In recent months, I’ve watched a CurrentTrack agency grow exponentially. I’ve worked closely with their traffic managers to review their workflow process and made recommendations about how it should be adapted to handle increasing project volume.

Throughout the review process, I’ve been intrigued by the broad spectrum of personalities involved.

Now, more than ever, I believe that knowing employees on a personal level is critical to the success of the traffic department.

We’re all unique individuals. Numerous things motivate us and we each operate differently in the work environment. If you’re a traffic manager, step back for a moment and look at each member of your team. What do you really know about them? What do they value? What do they like to do in their spare time? What type of work ethic do they display?

By getting to know employees more closely, you gain an advantage as a traffic manager. You then know how to more quickly get the work done and how to reward employees in a meaningful way. Let me give you an example.

While the traffic manager of a medium-size agency, I worked with a designer named Christian. He was a pretty laid back guy who took pride in his work. He paid attention to detail and wasn’t afraid to ask questions, although most of the time he worked quietly at his desk. On the weekends, he loved to listen to music and spend time with his family. He’d been a part of the creative industry for many years so he knew how things worked. Although certainly a team player, Christian didn’t typically go “above and beyond” to help out around the office. He would help if asked, but didn’t volunteer.

Because I knew so much about Christian, I was able to more efficiently “traffic” him. I put tasks on his list as far out as possible. I knew he’d want a lot of job details (more than other designers), so I carefully gleaned requests and talked with the account executive(s) if anything was missing. Whenever possible, I included due times for tasks because he liked knowing that information. I also knew he needed to leave promptly at 5 p.m. each day to pick up his son, so I tried to give him a heads up if I thought something was going to take longer than usual. In the middle of a busy week, I might reward him with a $5 iTunes gift card just to say, “Thanks for working so hard!” While he didn’t seek approval from anyone, he liked knowing he was appreciated and that motivated him to work even harder.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to park yourself at an employee’s desk and ask a barrage of questions. You already know a lot of the answers. You simply have to take the time to step back and observe. Getting to know team members on a personal level will not only help you become a better traffic manager, but you’ll also gain the respect of your peers.

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