How 4 Languages Will Make You The Best Manager


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If you ask most of his employees, Doug is the ideal manager. He rewards hard work by offering his staff days off, is often heard telling people they’ve done a great job when passing them in the hallways, and will stop to help his team anytime they ask.

While Doug feels he’s on the right track with almost all of his employees, he can never seem to get on the same page with Carrie. During their monthly group meetings she’s very quiet, his gifts for her hard work seem underappreciated, and when he tells the team they’ve all done a good job, it doesn’t seem like she really hears him.

Does any of this make Doug a bad manager or Carrie a troublesome employee? No. The issue is that Doug, like many good managers, isn’t speaking the same language as all of his employees.

Forming a solid relationship, or bettering the ones you already have with your employees, is crucial for employees to reach their full potential. According to a recent  Virgin Pulse survey, 60 percent of respondents said their relationship with their employer positively impacts their focus or productivity at work and 44 percent said it positively impacts their stress levels.

Nurturing positive working relationships with every single employee is a manager’s dream, but how can that be possible with so many different personality types? The key is understanding your employees’ languages.

The popular relationship book, The 5 Love Languages, points out we all need to be aware of what languages those around us are speaking in order to fully develop our relationships.

Here’s how you can take four of those languages and begin speaking to your employees in a way they’ll understand:

1. Language of Receiving Gifts

Often, employees who speak the language of receiving gifts are viewed as greedy, ungrateful, or never satisfied. However, this is simply their way of feeling recognized and appreciated. If you have employees who speak this language — and chances are you do — they’ll need frequent acknowledgement for their hard work with something tangible, not just a pat on the back.

You’re probably doing the numbers in your head and trying to figure out how this will fit into your budget, but gifts of recognition don’t need to break the bank. Try an online platform with recognition points they can cash in for gift cards, offer a day off after a successful project, or tools to help make their jobs easier.

2. Language of Words of Affirmation

Words, all words, have a major impact on employees when they respond to the language of affirmation through words. This group relies heavily on positive words of encouragement and frequent feedback. Hold two-way conversations with these employees to explain what they’re doing well and what’s expected of them, rather than demanding changes.

Even though positive words work well to motivate these employees, negative words have a profound impact as well. Productivity will crash when they feel inferior or as though they’ve done something wrong.

Of course, constructive feedback is sometimes necessary and can’t be held back for the sake of feelings. Use words of affirmation while delivering negative feedback. Approach situations with a positive comment about how their strengths can be used to fix the situation or better their work.

While those who respond to words of affirmation may seem needy and insecure, they’re really looking to ensure they’re doing their jobs well and that management is pleased with their performance.

3. Language of Quality Time

Carrie is quiet during group meetings and doesn’t express excitement when she receives gifts and affirmative words in passing because she speaks the language of quality time. This is where Doug and Carrie need to work on their relationship.

Employees like Carrie respond well to undivided attention. That doesn’t mean singling them out during team meetings — it means sitting down in a one-on-one setting where you can look them in the eyes and focus on their comments, questions, and needs.

When Doug doesn’t give Carrie the one-on-one attention she needs, she feels insecure in management, her own role, and considers looking elsewhere for a manager who can give her the focus she needs.

This doesn’t mean Carrie is looking for Doug to hold her hand through her day-to-day tasks — she’s not as needy as her language may make her seem. Instead, Carrie needs Doug to set up a consistent time each week, or even month, where she knows Doug can give her the quality time she needs to feel confident in her role and working relationship.

4. Language of Acts of Service

This is your all-about-teamwork crew. They want to know they can count on their managers and co-workers to help them through difficult tasks, or even take over while they’re away. Employees who speak the acts of service language may find themselves in a downward spiral after initial training and onboarding because the intense feeling of teamwork is suddenly taken away.

Offer team bonding exercises, mentors who can help employees grow, or pair co-workers who can back each other up when they take days off.

No matter what languages your employees speak, the most important key is always communication. Set up meetings and surveys to get a better glimpse into what motivates and encourages each one to do their best. This is how good employees grow into successful teams.

How do you make sure you’re speaking the same language as your employees? Let us know in the comments below!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.