I am a solid manager and a caring human. My lesson is about how you can be a fantastic boss following the best practices and fail those who work for you. My employee is a wonderful person who came to work for me at the company. Let’s review that statement. She came to work for me, the person who would be her manager. We both work mutually at the company. I forgot that nuance and paid the price.
A manager is there to develop employees with the structure and support of the company. Some companies are more structured ensuring a more consistent experience. Other companies are less formal leaving the specifics of support to the manager. I was in the latter group and felt fortunate that I was able to bring on each of my team members individually. I could wrap my personal commitment within the positions they were taking with me.
Over time with my team members we created that structure that comes with a more mature organization. Those who remained on my direct team as we grew came to have a similar level of experience and specific areas of responsibilities. In time my team hired team members of their own and created personal commitments with those new employees.
I celebrated milestones for everyone along the way creating a culture of awareness and recognition. I didn’t have an appreciation for how personal it was that I was making announcements or writing the note cards of praise. As the company matured we had a team who handled recognition engaging the right person to deliver the message or write the card. I was pleased we were timely and consistent in our delivery and that we had improved as we matured from my handwritten and sometimes cheesy awards.
I was wrong in my assumption and it lost me the connection I had with my employee.
When it came to the 5 year anniversary for one of my more tenured team members, one that had stuck with me through it all and shared that personal commitment, I missed on being personal. I made sure the recognition team had the gift she picked out for her anniversary ready. I publically recognized her in the monthly team meeting where we would make sure to let the entire team appreciate the person. I felt good about her tenure. I felt the process worked and she was rewarded. I was naïve and clueless as to what she really wanted.
About a month after the anniversary date one of her topics for our one on one meeting was about her anniversary. It was her way of being able to discuss the absence of any personal recognition from me, the person she made a commitment to, about her anniversary mark. I realized my simple yet critical error. I got up from my side of the desk and sat next to her to apologize. I wanted to earn that commitment back that we had for so many years. What she wanted was the handwritten card with the personal comments that connected me with her work and time that had been shared for 5 years. It was so simple, it was something I had done before and I missed it.
She had the courage to remind me that people work for people. She reminded me how we moved mountains to get the structure we created at the company. She reminded me of why we celebrate anniversaries and the commitment they represent. She reminded me I had lost my human touch and personal connection.
I am a human who was her manager. Now I am just a manager working to get the human connection back.
Have you lost your human connection?