Individualized Management: What it is and Why it’s Important

Individualized Management: What it is and Why it’s Important

If you’re a people manager and expect a one-size-fits-all model to elevate, support, and drive your team beyond their goals—stop right there. Let us first apologize on behalf of yourself to your team, who are likely frustrated, burned out, and perhaps even considering jumping ship. While everything else in the world seems to be broken down into recipes, processes, and playbooks—great management is the opposite of rigid and formulaic. Teams are as unique as the individuals that make them. The best managers understand that each member has different skills, expertise, opinions, wants, and needs—and works in a way to put each member in a position to excel, feel valued, and contribute. 

What is individualized management? 

Individualized management is exactly that—tailoring your management style to mesh with the personalities, preferences, and passions of everyone on your team. While one member of your team may be particularly extraverted—thriving from public acknowledgement—another member on your team may be introverted and prefer praise in a 1-on-1 setting. These differences, while slight, can make the difference between a healthy management relationship and team, and one that misses goals, becomes toxic, and leads to attrition. 

By better understanding everyone on a team, managers can provide more flexibility, trust, and autonomy. Expectations are clear, goals are realistic, and you’ve built the right team for the job. Now, you must empower your team members to do what they do best. Likewise, you’ve got to open the doors to real-time feedback, listening, and most importantly, change facilitation. Your job is to advocate for your team members—ensuring they have the right things to get a task, project, or goal to completion.  

Tips for getting started with individualized management: 

  1. Tailor individuals' goals to mesh with passion and personality—employees are going to be motivated in very different ways. Some people love to hit daily metrics, others prefer long-term initiatives and projects with periodic check ins. This may sound like a great deal of work for you as a manager, however, capitalizing on the uniqueness of each of your team members promotes accountability, challenges the status quo, and builds a stronger team. 
  1. Spend an equal amount of time with each teammate—naturally whether for positive or negative reasons, you may end up spending more time with certain employees. While inevitable, it’s important that you closely keep track and give everyone the same amount of opportunity to get your attention and be heard. 
  1. Detailed note taking—whether leading a stand up or having a 1-on-1, it’s essential that you diligently take notes. Not only does this help team members feel that their voice is being respected, but you’ll commit to memory more of the conversations you are having with your team. Likewise, it’s always great to have documentation so you and your team members have a better understanding of how things have evolved from a performance point of view. Don’t forget the personal things too— birthdays, big plans, weddings, etc. 
  1. Actually get to know your team members—showing an interest in the lives of your teammembers helps them feel valued versus feeling like they are just a cog in a machine. Learn about their family, interests, hobbies, musical preferences, anything and everything! This helps build relationships and find mutual interests that don’t have to do with the sometimes monotonous professional world. 
  1. Ensure you’re fostering healthy 1-on-1s—devote time to your team members and make sure it’s valuable. 1-on-1s show you care about the personal and professional development of your team members, but they also serve as an environment for getting to know your employees’ aspirations, personality, strengths, and weaknesses. This will allow you to more easily tailor your management style. Be warned though, take this time seriously. Nothing erodes trust and comradery like a manager who sits on their phone or computer, doesn’t take any notes, and doesn’t show a true investment in their team members.  

What are the results of individualized management? 

Lackluster people management costs U.S. businesses over $1 trillion dollars (yes with a “T”) a year in lost productivity, absenteeism, and attrition. Most Americans, a shocking 65 percent, would rather have a new boss than a raise. So is individualized management worth the “extra investment?” 

Absolutely! By tailoring your management style to match the preferences of your team members, you can expect to see higher productivity, better performance, and fewer missed goals. However, those aren’t the only benefits you can expect. By individualizing your management, you can also expect to see a higher sense of pride, bolstered comradery, and healthier professional relationships.  


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