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Mentoring and Managing the Different Characters in Your Team

The biggest nightmare for any first-time manager isn’t the hard work, but the challenges of managing your team. How can you get the most efficient and effective team work out of your people? Here are some tips on how to mentor the diverse folks under your charge.

Source: Canva Who: The Unmotivated Staff There’s nothing really wrong with this staff. He meets his Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) but does not stretch himself to do more. When you try to offer him a new project to stretch his potential, he politely suggests giving the opportunity to other “more well deserving colleagues”, to offer them a chance to shine. Sometimes, such staff may be so unmotivated to do more that when you offer them a promotion and a pay increment, they even turn you down! Try this: Firstly, recognize that not everyone is motivated by a fancy job title or a pay raise. This staff may be going through a season in his life where he needs better work-life balance. For example, he may need more time to focus on his family or to undergo further studies after work. Try having an informal chat with him outside of the usual performance appraisal. Do NOT start by saying, “I noticed that you are not motivated to do better at work!” Instead, share your observations that he is doing his current job well but you see potential in him to climb higher in your company. Ask him what are some projects or areas he may wish to expand into for his personal and career progression. By focusing on his needs and wants, rather than what YOU think is the best for him, this could be the catalyst that motivates him to do better, for himself! Who: The brilliant but ‘unmanageable’ staff We all know that one colleague who is truly good at what he does, but is also truly impossible to work with at times. He can be counted on to do his work very well – if you let him do it his way. He can be quite cutting and ruthless with team mates whom he deemed not good enough. Heck, colleagues may even fear or downright refuse to be in the same team as him, which adds more problems for you when it comes to managing your people! Try this: This may sound strange but some brilliant but unmanageable staff are not always aware of the negative impact they create. In their mind, they may feel that “work is work”; being able to dish out and accept criticism is being professional, not unmanageable. (Yes, they may be high on IQ but low on EQ!) Try sharing that you appreciate their independence but that you would like to give all team members a chance to collaborate. Share honestly but gently that his current working style is causing some stress to colleagues. Ask for his support to support team mates who may need a little more help. What if your brilliant staff is outright butting heads and challenging you? Try not to be biased (tough, we know) and examine if there is any truth in his words. Check in with his previous manager to better understand what this staff’s aptitude and attitude is like. Perhaps he is used to a different management style; what is ‘unmanageable’ to you, may have been celebrated as ‘independent and free-spirited’ by his previous manager. Again, try sharing your point of view professionally and politely. It could just be a teething problem that a few honest chats could resolve. Who: The good worker who is facing burn-out This staff can always be counted on to do the work. And so, everyone counts on him, roping him into many projects. Perhaps this staff does not want to say no. Or maybe, he does not even know that he can say no. You are watching him slowly but surely burning out. Try this: Don’t wait for performance appraisal time before you ask your staff to do a stock take of everything on his plate. Compare it with other staff of his rank and make a fair appraisal. Is he doing too much? Why? How did it come to a point that he is taking on so much? Sometimes, a staff may not want to turn down work because he is friends with a committee leader, he doesn’t know how to say ‘no’, is covering for a perpetually lazy colleague, or he just didn’t realise how much he has committed to. Sometimes, he may not realise he is pulling double his weight because he doesn’t know what a reasonable workload is. Or worse, he may have agreed to every task because he was afraid of losing his job! But as a responsible and caring manager, you should absolutely look out for your staff’s interest, even if he doesn’t complain. As you have the macro view, you can give him solid advice. Work through his list of commitment with him, determine a reasonable workload and ask him which of his current projects he would like to hold onto. Find ways to support him by roping in other colleagues. Don’t wait for him to burn out. Once a dedicated staff gets to that point, he will need time to recover or worse, he may quit. You don’t want to risk losing a valuable staff, simply because the company ‘allowed’ him to take on more than he should. Who: The slacker He’s the one who comes in late, leaves early, goes for extra long lunch, and is perpetually unaccounted for when he works from home. Try this: Even if his colleagues are picking up his slack, this is not fair. Also, it bodes badly for team moral if a lazy colleague can get away with this behavior while others can’t. Give him a chance and set him realistic targets to meet. If he doesn’t, it may be time to call in HR to ask him to shape up or ship out. If he needs to be cut off, so be it. He is drawing a salary. There is no reason why anyone else should subsidise his tardiness by doing his work. That salary could be put to better use by hiring someone who actually wants to be a team player. Who: The credit-claimer Everyone knows that annoying guy who loves to CC all the big bosses so that they know he is doing his work. Even if he is not the main player or only contributed just a smidgen of work, he will happily list it in his performance appraisal as an achievement. In dire cases, he may even steal credit from the real MVPs! Try this: If you have solid proof that he is not pulling his weight yet stealing credit from others, you have a moral obligation to stop him. This is theft. Sit him down for a serious talk and explain how this can affect not only team morale, but his own career should a complaint be filed against him. You can absolutely give him another chance but make sure he knows the severity of his crime, so he doesn’t do it again. In addition, work with him to offer him projects to lead so that he can shine in his own right. Perhaps he is claiming credit because he does not get opportunities. Mentor him properly and he could turn out to be a valuable player on your team! Help others navigate the world smoothly Keen to drive even more positive change for others? 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