It's a person, not a project. (Don't try to "fix" them.)

Musing for:

It’s a person, not a project

The words were painful to hear:

“I’ve always enjoyed working with you. I’ve always hated working for you.”

These words came from one of my direct reports in a one-on-one.

In our company, they had a reputation of being hard to work with. They were technically brilliant. And like many technically brilliant engineers, their people skills projected contempt of other people’s skills (or lack thereof).

When a reorganization made me their manager for a second time, I made it my goal to “fix” them. And I embarked on that project before I invested any effort in building a positive human connection in our new reporting relationship.

That was a mistake.

Treating people like they’re broken creates resentment. To feel like someone else’s project is disempowering and demotivating.

Remember that the other person is a human being. They have their own goals, challenges, and desires. Find out what they are. Figure out how you can help the person be successful. Then, within the framework of their own success, help them see where your company’s expectations of them are in their best interest.

And if there’s no alignment between their idea of success and your company’s expectations, you’ll have the kind of relationship that lets them explore other options while retaining their value and dignity.

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