Managing People

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Managing peopleEffective managers are good at managing people. This means having the skills to get the best out of people. It doesn't mean narrowly controlling them. Skilled managers are good at inspiring, coaching, empowering, developing and motivating people. 

There is a fine balance to be struck. Managers need to serve the needs of the business first and foremost but do so in a way that employee needs are met as well.

Managers can't be too nice or friendly with employees because there is no avoiding their responsibility to the business and this means making hard decisions about people: who to hire, who to promote, who to delegate challenging tasks to, how much to pay people, who to discipline and who to let go when performance isn't meeting expectations. That is why good managers will use all the tools at their disposal from PSA software to HR software.

Essential People Management Skills

Skilled managers succeed in motivating people to achieve business goals. That is the manager's main purpose. Sounds simple but incredibly hard to do effectively.

Hard Realities

Managers can't be too nice or friendly with employees because there is no avoiding their responsibility to the business and this means making hard decisions about people: who to promote, who to delegate challenging tasks to, how much to pay people, who to discipline and who to let go when performance isn't meeting expectations. 

Consider the problem of what to pay people. No business today can pay people as much as they would like to be paid. Hyper competition demands sensitivity to prices. To be competitive, all businesses need to strike the right balance between paying people enough to keep them while not paying them so much that their products or services are too expensive for their markets.

No matter how much a manager might like to develop people, there is always the cost of that development to consider and this is never unlimited. It is not that managers want to be stingy but they must always keep in mind the impact on the competitiveness of their business's pricing.

Soft Skills

Keeping hard business realities in mind, what are the critical people skills that effective managers need? The hard realities of business mean that managers can't literally serve the needs of their employees but they will be successful if they are relatively selfless.

Being selfless means putting the needs of others ahead of your own. But managers need to balance the needs of their bosses and those of their employees. Putting the needs of one set of stakeholders too much ahead of the other is career suicide, a recipe for failure.

Selfless managers pay a lot of attention to what motivates individual employees. More than that, they are continually letting employees share the limelight. They give them due credit for their achievements rather than being self-promoting and hogging the limelight.

Employees are made to feel valued by managers who ask them for their input to the solutions of problems. Managers who are less selfless prefer to do all their own thinking, solve all their own problems and make all their own decisions. Often there isn't time to involve employees in making important decisions, but they can at least ask employees what they think when they come to the manager to ask what to do to solve a problem.

Managers who are quick to give their own solutions are too focused on their own sense of satisfaction for being seen as knowledgeable. They thus fail to develop the problem solving skills and confidence of their employees.

Skilled managers are thus more than just good communicators. That is, they recognize that it is not just about delivering clear, consistent messages regularly. More importantly, they foster frequent two-way dialogue with the aim of making employees feel engaged and valued by asking them for their suggestions.

The best managers are therefore active listeners. They do more question asking and less talking. Self-centered managers ask factual questions to gather information to make their own decisions.  More selfless managers ask what employees think more often.