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How to Help a Task Master Focus on People

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“I’m just not a people person.”

“I hate this touchy-feely crap.”

“See that!  I’m a ‘C’ on the DiSC assessment this just doesn’t come naturally to me. Now let me get back to work!”

Of course, all this may be true, for you, or for a manager that you’re working to develop. It’s also true, that if you want results that last, you can’t ignore the human side of teams.

Three Ways to Help a Task Master Focus on People

So how do you help a task master focus on people? The short answer, turn the “people thing” into a task.

If this makes your stomach turn, hang on. We’re working on a means to an end here. People matter. And we need more managers who feel confident in their ability to connect. So if it takes a spreadsheet to hone the skill…

People can be scary for task masters. But working their way down a to-do list feels a heck of a lot more manageable. Once the connections start to happen, and results improve, the focus on people naturally evolves into something more organic.

 1. Make a spreadsheet

If you’re working with a manager who loves pivot tables but has trouble remembering simple “thank yous,” ask them to make a spreadsheet of the members of their team. In column A have them list their team member’s names. In column B list strengths they are looking to encourage. In column C behaviors they are looking to develop. And in column D how the person likes to be recognized.

Building the spreadsheet is an intervention in itself as it forces the manager to think about (or in some cases go figure out) what each person needs. Then have them track each time they actually do the recognition. Here’s an example of a planner we built to help one of our engineering clients.  Winning Well Encouragement Planner.

We’ve also seen managers build spreadsheets to keep track of personal details of their team member’s lives (e.g. their kid’s names, what they do for fun). There’s no reason not to build processes for things that don’t come naturally to you.

2. Build connecting into your routines

We were working with one manager whose team thought he was unapproachable and unfriendly. We challenged him with a task. Every time he went to the bathroom, we encouraged him to use the one on the other side of the office. Then as he walked back to his desk, his job was to engage with people on a personal level on the way back. That seemed doable. After all, we weren’t asking him to be friendly all the time, just on those short walks. Taking a friendly walk became a task.

Of course, the side effect was that as he began showing up friendlier some of the time (while he was completing his focus on people task), he was breaking down barriers which made him more approachable at other times. People shared more information and asked for what they needed to be more effective.

3. Track your conversations

When I was in my sales exec role at Verizon I had 14 direct reports scattered over a 9-hour radius. Even though I’m a people person, with that many direct reports I found that I naturally talked to some of my guys more than others. I finally started keeping at tick sheet of touch points I had throughout the week. Some called me. Some I contacted.  But if I got to Thursday and there was the manager I hadn’t yet connected with (which I knew by my tracking system) I’d give them a call to just say “hi” while I was driving. Some of those informal, “just checking in” conversations turned into the most valuable brainstorming, #NoPressure.

If you or a manager you care about is finding it hard to find the time or energy to connect, try turning the effort into what you do best– a task and create engagement from that place.

Your turn. How do you help a task master focus on people?
Filed Under:   winning well
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
 

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What People Are Saying

Major Giese   |   13 June 2017   |   Reply

I love the idea of using a as a strength. Use what you have! Turn it around! That lemon can make lemonade! The beauty is in the simplicity. OK, it’s not simple to “become” a people-person. However, it is simpler to get to your goal by relying on your strengths than totally reinventing your personality (and we know what the success rate is likely to be on that). Use a process to get yourself started, and it will become more organic over time.

Karin Hurt   |   13 June 2017   |   Reply

Major Giese, Great to hear from you! Thank you. You remind me of this song (sung by my cousin’s singer-songwriter band. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC5xB-rTgC0

LaRae Quy   |   13 June 2017   |   Reply

I’ve worked with task-oriented people and they can be incredibly productive, but in today’s day and age it is rare that people can be task focused only without having some sort of human interaction (although the tech world has some notable exceptions). Still, if an individual wants to climb the corporate ladder, at some they will need to come out from under the rock and work with others. I have found that task oriented people are not the best conversationalists but that doesn’t mean they aren’t witty or fun. Many of them dislike making small talk, however, so I’ve found that by attaching a “project” to each person it helps them understand the importance of follow up or touching base. If they are focused on the project that needs to be completed or worked on, it helps them to move into conversation that is productive and has a direction. I would add that sometimes it’s very helpful to get everyone together to discuss how some are more task oriented while others are more people oriented. These rarely produce “aha” moments but it’s nice that it’s out in the open so everyone can talk about what to expect from each personality type.

Karin Hurt   |   13 June 2017   |   Reply

LaRaa, Thanks so much! You raise excellent points and totally agree getting people together to discuss the differences and how they can best work together can go a long way!