Margaret was one of the first people I hired for my business. She had recently retired from a big company and was looking for some part-time work. Her skills, personality, and the part-time work part all fit what I was looking for. We had pleasant interviews. I offered her the job I had. She said she’d take it.
What happened next is something I remember almost 40 years later. I asked her what she expected from me. She said, “Just treat me like a person.”
She told me for 30 years she’d been treated like “a typing machine, or a scheduling machine, or a filing machine.” But she wasn’t treated like a person. That’s the most important thing you can do if you’re responsible for the performance of a group. You can treat everyone in the group like a person. Here are some ideas about what that means.
Machines don’t have emotions, but people do. Let them show those emotions at work. Sure, sometimes it’ll be uncomfortable, but that’s what you get with people.
People crave control. So, give it to them. Let them control as much of their work life as is possible.
People want to know what’s expected of them and how they’re doing. Whenever possible, give them ways to figure that out for themselves. When that’s not possible give people regular and usable feedback. That includes praise.
People want to be competent. Let them demonstrate it. Help them do work that builds on their strengths.
People want to grow and develop. They want to do a little better tomorrow than they’re able to do today. So, help them.
People like to do important work. Tell them why what they do matters. Connect them with the people who use the product of their labors.
People prefer to work with people they like. That’s why group dynamics are important. Pay attention to things that keep the team a safe and enjoyable place to work. Root out the folks who make it hard for everyone else.
People have a life. Work is just a part of it. They’ll bring pieces of that life to work with them. That’s okay. Let them share. Sometimes, parts of their outside life will have an impact on how they work.
People have off days. Even the best, most productive, most cheerful people have days when they make mistakes, aren’t productive, and grump. That’s part of the deal. Treat them like people and you get their best, and you also get their off days.
People have ideas. When they have ideas, they want to share them. When they share them, treat those ideas like the gift that they are. Sure, most ideas need a little tweaking to work. Some ideas won’t work at all. But every idea is a gift.
Machines have serial numbers. People have names. Use their name. Use a name that they like. When in doubt, ask them what they’d like you to call them.
People like to be thanked. Thank them for their work, for their effort, for helping other people.
People want to be treated like people. They don’t want to be treated like workers or employees, or human resources or machines. Treat them like people and you all will prosper.