Why knowing what makes their staff tick should be every manager’s cup of tea

I’ve been fine-tuning my tea-making skills today.

My first attempt at meeting an editor’s request for “builder’s tea” was a disappointment, to her at least.

Second time round, I matched the shade of the brew to her caffeine colour chart, and all was well.

Visiting seven offices on a fairly regular basis over the last ten months has lodged the hot drink preferences of my news desk and editor colleagues reasonably firmly in my mind.

Undoubtedly, some other piece of knowledge has been jettisoned by my memory to accommodate all this new drinks data.

But that’s fine.

Because knowing the little things that mean so much about people is important.

Few things impress me more than someone in a position of authority and responsibility who manages to recall the names of people he or she has barely met.

And that admiration reaches fever pitch if they can also remember something about that person’s family, sporting loyalties, interests or musical taste.

In the outside world, establishing such links helps in business networking, contact management and commercial negotiations.

But inside our own offices and newsrooms, the priority a manager places on taking time to get to know more about their people’s lives can speak volumes about their commitment to team-building and personal development.

When I do training sessions for editorial managers, one of the first activities is a highly informal mini-quiz about their team-mates: what’s X’s girlfriend called, how many children does Y have etc.

I’m happy to report that yesterday’s quiz was comprehensively well-answered.

We spend an awful long time with our work colleagues.

And luckily, most of the time we enjoy their company. You could bet your house that the line “It’s the people I’m going to miss the most” will be included in most journalistic leaving speeches.

But translating that camaraderie into real, positive and tangible team spirit needs effort.

There is no doubt in my mind that the teams which stay together the longest are the ones where the practicalities of rubbing shoulders with each other have been transcended by real, family-style bonds.

That’s why time spent finding out what makes your staff tick is never time wasted.

Even if it is just working out what colour they like their tea.


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