Using Your People in the Best Ways for Them

Taking note of the qualities of the people you have to do the work is an essential part of driving higher levels of productivity and opportunity-seeking from an organization.

What is the preferred style of this person? Some types of work can be done in more than one style, but most require a particular style to be done effectively.

Still, if the role is a hub or gatekeeper role within a process, putting someone with a networking style in that position ensures that problems are effectively handled and information about the process flows freely.

A networker often makes a good leader for a centre of excellence or “Office of…” structure that may be staffed with individual contributors. More structured efforts — for instance, a project or major program — are often best staffed by team-workers, although a networker in a key leadership role will help keep all the moving parts “joined up”.

Appropriate support resources: Often, the right answer in a key role is to provide appropriate support.

Don’t overlook a process-oriented person as the assistant to a networker: the networker’s strength of speedy, influential communications does not translate into the day-to-day status gathering and analysis.

Putting a analytic process person in the support role for the networker insures that everything is followed up. (Individual contributors often reject the support, which is unfortunate as they generally need it, too.)

This sort of support person is not necessarily the routine managerial administrative assistant: indeed, a line manager doubling as a program or endeavour manager may need two supports: one for the line role (administrative assistant), and one for the program.

Some people are more analytic than others: Often there are groups of people doing analysis of data as part of their jobs.

But some people are more attuned to this type of work — it is actually a style of thinking — than others. (A simple test: ask a person which Microsoft Office tool — Excel, Word, or PowerPoint — they would choose to use to organize a list. The more data-driven analytical thinkers will choose Excel; the more visual thinkers will choose PowerPoint; those who work best with words will choose Word.)

Consider using these specialized modes of working: form small teams to do deeper analysis with recommendations (flowing from the data analysis to visualization of a future).

The Need for Structure: Some people require more structure than others.

These tend to fit more comfortably into process-driven roles where the process provides the necessary structure, although those with a bent for novelty do better in team-project settings.

Others, despite their facility with the work, find structure limiting: these are more likely to do well as internal consultants, individual contributors, etc.

Fitting someone into a structure when they do not resonate to structure decreases everyone’s productivity: their own (due to boredom and feeling constrained) and those around them (who must make up for the lack of productivity).

There are, in other words, really no “jobs to be filled”: rather there are people, individuals, who need to be fitted into the work.

Tailoring the environment to suit — or moving people when that is not possible — raises everyone’s productivity.

What this also implies, of course, is that career options be carefully chosen: often, in our current job structures, the nature of the work changes with a promotion. If the person is unsuited, why set them up to fail? Why not let them stay in work that maximizes their traits and skills, and just do more for us that way?

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About passionateobserver

I am a passionate observer of our society, the economy, and politics. Mostly I don't like much of what I see, so I write as a concerned citizen. To the fray, I bring a background in the philosophy of history, a lifetime's reading, a work history in information technology management, consulting and education.
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