Everything has a "type". You could spend hours scouring the internet learning about different personalities; have you ever heard of the Hartman Personality Profile? It breaks people down by color—red, blue, yellow, and white. It’s eerie in its accuracy and you’d be hard pressed to find one person you couldn’t fit into a color category. What’s your sign? Not just a cheesy pick-up line. The fact is, we’re always trying to figure out what moves and motivates the people we meet. From a professional standpoint, you’re not going to welcome an employee into your office and discuss how their Virgo-ness may affect the schedule and who they work with. You’re going to talk to them like a human being and find out what makes them tick. Not everybody likes outlines but being a "Red" Libra (you’ll look those up later), I’ve created an easy-to-follow outline for finding out who you’re working with. From there, you can make decisions delegating responsibilities.
Set a meeting time. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. People need to know when they’re coming or going.
Be friendly. No one wants to feel uncomfortable in your presence. Be the man behind the curtain, not the great Wizard of Oz. Say "Hello" and ask how they’re doing (and mean it). Listen when they speak.
Explain why you’re meeting. Find out if there are any issues they’re experiencing on the floor, and brainstorm strategies to minimize the impact of these issues, or eradicate them completely. Understand that not all issues can be solved in a single meeting. That’s okay–make a plan to revisit this topic at scheduled intervals further down the road.
Create a respectful environment. Shelve your negativity—you want your employees to trust you enough to tell you when something’s wrong. "There are no stupid questions" – an old adage that has to hold true. Your employees are vulnerable right now. They may have missed something "obvious". Gently point them in the right direction and continue to steer the course. Know who you’re talking to before you begin the conversation. Some people respond well to jokes and sarcasm, others do not. Remember, for every positive thing you say, it’s that one negative remark you make that will be remembered.
Let it all sink in. The conversation may have come out of left field for your employee, or it may not have gone the way they expected it to. Give them time to process. If they don’t have much to say in the moment, it’s ok! Schedule a time, after they’ve digested the conversation, to revisit the topic.
Don’t be reactionary. You may want to react to something you’ve been told, but you too should let it all sink in before responding in a way you might later regret.
Slow down. If you ask a question and nobody responds right away, don’t feel the need to fill the silence. Take a sip of your coffee, look around the room, gauge people’s reactions and invite them to speak. If no one responds, bring up a question someone may have had earlier: "I know there was some confusion regarding the prices on _______". We discussed that it is $X for ___________. Is there still any confusion surrounding this?"
Debrief, document and follow up. Take notes—while it may seem quite formal, this is an essential step. Send a follow up email that details the topics discussed. Include their concerns and your responses to them. Invite them to schedule a follow-up meeting with you at their convenience. Don’t let their concerns fall by the wayside—you care, and you need them to know that. Keep these notes on hand and review them at the start of your next meeting.
By following this simple format, you’re likely to create an environment where your employees feel valued and heard. Sure, you can spend hours on the internet reading about different colors and star signs, or you can approach your employees in a way that fosters mutual respect and openness. Remember, stick to meeting times, be friendly, be respectful, let it all sink in, and follow up. We may even revisit this in next week’s tip!
Evan Kestenbaum, MBA is the co-founder and COO of GPN Technologies, the landmark company that created EDGEPro. Evan’s entrepreneurial expertise and his focus on continuous improvement were vital in the development and success of EDGEPro, which has revolutionized analytics and business intelligence for ophthalmic professionals. Evan has also been deeply engaged in coaching and dispensary management for hundreds of practices during the past 10 years. He is the co-owner of Optix Family Eyecare in New York, one of Long Island’s largest Optometry practices. In his free time, Evan enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.