John was a great contributor to his software firm. He was the leading salesperson and was constantly adding new ideas to the organization to do with product issues, ways to connect with customers and value-added services.  He’s always been a driver so, as is often the case, when a sales management role came up he was promoted into the role…with the usual lack of training and support.

He started off like a whirlwind and ended up frustrating the salespeople, the support group, the technical staff, etc.  He had never been taught the art of working through the strengths of other people. He had always done it himself.  Eventually, the CEO brought on a coach to support John through his transition and he’s a much better manager now, a year and a half later. 

One of the key insights that he relayed to me was the process that his coach put him through.  It provided him insights into what drives him and provides him strength and reinforcement and which he now uses for all the people that report to him.  He uses it in annual reviews as well as when a new person comes on board into his area.   Here are the questions he asks when trying to understand the ‘levers’ that drive great performance in people.  Try them out.

To uncover what gives people strength ask them:
What was the best day at work you’ve had in the last three months?
What were you doing?
Why did you enjoy it so much?

To uncover what weakens your people ask them: 
What was your worst day at work in the last three months?
What were you doing?
Why did it grate on you so much?

To uncover what management style motivates people ask them:
What was the best relationship with a manager you’ve ever had?
What made it work so well?

To uncover how to provide positive reinforcement for your people ask them:
What was the best praise or recognition you’ve ever received?

What made it so good?

To try and understand people’s unique style of learning ask them:
When in your career do you think you were learning the most?
Why did you learn so much?
What’s the best way for you to learn?  

Managing people means understanding what motivates them. Like in any relationship we can’t all be mind readers. ‘Seek and ye shall find’.