How can you create great people managers?

ben egan_ets
Senior Communications Manager
ETS plc
Blogger
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Your employees and, most significantly, your managers have a huge influence on the performance of your business. Great managers are proven to increase employee engagement levels and reportedly also drive a company’s growth and long term profitability.

The trouble is that too many people managers aren’t effective, often thrust into the role without possessing the requisite skills. This can naturally be quite damaging for busineses. Organisations need to identify managers who aren’t managing effectively, offer them greater support and focus on improving their skills.

Below are some of the key areas to focus on when developing management capability.

1. Communication skills

An effective people manager needs to be able to both listen and speak well. Consider how your managers currently communicate with their teams and in what forums.

Becoming a better listener means putting the speaker at ease, removing distractions and paying attention to non-verbal communication, such as eye-contact and body language.  

And becoming a better speaker is all about preparation and practice. Seek out opportunities for managers to improve. This might be an aspect of their personal development that can be explored further (and assessed) using a 360 degree feedback programme.

Also see if you can tap into internal resources such as mentoring schemes where managers can learn from more experienced counterparts.

2.  Goal-setting

Effective people managers are driven. They know what the company wants to achieve and are able to create SMART goals that support company goals. This provides great clarity in their every-day tasks, giving them focus and driving them forward. And, as a result, they are better equipped to set goals for their team, booking in frequent review points, and tracking their team’s progress.

3.  Giving and getting feedback

Being a good communicator also means giving unsolicited feedback (and praise) to others and also seeking out feedback for themselves. Managers should do this regularly with their team members with the aim of improving their own performance and also improving the engagement and performance of their team.

Equally they must be willing and equipped to have more difficult feedback conversations, when something hasn’t gone well. In such instances, the framing of the conversation is important and they need to give clear and specific feedback.

4. Motivating others

Managers need to be able to motivate their teams to work hard and effectively. It’s their responsibility to enable their direct reports to fulfil their potential and to get the maximum output from them. But how should they motivate?

Understand drivers

Managers need to understand what motivates their team members. Most people have a strong desire to work hard and improve. Typical drivers can be intrinsic or extrinsic and include things such as the desire for more money, recognition, autonomy, challenge or variety. Once they know the drivers most relevant for each team member, they’re able to motivate more effectively.

Link work output to satisfaction of drivers

Working lives can follow either vicious or virtuous circles. Here are two scenarios.

In a vicious circle, a person may desire more money and autonomy but may never meet objectives, instead working on activities that have little business value. In a pay review, the manager may judge that person’s output as poor, and give a low (if any) pay rise with no increased autonomy. The employee becomes de-motivated and thus the pattern continues.

However, in a virtuous circle, a person with the same desires of more money and autonomy may identify high-value activities, set challenging objectives and consistently meet them. At review time, the manager is delighted with the output, recognising that this employee has driven the business forward by always meeting objectives. A generous pay rise is awarded and a conversation about promotion follows.

Effective people managers can motivate team members by helping them to understand this virtuous circle. They establish with them what it is they need to focus on and what they need to achieve so that together they are able to work towards satisfying personal drivers.

Encourage hard work

People usually associate hard work with longer hours, and it may be that this is what is needed. People are typically resistant to working what they perceive as long hours. However, an effective people manager needs to make the link between the work that the team members put in, and the fulfilment of their personal drivers. Ultimately, if people understand that their drivers can be met though hard work, then, naturally, they are happier to undertake it.

Putting it all together

Being an effective people manager isn’t easy. It doesn’t just come from experience. Rather, it’s a question of skill. And if your people managers aren’t managing effectively, then perhaps it’s time to focus on improving their skills.

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