Leaders love energized people. It’s easy therefore to lament the de-energized team member. Sometimes a lack of energy is beyond the influence of the leader. At these moments, tough decisions may be required. Yet, influencing the disengaged back to potency may be within the reach of a leader. Chances of influence increase if you develop two skills: profiling people and inserting appropriate fuel. In the remainder of this post, let’s consider the skill of profiling people.

Profile people

Dan was a highly talented director in a sales organization. His team loved him. Cindy, his leader, relied heavily on his ability to make things happen. “When I give Dan something to do, I never have to worry about it,” she reflected to me in a coaching session. Occasionally in their meetings, Cindy would notice a restlessness in Dan. He would become out of sorts and unhappy with, well… everything. At first Cindy chalked up these times to normal stress or to some non-work related issue.

Over time she noticed Dan’s restlessness was connected to something else–something she could influence. His restlessness was connected to boredom with his work. Dan would talk about the frustration of babysitting certain team members or he would talk about his ambition in ways that made Cindy wonder if he was pondering a move. It finally dawned on Cindy that Dan’s restlessness was a cry for a big challenge. Maintaining the status quo was not enough for Dan. He needed something more, something bigger, to remain engaged.

Great leaders take the time to understand the nuances of personality, emotional tendencies-triggers, and motivators that are unique to different team members. The outwardly reflective leader reads and studies people. Then, through intentional noticing she constructs flexible hypotheses about the unique make-up of team members. She watches for and test those hypotheses over time in order to determine validity. The more she reads, studies, and tests her assumptions, the more accurate the read becomes. This is the skill of positive profiling.

Practice profiling

  • Attend to the likes and dislikes of team members
  • Listen for personal preferences in non-work related conversations
  • Notice patterns of behavior (cyclical, situational, relational)
  • Watch the interactions team member’s have with each other
  • Craft tentative and flexible hypotheses about team members
  • Test hypotheses (more on this in the next post)
  • Seek feedback from team member’s in order to confirm or alter your hunches

Stay tuned for the second skill…