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Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #37

What can Harry Potter teach us about working better with our team?

I know what you might be thinking ... Harry Potter? Putting this into perspective, I read dozens of research papers and journal articles every month so when I need a break from this heady material, I occasionally stray into the realm of fiction. I'm a late arrival to the Harry Potter phenomenon but the number of people who have recommended the series had me intrigued. I must confess I didn't think I would enjoy the book(s) ... but I was wrong.

For those of you who have read the books (or seen the movies), you'll know about the Sorting Hat. At Hogwarts (the school where Harry Potter learns his magic), the Sorting Hat is a sapient artefact that uses its ability to quickly evaluate individual personality traits and potential to determine which of the four school houses each student will attend. Are they courageous (Gryffindor House), loyal (Hufflepuff House), curious (Ravenclaw House), or ambitious and cunning (Slytherin House)?

What struck me about the Sorting Hat is this is what—in essence—strong managers do with their own people. It may not be as magical as the Sorting Hat, but the outcome, when done well, can be 'magical' in its own right. Many managers I've worked with over the years have come to know their employees almost better than the employees know themselves.

This week I'm going to explore three ways you can enhance your ability to evaluate individual personality traits and potential. Your team is made up of a diverse grouping of personalities, preferences, and communication styles. And a one-size-fits-all approach to managing them is not going to work!

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

This week (starting today), try out these HVAs as a way to better understand your people:

  • Develop Your Emotional Intelligence: Your ability to recognize other people's emotions (as well as your own) is an important asset that's even more critical when you're managing a team. Your employees might not always be straightforward with their questions or their concerns; they may not always tell you that something's on their mind; they may not openly disclose what's troubling them. As a manager, it's up to you to pick up on the cues (both verbal and nonverbal). While people may attempt to control their emotions, they can't. People can only control how they 'react' to the emotions they're feeling. Emotional intelligence is the ability to discern these reactions. Strong observation skills are key—after all, it's unlikely you'll pick up on the subtle emotional shifts taking place in your employees when you’re in your own head or when you're attempting to multitask.
  • Understand the Drivers: Each of your employees have different strengths, weaknesses, and things that motivate them. I refer to these elements as 'Drivers' because they each drive behavior. By personalizing your approach to each employee you'll get to know how these drivers interact and be able to leverage this knowledge in a way that aligns with the needs of the employee. Knowing who they are and what's important to them (about life and work) will help you coach more effectively. Empathy—in its simplest form—is about understanding why someone feels or behaves in a certain way. Being able to communicate that understanding to them will have a lasting impact.
  • Understand Your Own Biases: Most people don’t realize (or appreciate) the impact of the subconscious biases we each have on how we think and on how we interpret information. These biases make us vulnerable to predispositions that affect the way we interact and communicate with others (both verbally and nonverbally). To better understand your biases, start by paying attention to your feelings ... when you notice yourself feeling a certain way or reacting in a certain way, ask yourself why you might be feeling like this. At first you might not have an answer but the more you pay attention to the cause/effect elements of your feelings the more likely it is that you will start to notice the connection. While you may never rid yourself of these biases, self-awareness will allow you to moderate the impact.

With these HVAs in place, I'm pretty certain you'll have an easier time leading each of the individuals on your team. (And all without a Sorting Hat!)

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability."

— Patrick Lencioni —