to individuals, rather than being a one-size-fits-all style.
- Adaptability isn't just about adjusting to broad, external circumstances like geopolitics or the moves of your competitors. At the micro level, it's about being adaptable enough to treat people as unique and to adjust your style and tone to the person and situation at hand. Here's how to gear your approach to the individuals you manage and collaborate with, rather than insisting that one size fits all. First, at a basic level, an essential thing to understand is whether your employee responds best to gentleness or firmness in your approach to them.
Early in my career, I learned this when I had an employee who would become incredibly sad and distressed when I offered her suggestions about how to improve her work. What I came to realize was that she was a perfectionist. And when I offered feedback, she took it as a sign of personal failure and became almost despondent. Of course, that's pretty extreme and something she might want to work on. But nonetheless, as her manager, what I knew is the part I could control is how I communicated with her. I obviously couldn't stop giving her feedback if her work needed improvement, but I learned to convey it in a very gentle but clear way.
She was glad to do things differently. I just needed to frame my comments in an encouraging way, rather than as a form of dissatisfaction. On the other hand, some employees simply won't hear you if you're too soft in your feedback, and you may need to be more direct and sometimes even forceful to get through. Watch their reactions and interactions closely so you can calibrate accordingly. Second, it can be instructive to ask your employees about their past experiences with managers. What worked well in those interactions and what didn't? That can give you valuable insight into how they like to be treated, what might inadvertently trigger them, and how you can communicate in a way that gets through.
Framing the conversation so that you're asking about past managers is also a good way to make things non-confrontational. They might wish they could ask you to do something differently. But sometimes, no matter how safe you try to make that conversation for them, they may still be hesitant to seem to criticize their boss. But by talking about past behaviors of others that they appreciated, if you listen carefully, you can pick up clues about strategies that you can adopt as well. Finally, it's also important for you to ascertain how much structure a given employee needs to succeed.
Some people are naturally organized and self-motivated and others much less so. Quite frankly, you need to supervise them and sometimes even ride them a little bit in order to make sure they deliver. You want to get this balance right. Because if you micromanage a self-motivated employee, they're gonna get very resentful very fast. And if you neglect an employee that needs supervision, you're not gonna get any results. In addition to watching them over time, you can get clues by asking questions like, when it comes to meeting goals, what kind of support is helpful for you to have? Their answer will tell you a lot about their work style and preferences.
Great managers recognize that people are different. And if you want them to perform at their best, you need to treat them as individuals, not just interchangeable parts. Treating people with dignity and respect is adaptability at its best.