I shared a LinkedIn post the other day which seemed to resonate, and so I thought I’d take the time to expand slightly on my thoughts in this blog post.
People management is made out to be some incredibly complex topic. There is realms and realms of literature written on the subject. And yet, despite this, we are all familiar with the statistics telling us that the majority of people don’t leave their job, they leave their manager.
Which suggests that, however comprehensive these guides, training and recommendations on how to manage people are, we’re still not getting it quite right.
I’ve never been ‘taught’ to manage people. My approach to managing people in the workplace has always been founded on the same basic principles I use outside of work when it comes to interacting with others. With a couple of small modifications, I think it essentially boils down to seven things. And I defy anyone who consistently does all of these seven things not to be held in high esteem by their reporting employees… both as a manager, but also as a person.
#1 Treat everyone who works for you with respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration
This really shouldn’t even need to be said, yet somehow it’s this most fundamental of things which seems to be so easily forgotten. Everyone has the right to expect to be treated with respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration by everyone else. And there are no exceptions to this. None. Stressed? Under pressure? Need to hit a deadline? It doesn’t matter. The moment you forget basic manners and human decency is the moment you fail as a manager.
#2 Tell them what you need them to do
Sounds obvious, right? And yet so many managers forget to do this. Your team aren’t mind-readers. It’s impossible for them to perform as you expect them to if you haven’t set them the targets they need to be aiming for. Set clear, tangible, unambiguous goals, agree them with your team members, and revisit them frequently.
#3 Measure their performance against these goals
Not on the hours they spend in the office. Not on how you “feel” that they’re doing, or how well you get on with them socially. But on real, proven, facts. Delivery and performance has to be measured as objectively as possible, and when it becomes clear to everyone in your team that that’s what you’re doing, you immediately cement your position as a manager who is fair, goal-orientated… and who won’t be deciding the next round of promotions based on who was still sitting in the office at midnight or bought the last round of drinks in the pub.
#4 Enable them to live their life outside of work
For people to give of their best inside the office, they need to be able to give of their best outside of the office. The most successful managers are those who have worked with their teams to manage their workloads and achieve their delivery outputs, meaning both manager and team members can go home on time, switch off, and fully live their life outside of work. If you’re intolerant of the fact that people have a life away from the office, they’re unlikely to want to stay working for you for long.
#5 Provide regular, frank and constructive feedback
Feedback is so, so important, and can take less than a minute to give… yet is so frequently forgotten. For the manager/employee relationship to be a productive one, it needs to be based on trust. If there is a sense from the employee that feedback is not being given, or – almost worse – is being saved up to give at the annual appraisal, well past the point that the employee is able to act on it – then that trust very quickly erodes. Give regular feedback… and remember that positive feedback is just as critical, if not more critical, than identifying issues and ensuring that they are addressed.
#6 Talk to them
Again, it sounds like I’m stating the obvious. You’d be surprised at how many managers there are who fail completely to talk to their employees outside of formal, structured review sessions. Find ways to encourage conversation – about work, sure, but also about their lives outside of work. By talking, you’re building the relationship. By building the relationship, you’re building trust. By building trust, you’re maximising the chances of them delivering for you and for the business. Talking matters.
#7 Remember we’re all human
And finally… remember that we are all, every single one of us, human beings. Real, unpredictable, fallible human beings. Not “resources”. Not robots. People.
People have good days and they have bad days. They have days when nothing seems to go right for them, and days when they are able to deliver the seemingly impossible. There will be times when they will need your support… and there will be times when they will be there to support you.
We need to acknowledge our human traits. Acknowledge that we won’t get everything right first time. That we will fail. But that we will try again, and we will be smarter for what we now know.
Don’t penalise your employees for being human. Celebrate what they’re able to achieve, for precisely the fact that they are human.