Do you know the family circumstances of every member in your team?

The Rottweiler school of management – insisting that employees leave their home lives firmly at the door – is thankfully dying out. There is a growing understanding that to get the best out of people, you have to actually treat them like human beings, not commodities, or resources, or worse still, robots.

It comes down to the need for emotional intelligence as part of a modern manager’s toolkit: the ability to identify and work with your own emotions, and those of the people in your team.

Why family life is significant

Having empathy in the workplace is not the same as being “soft” or undisciplined. Every company needs rules and a strong ethos and culture to make sure that core principles and behaviours continue. However, having a strong ethos and high standards is not the same as standing above staff as a leader, manoeuvring them from a dispassionate height, treating all employees by the same standards.

As a modern manager, identifying and addressing individual strengths and weakness is important – and sometimes, family circumstances are a key part of that picture.

Family life plays a role in motivation

To incentivise and support teams, you need to know what motivates them. For some, it may be money to keep the mortgage payments up. For others, it could be being the first in their family to achieve work-related qualifications. You may even have staff with heavy demands on their out of work time, who are motivated getting their tasks done quickly to make sure they leave on time each day.

So, like it or not, the home life of your employees is hugely significant. It will greatly influence their ability to not only turn up each day, but also to focus on their job. It will impact on how ready they are to stay later, work harder, contribute ideas and generally engage with you, whatever your leadership ability.

If someone has a rapidly developing situation at home such as serious illness or relationship breakdown, the picture may be changing daily or even hourly. This could dramatically affect their attitude, stress level and concentration on the task at hand.

Past and contemporary attitudes to work-life balance

Great industrialists of the past such as Lord Leverhulme (Unilever) and the Cadbury family got it right. They grasped that if they provide employees with better living conditions, health support and even out-of-work entertainment, they became more conscientious, unified and motivated as a workforce.

So what can you do?

The modern day equivalent of the Cadbury model is to encourage a sensible work-life balance and providing flexibility. Flexibility could encompass a number of things: working hours, location, remote access to systems and documents, buying additional holiday, unpaid leave, tailoring the reward/benefits package etc. etc. The key thing is that if you can be flexible and accommodate your team’s changing circumstances, then that is a great way of building loyalty and demonstrating commitment to them which, hopefully, will be reciprocated when you next need them to be responsive to your changing demands.

Intuitive and responsive leadership means getting to know your staff, including the basics of what pushes and pulls them outside the workplace.

For more insights on getting the best of teams through modern and effective management, get in touch with the “family” at St Andrews Highway.

Image credit: Family by katgrigg licensed under Creative commons 4