How To Develop Great People Managers

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Organizations are fast realizing the growing importance of behavioral skills in driving employee and organizational success. One such critical competency is managing people, a must for every manager or supervisor who wishes to climb the ladder of corporate success. Managing people can be the sole difference between average and high-performing teams. Yet, organizations are often at loggerheads, having no formal learning mechanism to instil this skill in their people. We present a guide on how to develop the people management skills of your people. 

People management encompasses a host of facets, from the “hardcore” elements like people planning to softer aspects such as supervising and motivating your team. In fact, we manage people not only in our professional lives, but also in our personal lives, when we set expectations, egg people on to do well and reprimand bad behavior. An organizational facet is an extension of this, and needs to be approached through proper capability development interventions, to enable a sustainable behavioural change. This starts with spreading awareness amongst your supervisors, as to what people management truly entails, and providing the right resources and opportunities to help them develop it. Here are a few tips:

1. Focus on relationship building: Creating a close-knit, team-oriented culture lays the groundwork for people management. Managers should be trained in relationship building skills to help them understand their people and harness their best talents. Schedule manager-employee conversations as a part of the performance management process to ensure managers talk to their employees and understand them and their work better. It will help them manage them better. 

2. Lead by example: Top leadership needs to be adept at people management, if one expects the managers to be good people leaders. As a senior leader, walk the talk and treat your managers with respect and provide them developmental opportunities, as you would expect them to do so for their teams. A people-driven culture must be driven top-down to ensure percolation right to the bottom. 

3. Demonstrate integrity: Trust and respect are two vital elements in helping manage people well, and it starts at the top. Demonstrate integrity in everything you do, as a senior leader, and others will believe in you and committee unwaveringly. Build a culture of fairness and transparency—it will egg your people on to go above and beyond—by generating a congenial atmosphere and making them feel valued. 

4. Seek feedback: A great people manager is one who genuinely listens to his or her people. Build your HR processes with a focus on people, especially encouraging them to speak up and express opinions and feedback. Train your managers to elicit feedback from their teams, accept it objectively and also to act upon the feedback. Listening carefully is often the best way to improve your organization; incorporate this feedback into process and policy changes to ensure a sustainable change towards people-orientation. 

5. Communicate clearly: Managers must be trained to communicate clearly, be it positive feedback or difficult discussions. A good people manager is one who does not mince words but is direct and empathetic, at the same time clear on what is to be achieved. Train managers to help them set clear performance goals, discuss goal attainment/ non-attainment with employees and also connect with their teams informally. 

6. Etch out the management style: All the above steps will help your managers build their people management skills. At the organizational level, it is important to decide what degree of people-orientation versus task orientation you wish to promote as a culture. This will reflect in every HR process and system. A good reference point is the Blake and Mouton managerial grid, wherein you can plot task-orientation versus people-orientation. Communicate this stance and propagate the culture through communication campaigns. It will help you orient each of your employees on what to expect. 

A good manager is one who elicits the best of talent and potential from his or her people, while providing the necessary support such as resources, environment, opportunities and so on, to help employees grow. Treating employees as people and not as one-dimensional professionals is important to achieve this. Hence, in conjunction with the above, managers must also make an effort to informally connect with their teams, and create a favorable team culture where everyone “belongs”.