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We like John better… What about you?

Many years ago I worked for a large American conglomerate as a project manager. Among other things I had to look after employee motivation in our Asian operations.

One of the major factors in motivation was a staff member’s relationship with their manager. Some people were very happy with their managers and others were clearly not. This was a problem that I didn’t know how to solve. So I thought up a fun experiment.

I asked to spend some time working closely with the highest and lowest-rated managers. This would give me an opportunity to work closely with them. Before we proceed, let me tell you a little about them.

Vivek (not his real name) graduated from IIT (a reputable university in India). He went on to work for a famous Indian tech company and moved up the ranks fast before being hired by an American company and moving overseas.

John (not his real name) started work in the logistics warehouse of an Australian company as a loader. He didn’t have a degree but he was sharp. He gradually moved up the ranks until he became a manager. Incidentally, his company was bought by my American employer and that was how our paths crossed.

Between Vivek and John, who do you think is the manager whose team was the most engaged? And whose was the least?

Yup, John was the favorite manager. If two managers are equally good with their technical skills but only one of them is a team player, who will be boss hire or promote? The answer is obvious.

Employers do not only want professional expertise and experience in their employees. They are also looking for the ability to build rapport with customers and coworkers along with Interpersonal and communication skills that will help leaders steer teams effectively. So when thinking about how you might stand out and advance faster, consider building these traits and skills.

Oh, and there is an epilogue to this story. Vivek was eventually moved to a position where he didn’t have anyone reporting to him. He was still valuable to the company, but this people skills sucked. John went on to become the president of the company’s operations in the ANZ region.

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