This morning I had a meeting at my son’s school with several of his teachers and his counselor to discuss his work. Sam (13) is an extremely bright individual, who rarely turns in assignments. Although it is great to be smart, it is even better when your grades reflect it. Apart from his winning smile and beginnings of teenage attitude, Sam is unlike his peers. He was diagnosed at age 7 with pediatric bipolar disorder.
Many schools would flunk Sam from the 7th grade, but fortunately the staff at his middle school shows great leadership qualities in that they are willing to take great measures to ensure success. The goal is for Sam to own responsibility for his schoolwork. Obviously past efforts have not worked, so it was time to try something else. We needed to get the homework turned in first, then begin work on the responsibility aspect.
I am a firm believer that the diagnosis does not make the person. As a parent, I set high expectations for success, which includes doing homework. The further behind Sam gets, the more stressed he becomes and the less likely he is to participate at all in class. After several months of missing or incomplete assignments, Sam’s teachers and I decided they will email me each day with any work that is due.
As a manager or leader, you are forced to work with all types of employees. There are some who quickly and willingly complete tasks and others who never turn theirs in on time. What makes an extraordinary leader is one who sees past the stereotypes and learns how to communicate to each individual’s needs, thereby inspiring outstanding performance by all.
The expectation is not that you are perfect in every way and magically relate well with everyone. But to truly be effective as a leader, you cannot compare your best employee (favorites) to one who struggles. They both add value in different ways, and it is your job to discover and utilize their value. When you unlock the secret to your worker’s needs, you make it possible for him to find success.