Do You Really Understand Your Staff?

February 5, 2013

In a busy working environment it is easy to just concentrate on the task in hand and forget that the people working for you have dreams and aspirations beyond their current role.

There are still many people who have fallen into their present occupation, usually because it was the first thing that became available.  Particularly amongst graduates it is not uncommon for them to be working in an area that has no connection with the subject they studied 3 or 4 years for.

So, is this your problem or just theirs?  Well, the simple answer is that if you really want to have productive and motivated staff it is worth taking the time to truly understand what it is they want out of life.  You will certainly be amongst the minority in terms of managers who do this.

We once heard the story of an oil sheikh who took over the running of his father’s hotel.  The first thing he did was to ask everybody what job they really wanted to do as opposed to the one they had to do in the hotel.  The story goes that the sheikh listened to the answers given and then arranged over a period of time for everybody to retrained in the area they really wanted to work.  Although not necessarily a practical solution to increasing production, the principle was that he was truly interested in what profession would motivate them most and work hard at.

So, what can you do to really understand your people?  Here are some suggestions for you.

Ask What They Are Looking To Achieve In Life Outside Of Work

Typically they will start by saying that they want a house, a car, holidays etc.  Go beyond this and ask what other roles in the company they would like to do if given the opportunity.  Ask what would sort of hobbies they would consider making into an occupation.  If they started their own business what sector would it be in?  You might be surprised by what you find out.

Discover What Dreams They Had When They Were In Their Late Teens

Idealism is very strong at this age as if the world was perfect and they could change anything if they tried hard enough.  Whilst reality soon kicks in, the basis of their ambitions often reveal a passion in a particular direction which was only thwarted with the inconvenience of earning a living.

Ask How They Would Like To Be Managed

This is a powerful suggestion, as we know that everybody is different yet the majority of managers still tend to manage everybody in the same old way that they have always done.  Once they have told you how to get the best out of them, then why not use it?

If you aspire to being an effective manager who has productive, motivated and helpful staff, then take the time and really get to know them.  You never know you might uncover some real gems.

Many thanks

Chris Gale

Director of Training at MTD

(Image by David Castillo Dominici at

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