These four were the backbone of my best team even I didn't really need to interfere. They ran the show themselves. They would train new hires, set the right example, and even eject people who didn't fit. For a good three years they were the restaurant.
Gallup: Where are they now?
Michael: Susan, Emma, and Gary all graduated and moved back east. Brad is still with me.
Gallup: Do you have a secret to building great teams?
Michael: No, I don't think there is a secret I think the best a manager can do is to make each person comfortable with who they are. Look, we all have insecurities. Wouldn't it be great if, at work, we didn't have to confront our insecurities all the time? I didn't try to fix Brad, Susan, Gary, and Emma. I didn't try to make them clones of each other. I tried to create an environment where they were encouraged to be more of who they already were. As long as they didn't stomp on each other and as long as they satisfied the customers, I didn't care that they were all so different.
Gallup: How did you get to know these people so well?
Michael: I spent a lot of time with them. I listened. I took them out for dinner, had a couple of drinks with them. Had them over to my place for holidays. But mostly I was just interested in who they were.
Gallup: What do you think of the statement "Familiarity breeds contempt?"
Michael: It's wrong. How can you manage people if you don't know them, their style, their motivation, their personal situation? I don't think you can.
Gallup: Do you think a manager should treat everyone the same?
Michael: Of course not.
Michael: Because everyone is different. I was telling you about Gary before, how great an employee he was. But I fired him twice. A couple of times his joking around went too far, and he really jerked my chain. I really liked him, but I had to fire him. Our relationship would have been ruined if I hadn't put my foot down and said, "Don't come in on Monday." After each time, he learned a little bit more about himself and his values, so I hired him back both times. I think he's a better person because of what I did.
My firm hand worked with Gary. It wouldn't have worked at all with Brad. If I even raised my voice with Brad, I would get the exact opposite reaction from the one I wanted. He would be crushed. He'd shut down. So when I disagree with him, I have to talk quietly and reason everything through with him quite carefully.
Gallup: Isn't it unfair to treat people differently?
Michael: I don't think so. I think people want to feel understood. Treating them differently is part of helping them feel unique. If I know that one of my people is the primary breadwinner, then as long as they perform, I will be more likely to give him better hours than someone who is a student. The student might be a little annoyed, but when I explain the situation to him, he usually calms down. Besides, he now knows that I will be paying attention to his personal situation when he needs a special favor. That's always a good message to send.
Gallup: Other than Gary, have you ever fired anyone?
Michael: Unfortunately, I have. Like most managers, sometimes I don't pick the right people and things start to fall apart.
Gallup: What is your approach to firing an employee?
Michael: Do it fast, the faster the better. If someone is consistently underperforming, you might think you are doing them a favor by waiting. You aren't. You're actually making matters worse.
Gallup: You've been managing now for fifteen years. If you were going to give any advice to a new manager, what would it be?
Copyright © 1999 by The Gallup Organization
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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