Dan Heffernan

Managing People - Your Greatest Asset

Your people are likely your greatest business asset. This is certainly true in our business: software development and services. Sure, we have our intellectual property – the software itself – but it’s the people using their intellects to develop it and apply it to our clients’ business needs that creates the real value proposition.

People are fragile human beings. It doesn’t take much to crush us. I consider it one of my most important roles to take care of the human beings on my team. If I neglect to do this, I’m risking the motivation, satisfaction, and productivity of my greatest business asset.

Here is my list of the top 6 actions I need to take to keep my team happy, energized, and effective:

  1. Listen. Actively. I try to make sure I’m really understanding what is being said, letting the person talk without interrupting, or I might be risking that he or she will stop sharing whatever is on their mind. When I listen, the person tells me exactly what they need.

  2. Care. Sincerely. I try to be compassionate when they’re suffering, and ask them the next day how that situation is going. People suffer with issues around their kids, their spouse or significant other, from depression, anxiety, loss, rejection, lack of motivation, self-doubt and much more. I try to be in tune to this, but without going so far as to pry. Many are uncomfortable sharing personal information with their supervisor. I ask them sincerely, “is there anything I can do to help you?”

  3. Encourage. I try to tell them when they’re doing a great job. And that they’re a valuable member of the team and why. And tell them when I’ve seen them grow. I have had the experience of encouraging someone and having that person tell me that those words kept them from looking for a new job.

  4. Challenge. Sometimes people need a little push to try something new, but that push needs to be from someone who believes in them. I try to tell people how they can improve. Most people will welcome the honesty and respond positively.

  5. Nurture. I try not to forget to make sure my people get enough “water and sunlight” in their day-to-day work. We celebrate victories and improvements. I give them kudos when they’ve succeeded, brag about them in front of others, and thank them for their efforts. I’m sure I need to work on nurturing more.

  6. Trust. Some might qualify this with “trust but verify.” But I’ve seen what perceived mistrust from one’s boss can do to kill motivation and productivity. Turning that situation around by communicating trust can completely change a person’s attitude toward their work. 

These are my six – not an exhaustive list, by any means, but six key tasks for me to do consistently or put at risk my most important asset.

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