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What do these people want from me? (and other burning management questions)

By Matt Poepsel, PhD

We managers often face many challenges, and when working with individuals on our team, it’s not uncommon for us to become exasperated when we don’t get the results we were expecting. Frustrated, we wonder what the heck is going on, and we may even second-guess the skills or dedication of our staff or perhaps even our own ability to identify the right talent in the first place.

Sound familiar? Well, before you get down on yourself or your team, ask yourself this question: What do my people want from me? (Try to avoid asking this in an exasperated kind of way while throwing your hands in the air but more like a thoughtful kind of way with your hand on your chin.) Next ask yourself: How can I best provide what my people want from me in a way that will enable their best performance? Thoughtful responses to these questions will put you well on your way to unlocking not only the true potential of your peeps, but your own management potential as well 

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds so incredibly simple that it can’t possibly work. And yet, by identifying and satisfying the needs and the desires of these individuals at work relative to the job that they’re doing and the environment that they’re in, you’re more likely to get to the performance, productivity and levels of engagement that we often read about. So stay with me here.

Here’s the deal: The reality is that there are many managers that manage without really knowing what drives their people. Instead, they go by their gut instincts. Now, this is not necessarily their fault – perhaps they weren’t taught these things as they were coming up through the ranks or maybe these topics didn’t get covered in their business school curriculum. As a result, they rely on subjectivity when working with individuals and try to make it up as they go along. More often than not, they end up throwing their hands up in frustration wondering where it all went wrong.

Some managers are natural people-leaders – and people-readers. If you’re lucky enough to be one of them, I applaud you. For the rest of us, all hope is not lost! There are a number of different ways that you can improve along with a variety of different tools you can employ. These include pre-employment interviews, cultural organization surveys and things like performance management, performance reviews (I know they have a bad rep sometimes but they’re very prevalent), and 360-type reviews can also provide a lot of good information. Unfortunately, these don’t get to the heart of each individual’s motivating needs – the things that drive what folks need most from their work in order to perform at their best.

This is why I’m such big fan of personality assessments. They allow you to get at this rich area, and they can really empower a manager by demystifying part of that key people process. They can be used not just at the individual level but also across an entire team or even through an entire department.

Once you’re able to answer the question about what drives people and you truly understand what they want, it can be very powerful for you to ask the same thing of yourself as a manger. This can lead to greater self-awareness. One of the most important traits for a successful manager to have is self-awareness. When you fully understand yourself, you’re better able to manage your staff by optimizing your own behavior. You also have the opportunity to do a bit of self-coaching to understand how the behavioral changes you’re making are positively impacting your results. By uncovering areas where you may need a little bit of personal development and following through to get better, you’ll set the example for those of whom you need to follow suit.

So bring on the assessments, the awareness, and the improvements! Your team will be the better for it.



Matt Poepsel, PhD, is the VP of Partner Growth at PI and "The Godfather of Talent Optimization." For every N. E. Patriots game, he prepares food and drinks that originate from the opponent's region.

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