By Victor Lipman
A good deal of effective people-management is nothing fancy. It’s nothing that you can learn only at Harvard B-School or Stanford or Wharton. It’s nothing that requires complex strategy or genius-level knowledge of business. In my opinion it’s more EQ than IQ; laced with a healthy dose of common sense.
In that spirit, here are three practical, fundamental tips to help with people-management.
- Take time to get to know your people. As much as this may sound simplistic, it’s a foundational element of management that’s all too often ignored. An old HR executive colleague of mine used to say that she was always struck by how little she actually saw our managers talking with their employees, or seeming to connect with them on an everyday emotional level. But if you don’t get to know your employees and don’t gain an understanding of what they care about and like and dislike, how can you hope to understand them? How can you hope to motivate them? Perhaps you’ll get lucky, but it helps greatly to know who you’re dealing with. The better you get to know them, the better chance you have for rapport, engagement and sustained productivity. Simple, but not always followed. Or statistics wouldn’t show we have some 70% of employees chronically disengaged.
- Take time to get to know your HR contacts. This is a readily available relationship-building opportunity that can pay substantive management dividends. Especially in the early stages of management when you’re finding your way, counsel from Human Resources on people-management challenges can be extremely valuable. In most organizations, someone in HR (and often numerous individuals) is charged with being available to help managers with employee-relations-type issues and they’re generally experienced in such matters. They can help with difficult employees (of whom there are many!), with goal setting, with talent development, with resolving conflict and on and on. Truth be told, I worked closely with HR in my first year of management and in my 24th and last year of management. When dealing with delicate people-management problems, I always found it helpful to gain added HR perspective. If I didn’t find the counsel of value, I just didn’t follow it. But most of the time I did. My advice: Get to know your HR team. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
- Take time to be sure you’re communicating clearly.If you’ve been around management awhile, you begin to see how much management founders on the shoals of unclear communication. Instructions that are vague, assignments that are unclear, objectives that can’t be measured, responsibility without authority, the list goes on and on. In my business experience the best managers – indeed the best leaders at all levels – were always excellent communicators. Clear thinking begets clear communication and clear communication leads to the kind of results companies need. And by “clear communication” I don’t mean just presenting beautifully to an audience the size of a small city, but in everyday conversation. In one-on-ones, in status meetings, in team meetings, by the water cooler, in the parking lot. In casual normal interactions. Managers who communicate clearly are much more apt to get the results they expect and not be disappointed by work that misses the mark because employees aren’t exactly sure of the target they’re aiming for.
So that’s it, three practical grassroots tips. Nothing complicated about them, but then again good solid management usually contains more simplicity than complexity.