Why you should pay attention to team's demographics

Great leaders know that treating each team member as an individual is worth the work. In this blog, executive leadership coach John M McKee shares ideas that can make a big difference.

Today - more than ever - a "one size fits all" approach in management style simply isn't effective.

I belong to The International Coach Federation.  The largest association of coaches worldwide, they have become the standard for the coaching industry.  In addition to developing training programs to ensure that people who call themselves coaches can actually deliver what clients expect, the ICF develops standards for behaviors and ethics.

In that space, it monitors trends. It looks at the needs of various industry sectors, businesses, and organizations.  To understand more about issues faced by individuals and companies, the Federation polls various constituencies.

In one study it asked questions about leadership. When looking at the relationship between the boss and subordinates, the study found - not surprisingly - that there are a few common values that are critical to a successful outcome. Those were ranked:

  1. Feeling that I am trusted
  2. Feeling challenged, feeling like I am growing
  3. Feeling good about myself
  4. Feeling competent and skilled
  5. Being appreciated for who I am and what I do
  6. Feeling excited about what I am doing or what is going on
  7. Feeling involved in activities that matter to me.

Noodle a bit on these values.  How you would value them?  Do you act that way with your subordinates?

That these values cut across both genders in the survey is hardly surprising. However, when asked about relationships on the job, the most commonly stated needs were sugared down a bit more.  These are worth noting:

Both genders indicated common needs in their relationships with managers.

1. Honesty and Integrity

2. Fairness

3. Discretion

4. Respect

5. Professionalism

More interesting was the prioritization by gender.

Women's prioritization:

1. Courtesy and consideration

2. Feeling valued and respected

3. Rewards and recognition

4. Respecting their space

Men's rankings:

1. Loyalty

2. Shared values

3. Friendship/companionship/shared interests

4. Unconditional acceptance and availability

The spirituality marker plays importantly. Because spirituality-grounded emotions are among the most powerful and behavior shaping, the extent to which they can impact how a manager interacts with subordinates is worth looking at:

Spiritual people had greater needs for:

1. Forgiveness

2. Love and emotional support

3. Courtesy

4. Valued and accepted as they are

5. Trusting

6. Dependability/reliability

Non-spiritual people ranked their needs as:

1. Shared values

2. Trust and honesty, (citing integrity, strong work ethic)

3. Loyalty and unconditional acceptance

4. Compassion and respect

5. Interesting conversation/good sense of humor

Knowing more about your team is just smart.  It develops a better bond and can significantly improve satisfaction and productivity.

Act accordingly.



John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...


Has anyone looked at the polling results? It shows a large disconnect between how the managers think they are performing and how the team think they are being treated. Granted that the manager and the team may not be filling out this survey. Perhaps the managers who use the "one size fits all" are not comfortable with admitting that. An interesting observation all the same.


We must cut the budget and make everybody follow all the rules. People at the top must make much more money, and have many fewer rules. Everybody must worship God and be loyal. No deviations will be tolerated. These are obvious rules for both public and commercial life.


None of the characteristics mentioned here is demographic. I will very politely recommend Heert Hofstede evaluation scale and his really demographic approach. Find his web site and get real knowledge needed...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Oh please , who did you canvas for that result? I require everything from my manager that they require of me...


otherwise known as a "manager". You manager might be incredibly supportive and good at what she does. But when you know that the people higher up don't give a hoot about any human beings working for them, and act that way, the buffer-factor your team leader supplies may not be worth much in the overall picture.


Your team is made up of individuals. Demographics is the viewing/grouping of large groups of the population by charecteristics like race, age and gender. And its just plain wrong headed to try to manage or communicate with a group of individuals based on demographic charecteristics. Its called stereotyping. Don't presume to know someone based on their race, religion, gender. If you want to get to know the values of your team, talk to them. Interact with them in non work situations. It isn't a choice between one size fits all and paying attention to demographics. Its a choice between managing a team of unique individuals, or making assumptions and stereotyping.


The best leaders are often the ones who are most "plugged in" to their team members values. It doesn't have to take a lot of time to do it.


My current employer makes managers see the results of the departments employee satisfaction surveys, and shares them with the department as well. A previous employer gave out managerial bonuses based on employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Happy employees make for happy customers.


Demographic - may not be the right word to be used here. I would understand this article to be addressing the issue of individuality. Each individual has different needs and the leader needs to be aware of them. One type of leadership style may not suit all individuals. Leader will need to change his/her style based on the individual and the situation. Demographic isn't always about race/gender. Demographic refers to grouping of individuals into pre-defined categories and the categories can be anything. If you have a couple of 20-year olds, a couple of mid-30s and a couple of 50-year olds in your team, then you have 3 demographics. You deal with them differently (again, I stress, based on situation). I am not saying you should have pre-set notions about the individuals because of their age. Their needs are different and you need to address those needs.


I interned in a polling firm at one point, and demographics are a key part of their studies. I chose to highlight the demographics that the author used. What I am suggesting is don't stereotype the 50 year old, or the 20 somethings, or the mid thirties. Don't assume that the 50 year old individual is a typical 50 year old. Treat them all as individuals. I've managed a team that spanned in age from 25 to 65. The 65 year old was very youthful and the most fit of all of us. If you are talking about a C level manager, then its a different story. But at a departmental level, any demographic based stereotyping is wrong.

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