In this Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills, we will look at the following, you can jump to sections with these links below:
In a world where the diversity of a workforce in organisations is only increasing, people management skills mean more than just having the posture and a look of a boss. It is about forming and cementing relationships, providing the right motivation, keeping the team on track, understanding the needs of an individual and helping people achieve their goals.
The benefits are undeniable, a great team will be productive, have the drive, be happy and successful. Poor leadership and management (what is the difference?) can have a negative effect that can lead to low morale, poor performance and worse, the loss of valuable talent.
It’s easy to draw parallels with the world of sport, for example, the reasons why you need management skills are similar to those of a football club manager.
Long before the kick-off, the manager has to ensure they think about every aspect of the teams’ performance. From having the right tools (the necessary kit in good order) to their physical fitness (training, diet) to the strategy to win the game. All these things are vitally important but once the players are on the pitch, the manager can only watch on.
Therefore with people management skills, the team has to be instilled with the mental strength, team spirit and motivation to win. If he or she fails to do this, the team will lack a sense of purpose, communication on the pitch will break down, and there won’t be the will or stamina to beat the opponent.
Now read that football analogy again but this time picture your staff and team and ask yourself this question; Do your people management skills enable your team to achieve their goals (and in turn yours) by supporting them with the right tools, a positive physical and mental environment, clear objectives and strategy, plus the motivation to succeed?
If the answer is no, don’t worry. Our Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills is here to help.
It’s a question that foxes many people, surely they are the same thing aren’t they? This is your first mistake, they are not. The second mistake is trying to do both at the same time.
Every day at work can be different. How often do you find that your daily plan and ‘to do’ list goes out of the window within an hour of arriving? A problem or issue appears that requires solving or mitigating, how you approach it can make a huge difference to your time and achieving your goals.
The illustration below shows the qualities and attributes of a leader and manager;
Leadership and management must go hand-in-hand, workers need their managers not to just assign tasks but define purpose. Managers must organise workers, not just to maximise efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.
Knowing when to manage and when to lead is a key skill of the modern manager. Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II is a great place to start, visit the website to gain more insight. You can also learn more about Leadership in our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills, and find out how we can help you here.
People management skills are even more critical when it comes to employee turnover rates. People quit jobs for many reasons. These include low pay, family demands or even the lack of a career path at their current job. However, research shows that the leading cause of employees tendering their resignation letters is a bad boss experience.
In 2015 research by Gallup put the figure of people leaving their jobs because of their boss at around 50%. That basically says that close to a half of managers and supervisors have difficulty in managing people. In short, they have poor people management skills. In turn, that translates to companies losing talent they shouldn’t. What’s more, HR departments are hiring and training people who don’t stay long enough to benefit the company. In addition to this, the cost of replacing an employee is over £30,000.
Very few people would be able to prove that managing people or managing difficult people comes naturally. We tend to develop our people management skills as we go through our careers and learn from those we meet, we form new skills and habits. Unfortunately, this means we learn from great bosses and you guessed it, bad!
So we need to be able to distinguish good habits from bad, so for the majority of us, we need to put considerable effort into learning the difference and the associated skills. On the job learning is important, but taking the time to invest expertly designed people management training courses will pay dividends.
Whatever the case, every company needs people with good people management skills. Otherwise, you are looking at the failure to harness the valuable human resource at your disposal to grow and succeed.
You need comprehensive people management skills. The following people skills can help you to improve and fire up your team:
#1 – Be a Pillar to Lean On
As a manager, you need to be able to negotiate the Management Iceberg. The first part is everything you can consciously manage above the water, it’s what you can see, it’s tangible. The second part is all those things that lie beneath the surface and are more difficult to identify, here you must learn to subconsciously manage and become more aware. The emotionally intelligent manager is able to navigate his or her way around it.
At a simple level, let members of your team know that you are there for them. Give them the confidence to reach out and ask for help. Indeed, this knowledge alone can boost your team. Even more, this encourages each team player to help another. However, be careful to not give the impression that you are the only one who can solve every problem that arises. Use your people management skills to empower, inspire and cultivate a team spirit.
With ever more challenging targets, customer demands and of course a group of people coming from different backgrounds, you can expect a conflict to arise. When that happens, the way to a swift resolution is having a conflict strategy. Take the time to understand the situation, gather tangible evidence, listen to the parties involved and where possible look for a mutually agreeable outcome for all parties involved. However, even when you take a position that cannot be deemed neutral, don’t alienate the other party you rule against.
When you follow a simple strategy and observe fairness, everyone is satisfied with the outcome. Remember, it is always prudent to resolve disputes early before they spiral too far out of control.
Tip: Let your team members know how you prefer to discuss things; Catch up in a weekly 121? Email for non-urgent matters? A phone call if it is? Do not say, ‘I’m always available, just call me’, because they won’t – Build A Culture Of Open Communication.
#2 – Give Your Team Space
We all cherish freedom. We like to exert our independence. When we get the feeling that someone, particularly in authority, is watching our movements, we tend to pull away from them. However, when we are trusted to do things right, we feel indebted, we don’t want to disappoint.
In the book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, he talks about how trust is the cornerstone of any successful team. For the people you manage to deliver results, you have to trust them. How to do that is one of the people management skills you need. If you don’t trust the people you lead, you remove the confidence they need to reach their potential.
It isn’t easy though. There is always a tendency to resort to unnecessary and even counterproductive micromanaging of your team. Stopping the habit starts with hiring the right team, providing the necessary training and establishing solid processes everyone can follow. It also involves treating your team members with respect; see them as partners, only together can you achieve your goals.
Combine a lack of trust and micromanagement and you could be fostering some very negative conditions. In a worst case scenario, your team could actively rebel against you. Know the Top 10 signs of micromanagement.
Cynthia Kay, entrepreneur:
“If you’re a business owner doing a lot of hovering, either you’ve got the wrong people, or you need an attitude adjustment.”
Tip: Once you hire through a thorough process and give the right training, keep off the back of the team members. Find out What to Do When You Don’t Trust Your Team.
#3 – Be a Good Listener
If you are a fan of the Apprentice in the UK, you may have heard Sir Alan Sugar say, “You’ve only got one of those, but two of these”. He’s referring to your one mouth and two ears. What he’s saying in his own imitable way is; listen more, it’s important.
If you listen to a team member while catching up on your email or checking your phone, are you really listening? Are you actively listening?
Passive listening makes the people you lead feel unworthy and undeserving of your time. Other bad listening habits include rushing to conclusions and worst of all, completing the sentences of those talking to you. These poor habits not only make you miss valuable information and subtle signs but can lead to strained relationships. Broken communication is one of the main obstacles to better performance. Furthermore, it is one of the key people management skills that lets managers’ down.
How do you fix this? You need to actively listen.
You need to be fully present, stop everything you are doing and focus on the person talking to you. Also, pause before replying and never hesitate to ask for clarification. Furthermore, rephrase what you hear in your own words, so that the speaker can gauge whether you’ve understood them well.
Many experts agree that effective listening motivates the people who work under you. Therefore, it is one of people management skills you should strive to acquire.
Tip: Create ample time and space to listen to your team’s concerns. Take these 10 Steps to be an Effective Listener.
#4 – Share Success with the Team
Unfortunately, many of us will have seen it or had it done to us, you create a piece of work that your team leader takes the credit for and you get little or no thanks. If the team leader takes all the credit for a job well done, that deflates team spirit. It gives the impression that the manager or supervisor doesn’t value the input of the team. What’s more, you can come across as narcissistic and selfish.
One of the most valuable people management skills is to encourage the mentality and language of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’. The ‘we’ perspective makes everyone feel that their effort in achieving team goals are appreciated. This is a key leadership and management skill that you should work on.
Nevertheless, an extraordinary performance by individual team members can, and should, be pointed out and even rewarded. This works well, especially when the criteria for picking the best performer are known to everyone in advance. For instance, if you are leading a sales team, let the sales numbers for each member be accessible to everyone. When you pick the best for acknowledgement, the rest will feel it was a fair game. That will inspire everyone to work even harder.
As the team leader, sharing the credit will earn you not only respect but also recognition.
“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
Tip: If you Want recognition Share the credit.
#5 – Delegate Responsibly
Delegation is another of the essential people management skills. As a manager or a leader, you shouldn’t be doing everything. If you think back to #2 Give Your Team Space – we know the negative impact on individuals, the team and your ability to be a great manager or leader.
Delegation isn’t necessarily a one-way thing. As a manager with good people management skills you should be distributing work fairly and appropriately (e.g. don’t overload one person, consider who has the time and right experience) but also you should be open to offers of help, let the team take the weight off your shoulders.
The importance of delegating effectively can have a very motivating effect and lets you work on tasks that need your attention the most. Apart from making you more productive, delegating boosts team spirit as well as confidence. It also leverages the strengths of each team member.
Tip: Use the Eisenhower Principle of urgency versus importance to choose tasks to give to your team. Begin by letting your team handle tasks that are least urgent and least important. Also, don’t confuse abdicating responsibility with delegating!
#6 – Involve Your Team in Decision-Making
The first thing you need to do is decide how to decide. What sort of decision needs to be made? What level of consensus do you need? If it’s choosing what you are having for lunch, involving the team may not be the best use of resources, but if a process needs to be changed that will affect them, it seems to make sense that they are involved.
When it comes to change in particular, team members will be more committed to achieving a goal if they were involved in the setting up of it in the first place. Being part of the decision-making grows a sense of ownership. Ownership creates more passion, dedication, and loyalty.
Good team management involves the team members in decision-making which ensures that you utilise the skills and knowledge of the team. Past experience, expert knowledge and creative thinking can go a long way in contributing to sound business decisions.
Tip: Develop the good habit of asking for feedback from your team members. Learn How to Get Feedback When You’re the Boss.
#7 – Be Confident
Studies have shown that confident people managers inspire those they lead to be creative and more productive. Confidence is one of the many people management skills that enable you to make decisions, resolve conflict and command respect.
The first step to building your confidence is to accept that you are human, that you have strengths and weaknesses.
Exercising and demonstrating our strengths boosts confidence and gives us an energy that our people can feed off. Be mindful not to focus too much on any weaknesses you have, this can be draining and counterproductive. After all, your team is there to support you.
“When leaders feel confident that they can produce creative outcomes, their subordinates become more creative.”
Confidence is being sure of what you know and who you are. Therefore, understanding more about yourself and new management and leadership skills should be part of your learning journey. Listen to what others have to say, read books and attend workshops that expand and deepen your expertise.
Confidence also goes beyond what’s inside, how we physically feel and look can affect us. Investing in a balanced, healthy lifestyle (with plenty of room for fun, of course) is worthwhile. Also, work on your communication skills. Take a course, if you need to, on how to communicate with your body posture. While these might seem minor, they have an enormous impact on how people perceive you. This, in turn, influences how you feel about yourself.
Tip: Embrace the power of autosuggestion to grow your confidence. That means consciously programming your attitude.
#8 – Manage from the Front
Simply put, take an active role in what you are urging and directing others to do.
You are defined by your actions, not your words. Honesty, integrity and commitment are outstanding values, and when combined with the effective people management skills we are talking about here, you can expect others to follow you and demonstrate the same behaviours.
Being in a position of authority means people will look up to you. Doing what you say you will and how you present yourself has a profound impact.
Exhibiting high standards earns respect, uphold these and you’ll find your team doing the same; be on time for 121’s and meetings, keep your word, reward a job well done, celebrate success. These gestures will plants seeds of trust and reliability within the team.
Invest time in living and breathing your values and standards, you will then see this mirrored in your team’s behaviour and performance.
Tip: Work to gain respect from your team. Start with these 21 steps to earn the respect.
#9 – Trust Your Gut
Managing people and situations sometimes takes you through uncharted territory. In many of those instances, the necessary information, data or a way forward may not be clear. Time may also be against you.
However, your team will still be looking for you to lead the way. This is where your intuition should help you make decisions. Prominent business leaders like Warren Buffet, Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey are known to rely on their instincts.
In the absence of hard evidence, a well-reasoned hunch, validated where possible by data or the team, can be a leading light when nothing else seems illuminated!
Simone Wright, mind coach:
“Intuition is the natural intelligence that allows us to see ahead of the curve, to generate innovative ideas, to communicate powerfully, and to do so without having to study spreadsheets or gather piles of data.”
Tip: Read the Ultimate Guide to HBDI ® – Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument to help you understand how our brains work, especially in regard to problem-solving.
#10 – Be Compassionate
In his book, ‘Leaders Eat Last’, Simon Sinek states that good leaders and managers should show empathy. He explains why a good manager has to understand things from the other person’s perspective. Managing is more than just demonstrating good people management skills; it’s also a responsibility to look out for others.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs highlights what motivates people in different ways; basic, psychological and fulfilment needs. Behaviour can change when one or more of these needs are not met. What this means for you is that sometimes you’ll have to dig deeper to understand a performance issue.
For example, one of your best team members misses several deadlines. After an initial discussion (and possibly a reprimand), you learn their workload is OK and they are happy at work. Using sensitivity you’ll need to probe to find the underlying reason. It could be a difficult family situation, money problems or health issues.
The point is, sometimes the cause is outside of your control and what you can directly influence. You will need to work together with the individual to come up with a solution that meets the needs of both the individual and the organisation.
In his book, ‘Accelerate’, John P. Kotter, emphasises on the need for understanding when managing people. He points out that looking at things from your employees’ viewpoint is an essential people management skill. It will allow you to understand their driving force and come up with effective strategies that will motivate them even more.
Tip: Always imagine yourself in shoes of those you manage to understand their perspective to situations. Use these 8 Points To Tell If You’re A Truly Compassionate Person. The ‘Managing Carrots’ book is an excellent resource to guide you.
#11 – Set Clear Objectives
It’s number 11 on our list of people management skills, but it’s one of the most important.
It’s good to have a clear set of organisational values, a great strategy and engaging vision. We’ve all seen the motivational posters on the wall telling us all about it. Let me tell you a secret, they don’t get the work done. Sure they help with how you go about the work, but getting it done well, on time and by the right person? Not so much.
You need to be smarter, very SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based) in fact. Having goals clearly defined, documented and integrated with good processes will increase the chances of success significantly.
However, it does even more than that! It helps people focus, prioritise and know what is expected of them….it also creates a sense of purpose motivation and ownership…AND you get to measure tangible results which means you can do more reward and recognition that improves performance and team spirit.
Phew! See why it’s important?
Tip: Check out this useful ready reckoner to assess if your objectives are truly SMART:
#12 – Be Ready to Change
Change is the only constant and it rolls at an ever-increasing pace.
Being a good leader means staying ahead of the curve. Being a good manager means being aware of what is on the horizon and keeping your team heading in the right direction.
Do nothing and you risk being overtaken by events, other people and you’re your team. To stay ahead of the game, continually develop your skills, spare some time to learn every day. If you do that, your leadership skills will grow exponentially.
Tip: Use these 5 Steps to Overcome Resistance to Organisational Development and effect productive change. And a good place to start is to make their first day a great day and this is how the guys at Percolate do it:
Managing people has never been easy; we humans are very complicated, especially within the work environment. Thankfully, you can work on your people management skills. This article goes some way to helping you; we hope you find it useful.
You can find further insight, detailed definitions and clarification of all the key People Management Skills terms mentioned in this guide in our Glossary of Terms.
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About Darren A. Smith
Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets and Suppliers for over 20 years. He began his career as a buyer at one of the big 4 UK supermarkets and after rising through the ranks he decided to leave after 13 years and set-up Making Business Matter.
Credit and thanks to Daniel Nyairo for his original ideas towards this article.