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How New Managers Can Get To Know Their Employees

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

In days of old, managers were the king-pins of their domains and were to be obeyed without question. Not so today. Managers must understand their employees to build an efficient and effective working environment.

If you’ve read Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, then you’ll know how Ebenezer Scrooge ruled with an iron-fist and commanded his staff to comply to his every word without question. It seems a ridiculous management style, now, but (in fact) in wasn’t that far away from the norm back in the early 19th century. Managers (thankfully) can’t behave like that now, so management style has shifted over the decades to be based on relationships, persuasion and collaboration.

A strong relationship between manager and employee means that trust and respect forms and grows. Not just that. When they understand each other, they capitalize on each other’s strengths, and make allowances for each other’s weaknesses. They’re symbiotic relationships.

Managers employ a number of techniques for getting to know their employees. And from my own experience, it requires a variety of tactics:

Getting to Know Their Jobs, Career Aspirations and Work Style

Most new managers take time to get to know the division of labor within their team, and how the labor is performed, using one-on-one meetings. Armed with resumes or other documentation, a manager has a great opportunity to get the lay of the land and discover who is doing what and how.

Alison Green‘s blog post what should a new manager ask to get to know employees better? offers a great list of questions for doing this. Here’s some of them:

  • What do you see as the main goals of your role?
  • What are the most important things for you to achieve this year?
  • Are you on track to doing that? Are there milestones to meet on the way? What things are you worried might get in the way?
  • What do you like the most about your job? The least?
  • What would help you do your job better?
  • Is there anything I should know about how you like to work?

I find it also helpful to ask questions that discover how employees see their work in relation to their colleagues. For example:

  • What’s the most important thing you need to achieve as a team this year?
  • How does doing X help John do Y?
  • If you didn’t do X, what would happen when Mary did Z?

Getting to Know Each Other’s Personalities

We only really get to know about how someone ticks is when we have seen them in a variety of situations. This is why team-building exercises became popular. But you don’t need to go on an organized event to do it. I’ve used quite simple techniques to great effect. I like to take my team bowling. It puts people in a competitive situation, and it’s also a good way of discovering how people react to wearing the crazy shoes and performing the strange bowling techniques. I certainly root out the competitors, the vain, the show-offs and the clowns! Here are more examples of things I’ve done before:

  • Paintballing
  • Mini karting
  • Dining out
  • Volunteer work
  • Sailing

Getting to Know Each Other’s Families

The impact of work on family life is an important consideration for employees, and their employers. Families are the supportive framework underneath our employees. It’s important to create opportunities for our employees to bring their families together (whether individuals take them, or not). BBQs and family-days are a great way to create these opportunities. It’s fantastic to see all the kids play together, spouses to chat over a burger and a glass of something. It’s a wonderful way of discovering the real person away from the desk and the hubbub of work.

Do you have other ideas on how managers can get to know their employees? Please share them by leaving a comment.

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This post is part 1 of 6 in the series New Managers
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Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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