People Management: how to be a manager?
Being a manager has everything to do with people management. It is a journey where you learn and discover your fullest potential and the potential of others. There is not one correct way to manage a team, but my experience has taught me some important lessons which I will share with you in this article.
Do you want to be a manager?
I often ask this question, especially to young and ambitious people who have passion for what they are doing. If they are respected for their individual contribution and their professional competence, there is often an important moment in their life when they have to decide if the next step in their career is into (people) management and becoming a manager.
I was asked the question ‘do you want to be a manager?’ many years ago and it profoundly changed my life. I was, like many other people, deeply passionate about my work, in my case IT and programming. I was ambitious and enthusiastic. Influenced by my own experiences and preconceived ideas, my first reaction was a categorical denial:
“I’m no good at managing people, I don’t like it, I don’t want to be a manager.”
People Management was not a vision I had for myself, and it was not a personal aspiration. Fortunately, I had the chance to think about the proposal and reconsider the challenge. I was lucky enough to meet a special kind of individual who, by asking the right questions, influenced my destiny. Finally, I accepted the people management role, and I’ve never regretted this decision.
What can you learn as a manager?
Starting as a manager can be frightening at times. I realised I experienced fear of the unknown, a fear of potential failure or of looking foolish. You will always keep learning as a manager, as in any other role. And experience has taught me a few things about being a manager:
1. Confront your fears
My first learning was that fear must be confronted. Our own positive experiences, especially the successful ones, may help create a comfort zone around us. Any possibilities or options to step beyond our comfort zone tend to be seen as negative or are even feared.
We should try new experiences, get out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. This is the only way to know ourselves better, to discover new talents and passions.
2. Prep and plan when making the switch to becoming a manager
The second lesson is that leaving our comfort zone requires preparation and planning. Moving from being a good individual contributor to people management is a significant transition.
This process should be understood, prepared for, and planned. Another important question is: Can you be a manager? Do you know what changes should be made in your skills, mindset and influence to become a good manager?
What are people management skills?
People Management Skills are often called ‘soft skills’ where you’re building a relationship and creating trust among the team members. It is about communicating well and connecting with your team. Other examples of ‘soft skills’ are being a coach, a good communicator, expressing personal interest in colleagues, empowering and delegating, and having a clear vision. Developing these skills will lead to better results, a happier team, and a better work environment.
When we make the first steps toward “people management” we’re still individual contributors, respected for our skills. As managers, the situation changes completely.
Our responsibility moves from our personal activity to that of the whole team and of each team member. The required skills change too, while respect and trust are won in a very different way.
For example, in the hierarchy of the top habits of highly effective Google managers (Project Oxygen), technical skills are the last on the list, while soft skills are one of the most important.
Here are some people management skills for which managers are respected. I’ve added a few questions for you as food for thought.
Managers listen to their team, plus they ask for and give constructive feedback.
Feedback, both positive and negative (constructive), is a very important motivating factor. Too often we have the habit of speaking “about” colleagues instead of talking “with” them. By the way, when have you been praised by your manager? How often do you praise the activity of your colleagues? How often are you giving or getting “uncomfortable” feedback?
The manager establishes individual and team objectives.
The manager delegates and avoids micromanagement. Micromanagement can cause mistrust and create a lack of confidence among your team members. Of course, trust has an important role. How much do you trust your manager? How much does your manager trust you? How much do you trust your colleagues? By establishing objectives for yourself and your team, you can work toward them together and ensure accountability within the company.
The manager facilitates building a team spirit.
The manager integrates new colleagues and builds a team ethos. How many synergies do you have in your team? What is your contribution towards helping new colleagues and building team spirit?
The manager is results-oriented.
The manager establishes priorities and removes obstacles, while involving colleagues in the decision-making process. How much are you involved in decisions in your team? How often are you asked for your opinions? How much are you interested in your colleagues’ opinions?
The manager is a good communicator at the individual and team level, both formally and informally.
The manager encourages open dialogue and is accessible. When did you have your last meeting with your manager? How often are you meeting your colleagues?
People development & Management
Knowing your colleagues, their strengths and weaknesses, being interested in their development and success, are priorities of the manager. People Development is an important part of management. It is all about being involved, learning and developing.
People Development & Soft Skills
We have talked about an important part of people management before, namely soft skills. Unfortunately, we do not usually learn these “soft” skills at school. I have seen that quite often, great individual contributors are promoted as people managers. Feeling they are the best; they want to be involved in solving every important problem. They don’t delegate and do not help their colleagues grow. The negative consequences for team performance are unavoidable.
Fortunately, “soft” skills can be learned and developed. First, we must understand how important these skills are for successful people managers. Then we must develop them through practice, to train continuously. Our attitude plays a key role, we must be “hard” with ourselves to constantly overcome our obstacles. Having or developing strong willpower is a key priority.
People Management Programs
If you have realised that you want to be a manager, that you can be a manager, getting respect and results, another important question is: do you like to be a manager? This is key for the sustainability of your effort, whatever you’re doing. Passion is a great source of motivation and positive energy, in this case, the passion of working with people. We’re all willing to do what we like. Do you like what you do?
Do you have your vision about management, the strong willpower to develop the capabilities, the enjoyment in what you’re doing? If the answer is yes, you may add another question: why? It’ll help you to go deeper in finding even more reasons.
If you are keen to move into a management or leadership role or want to improve your skills in this area, our team at Hansen Beck have a range of development programs to support you. Contact us today to find out how.