Monday, March 19, 2012

The Importance of One on One

Last week I wrote about a Leader's Most Fragile Asset: Trust. In that article one of the things mentioned was to make sure that people understood the big picture, usually by addressing your team as a group. However I don't want my readers to think that there is no benefit for one on one.


Honestly, if you want to see members of your team grow their skills, then you have to spend time one on one with them. It is a delicate balance, but honestly, every person is different, and if you want to help them learn, then you will need to spend time with each member individually.

Perhaps the easiest example is also the most likely to raise confusion (at least for some people). As a parent, I think you learn very quickly that what works for raising one rarely (if ever) works for the other children. Each one is an individual. If you aren't a parent, I apologize in advance for this example.

I have 2 children, ages 2 and 4. Both test their limits (as is to be expected). The difference is how to let the child know he's reached that limit. For my oldest, it is quite simple. My wife or I tell him he isn't being a good boy; he stops whatever he is doing, looks at the person who says it, acts sad and says "I want to be a good boy." Crisis averted.

My youngest, on the other hand, needs a little more "encouragement." You can follow the same approach, but he doesn't care about being a "good boy." If you tell him he's going to end up in time-out, he will actually look at the speaker, and evaluate whether the thinks the crime is worth the punishment. Then almost every time he decides it is. We've taken away treats, snacks, toys... it doesn't seem to matter. He is an individual, and we need to spend individual time with him (as well as with our oldest).

Okay, so in this example, I mention a moment when the child was misbehaving. However, in the moments when I try to teach the children something, to give them something to grow with, I run into a similar experience. My oldest follows direction quickly, but sometimes I find that he doesn't comprehend why I ask him to do something and need to take my time explaining it. My youngest on the other hand, has to be cajoled into any growth experience, but understands the "whys" almost as soon as he starts the activity.

Now, as a leader you will have all types of people on your team (and some you may even think act like children). Each person needs individual attention, because what works with one will not work with another. You need to address your style and tactics to the person. I've spent time gently encouraging one person, haranguing another, and holding yet another's hand through a process (and not just my children). Each person handled, based on the situation and personality.

A final thought... you will need to identify who is worth your time. Everybody deserves some one on one time; however at some point you need to determine which people can continue to grow (and are willing to). Some people aren't interested in growing, just marking time; or worse yet securing their position or causing trouble. They eventually aren't worth your time, and your time as a leader is critical. Making these evaluations certainly falls under the idea of COMMAND.

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