Requiring and relating, Part 1

To be a good manager, you have to care about your employees. However, there's another side to this coin. To be a good manager you also have to help your employees grow, and to do that you have to enforce deadlines and deliver feedback. Whenever either subject comes up, I usually get e-mail from readers stating, "But I'm not good at the personal stuff" or "I have a hard time dealing with conflict."

Recently, I received a book that addresses both of these aspects, "The 2R Manager," by Peter Friedes. Friedes' theory is that managers are naturally either better relaters or requirers. Yet to be a complete manager, motivate your staff and get the results you want, you have to be a relater and a requirer. Having one but not the other shortchanges your staff and detracts from your managerial abilities. "To do your job well you need to require of people and care about their future and help them grow," he says.

Friedes says the two skills are the foundation for your management success. If you can require and relate well, every aspect of your management would improve.

To start, Friedes says you need to understand if you're currently overrequiring or overrelating. Overrelaters need to be liked too much and overrequirers need to dominate. IT professionals are more likely to be overrequirers, he notes.

Friedes acknowledges that many mangers are weak in their relating skills; they may be shy or uncomfortable, or they just may not know what to talk about. To improve overrequirers' relating skills, he advises they spend time talking to their employees not about their personal lives, but about the projects the staffer is working on. "Since overrequirers are task-oriented, they can't go to their people and say, 'How are you doing?' But they can talk about the tasks themselves.

"The first thing they can do is make sure they know what their staff is doing on those tasks and how the tasks are going," he adds. "Through that process they'll have to talk to their people. If they ask good questions about the task, they will be relating. They don't have to know personal stuff."

By knowing how your employees are faring on a project and helping them avoid obstacles, you will show them that you care, Friedes says. Yet he notes it's incredibly important that you listen and be attentive, as requirers are traditionally not good listeners. "Managers do not give respect when they don't listen, and that's when they lose people," he says. "When you're an overrequirer, slow down and listen. Most of the time the overrequirer thinks he knows where people are going and jumps in and interrupts them. That will close down people real fast."

Listening is the first place to start, Friedes says. "Listen with the purpose of understanding. What is this person trying to say to me, and have I given them enough time to say it? Very few of us say exactly what we're trying to say the first time, we need to elaborate," he says.

Overrelaters, take heart. Next time, we'll examine what to do if you have a hard time enforcing goals or facing conflict.

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