You are asked to become a manager for the first time. You will lead a group who used to be your peers or maybe a group you don’t know at all. For some, and probably most, this can be an intimidating and uncertain situation. Many young managers are unprepared for this and eventually find themselves in a situation where subordinates challenge your authority, defy your orders and eventually leave your team, one by one. In this article we focus on how to avoid this situation by practicing the basic principles of becoming a “People Manager”.
What new managers should know.
The world is changing. In Taiwan, we have moved from Manufacturing-Factory to a modernized digital world of technology and commerce. However, you will still find the old guard management culture still embedded in companies, which clashes with a new generation of workers and ideals.
Modern day workforce
The workforce is very different these days, especially in developed societies and modern office environments. Gone are the factory workers who willingly do what they are told to get a paycheck. Today’s university educated work force want something more in their careers – they yearn for a little respect, and work that is meaningful and purposeful.
Image by Israel Andrade at unsplash.com (edited)
But still, many companies continue to employ factory-style management. In these companies, you will find employees, who are frustrated, resentful, and uninspired. They eventually leave the company or tolerate their situation for a paycheck. Nevertheless, it’s an uncomfortable situation all the way around.
Who are these “New Managers”?
People are promoted to management or group leader positions because they are exceptional engineers, programmers, designers, accountants, not because of their managerial skills.
Some new managers may feel empowered to lead a team, give orders, make decisions, and display their superior skills and intelligence. This is typical young manager hubris, which usually turns people off immediately.
The other type of new manager is utterly terrified of ordering around their new staff, some of who might have more experience and even more technical skills. In some cases, your former colleagues, who were once your lunch partners, are now taking their directions from you.
Both of these awkward and difficult situations but can be remedied by learning “people skills”.
Companies don’t train you in “people skills”
In many companies there is dearth of training for managers. I’m not talking about the administrative or even the technical aspects of the job. I’m talking about preparing you to deal with people – after all, it is they who will define your team’s success and ultimately your own. It behooves you as a manager to know how to gain their trust and inspire them to do good work. Alas, most managers walk into their situation blind.
In lieu of this void, there are some simple guidelines that can almost ensure you will be liked and respected as a good leader.
The Best Managers are “People Managers”
Managing a team means bringing together a group of diverse people, from different backgrounds, experiences and characters. The best managers today can inspire, motivate and harness the collective efforts of a team to accomplish great, if not good things. They are the “People Managers” and I have enumerated some things that can help you become one.
1. Build Trust
I start with this one, because if there is anything you need to remember, it is “building trust”.
You do this by making sure every individual on your staff understands one thing – and that is, you are there to help them learn, grow and achieve. As soon as they realize this, they feel you are on their side, and you will gain a pound of trust.
Do these things:
- Know your employees – skills, experience, education and character
- Give them proper training to accomplish the tasks that lie before them.
- Make sure they have a path to learn and grow
- Set clear expectations – don’t be fickle
- Stand by them always – listen and learn to say “How can I help?”
- Help each person find one thing they can excel at, above everyone else in your group.
And remember that every person is different. Some people need to be pushed, some guided, some listened to, and some just want you to get out of the way. You have to adjust to each person (know your employees).
When you have team members who are older, or more experienced, or who have been your colleagues, don’t treat them as subordinates – treat them as your equals. You are more of a “facilitator” (not their manager) in this case, and they will respect you for that.
2. Leave your EGO at the door – Be genuine
Your own ego is one of the most difficult aspects for a manager to handle, and it interferes with your relationships. Ego is important, but in a team environment, it can be detrimental unless you can control it. Do these things to help you curb your ego:
- Learn how to say “I don’t know”
- Ask for opinions – “What do you think?”
- Praise by saying, “Good Job”
- When you are wrong simply say, “Sorry, my mistake”
- Accept the fact that your employees are or will be smarter and more skilled than you.
You’d be surprised how difficult it is for certain managers do these things. But if you do, you will become a genuine and self-realized manager, and you’ll earn a pound of trust.
3. Be a Teacher-Coach, not an Emperor-Policeman
An executive for Seven-Eleven chain stores once said “if you want to be a good manager, stop being an Emperor-Policeman and start being a Teacher-Coach”.
Emperors are always controlling and condescending. Policemen are always suspicious. Who likes to be controlled, belittled and watched over 5 days of the week?
Why a coach? Why a Teacher?
- Coaches are positive, supportive. “It’s ok, get up, try again, you can do it”
- A teacher’s goal is to help you learn and grow – it’s their mission in life
- Both help you become disciplined and understand the merits of hard work
- Both of their efforts are unconditional – it’s for you and it’s for the team
That’s why we love them – a People Manager is a coach and a teacher – that will gain you another pound of trust.
4. Learn how to negotiate
A good People Manager knows how to negotiate:
- Leave your ego at the door – many negotiations end up in divisive arguments because it gets “personal”. Stop being territorial, defensive and irrational.
- Look for compromise – When you are at an impasse, search for the middle ground
- Win sometimes, lose sometimes. When you concede, others will too.
- Stop talking and start listening – Managers love to talk, but often don’t listen. Learn to listen and understand.
- Learn to sacrifice to help make others better.
5. Be positive, before being negative
I’ve listened to a lot of managers evaluate employee work, giving suggestion after suggestion, without a single encouraging word. If you don’t encourage, suggestions turn to criticism, and eventually criticism turns into complaining. You will be portrayed as a negative person.
It is natural for managers to do this, because it’s their job to demonstrate their experience, authority and leadership. But that is your ego at play and you are sacrificing trust and loyalty by going down this one way street.
So what do you do when your employees efforts don’t meet your expectations?
At the very least, look for the positive aspects first. There must be something they did right. Praise what they did right, thank them for their efforts and you will open the door for as many constructive suggestions as you want.
6. Don’t play the blame game
When things go wrong, it’s easy to blame your team members for being inefficient or negligent. But you should be looking at yourself first (introspection). What did you do wrong and what could you have done to prevent the situation from happening?
Could it be that you didn’t provide the right training, didn’t set clear expectations or maybe you gave them a task that they were not qualified for? The fact is, as a manager, you can always trace the root of the problem back to yourself to some degree.
Make sure you always take responsibility for your part in the problem, and you’ll gain a pound of trust.
7. Inspire your employees – It’s not about the money
Some people will insist that money is the most important motivating factor for all employees. But in branding, we call that a superficial need. Those employees will forever be bouncing around companies looking for the highest salary.
However, you’ll find special people who share a common thread – they want to learn, grow and experience the exhilaration of achievement. Employees that value these above money are high quality employees that make up great teams.
Salary is important and a company should be compensating based on market value. At my company, we supplement by giving out bonuses during the year for a job well done. It doesn’t have to be much, but the appreciation will be appreciated.
Allow your staff to learn, grow and achieve, and you will earn a pound of trust.
8. Set clear expectations
Being a manager means that you have to set clear expectations, especially concerning schedules. But, how do you set schedules fairly without being demanding? The best approach is this …
Teach your staff how to forecast their own schedules. This means to take a new project and estimate each task down to the hour.
- 2 hours research
- 3 hours designing
- 3 days coding = 24 hours
- 1 day testing = 8 hours
- 2 days adjustments = 16 hours
53 hours / 8hours = 6.63 working days
If you have your staff do this, they have to share in the responsibility/accountability for their project. It will seem awkward to them initially, as nobody wants to commit to a schedule. And you will find their estimates, naturally generous at first. Negotiate and find a middle ground that both sides will agree on.
Remember that schedules are only guidelines and people will get better at scheduling with experience.
9. Build team with your personal brand
How do you build a team when employees are emotional, irrational human beings; they have egos, they are selfish, they blame and avoid issues. They are disingenuous, they are negative and they are poor at negotiation.
But a good manager is not those things. If you take to heart the ideas we listed above, they will become the foundation of the culture that you build upon. It’s your personal brand on display day after day, that will have a positive influence on your staff. And if you are consistent with your brand, it will give you a clear path to building a good team.
Your personal brand is no different than a company brand. People will admire you, respect you and follow you because of your brand.
10. Remember that employees are imperfect
Lastly, employees are fickle, emotional and uncertain about a lot of things. And they may eventually end up leaving your group for any number of reasons. It’s ok, don’t take it personally. You have helped them learn, grow and achieve. You’ve done your job and made the world a better place.
Image by Bantersnaps at unsplash.com (edited)
Good Management is about people – be a People Manager.
You, as a manager, have the experience and know-how to get your job done. But most managers fail or are miserable because they cannot connect with their staff. The good managers will tell you that working with “people” take up at least 50% of their job. You have to work at it, and that means becoming a “People Manager”.
I’ve listed 10 things above that will help you and they all revolve around these basic concepts:
- building trust
- being empathetic
- being genuine
Become a People Manager and your staff will appreciate you and respect you, and for that you will earn many pounds of trust.