“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” ~Vince Lombardi

"Your department is made up of human beings. Of mothers, sons, daughters, fathers. Finding ways to show our staff that we care and appreciate them, and finding ways to positively reinforce behavior is one of the cornerstones of any great management strategy." ~from The Manager's Diary: Thinking Outside the Cubicle

There are all types of articles that will tell you about the importance of treating everyone equally in your organization. While it is true that you should never discriminate, you cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to management. This mis-application of the equality principle handicaps your leadership and holds you people back.

Below are five reasons that you need to avoid treating your team members the same:

Creating Stronger Professional Relationships

We do not live in a cookie cutter world and people are tired of feeling like a digital code instead of a real person. In order to have a strong relationship with anyone, you must respect that person as an individual.

By acknowledging individuality, you begin to build trust and enhance communication. These are the cornerstones of a strong relationship, whether it is personal or professional. Strengthened relationships will make it easier for each of you to convey happiness, dissatisfaction and other feelings and thoughts regarding performance. This back and forth feedback is an essential element in any high performing group.

Developing Strengths

You want each member of your team to maximize their job performance. When you see and treat each person as an individual, it allows you to help them cultivate their own strengths. They are empowered to act according to their own areas of expertise.

The reality is that everyone excels in some areas while lagging behind in others. Although it is possible for a person to refine truly weak areas, these will never become their best assets. Employees who are able to identify their strongest areas will continue to grow those skills, making them more valuable to the organization.

Empowering Employees

The best working environment has employees who feel empowered to make good choices for their department or area of expertise. This is done through encouragement by management and freedom to take chances. If you have taken the time to learn about your staff, you can assign tasks that you know will be challenging but that they have the skills to accomplish. This simply isn’t as effective in an environment where individual strengths and weaknesses are not taken into account.

Each time an employee makes a decision that has a positive outcome, their self-esteem grows. Even in times when the results were less than favorable, a lesson can be learned that will help them to make a more informed choice in the future. This building confidence and empowerment steadily increases their productivity.

Cultivating Creativity

Though the word "creativity" may bring to mind artists immersed in canvases and color palettes, everyone actually has a creative side. However, some forms of creativity are not always recognized or appreciated for what they are. A common catchphrase for this is "thinking outside of the box."

For instance, something as mundane as filing may seem to be a cut-and-dried routine that is essentially the same from one company or department to another. However, an empowered employee may see a creative way to develop a more efficient system based on their knowledge of the specific situation. If individuality is not respected and brought out in team members, you may find that they don’t know that they are allowed to be creative and therefore don’t even tap into that area of their expertise.

Improving Morale

In order to have a strong, effective team, you need for everyone to feel good about working for your organization. When employees feel like little more than a number or a cog in the machine, morale is weak and they do the absolute minimum to collect their pay at the end of each week.

On the other hand, when each person is respected as an individual for their contributions to the team, company morale soars. Not only does a positive interaction further empower the employee involved, it boosts the feelings of those who are aware of it also.

While there absolutely needs to be a framework within an organization that fosters equality of treatment and mechanisms for carrying on business, to extend this to leadership is to put a stranglehold on the potential of the team.