I have spent the last 15 years in of my life working in professional services and thus have been managed by more senior people to me since that time. For the last 10 years I have, in various capacities, managed staff. People management is not a skill that can be taught rather it must be learned with real life experience. At least that is my experience.
I have been thinking a lot of late about effective people management, in the context of me taking on some new staff to manage, and from those thoughts wrote myself a short manifesto of the key ways I intend to manage the people who work for me. From that manifesto, here are my 5 keys to people management:
- Honesty: There is no other way to manage people in my view other than to be honest with them. Simply: if you don’t tell your people the truth, sooner or later they are going to find out you are lying to them and any respect they have for you will be gone.
- The only good feedback is direct feedback: You spend a lot of time with the people that you work with and those who work for you. The worst thing that one can do in this context is “beat around the bush” when it comes to giving feedback both positive and negative. If something good has happened: say it. If something bad has happened: say it. It is that simple.
- Empathy: It is very easy, particularly if you are managing a number of people, to loose site of the fact that the people you are managing have a life outside of work. That means that sometimes performance can be impacted on by the other things that are going on in your employee’s life. Be empathetic and open to talking about what is going on and try to help find solutions.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep: Nothing is more vexing than being promised something and then not receiving it. It is important then in the context of managing people that one does not make any promises that one can not keep. More to the point: don’t make a promise that requires something to happen to that you have no control over. You will just look foolish.
- It is not show friends, it’s show business … Managing people is about extracting the best performance of your staff for, ultimately, the betterment of your business. Whilst I would never advocate not being friendly with anyone you work with I think managers need to be careful that they do not become close friends with their staff. It is going to be more and more difficult to counsel and manage staff if you become a close friend of that staff member. This is not a popular view I know but I maintain that it is important to have a separation between friendships and work.
This is my road map for managing staff. No doubt you will have your own but I hope these tips are of some use if you have staff to manage.