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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

10 Essential People Management Skills Every Manager Needs

10 Essential People Management Skills Every Manager Needs

Being a manager is tough. This position requires you to take on additional responsibilities, step up as a leader, and master a completely new set of skills.

Of all the new skillsets you have to acquire, the most valuable are those related to people management. This makes sense – after all, your primary role as a manager is to connect with and support your employees.

But with so many people management skills out there, how do you know which ones to focus on? While there’s no wrong or right answer to this, here are a handful of essential skills that every manager needs to have to succeed in their roles.

1. Communicate — Really Communicate

This one may sound obvious, but good communication skills are a must for every manager. This means being able to speak clearly, transparently, and in a way that resonates with your employees. If you’re unsure where your communication skills stand, your employees can serve as a helpful sounding board.

Adam Legas, founder and managing director at Nanohydr8.com told me the following when I asked him how he thinks about investment into communication with the employees:

When your team is just a few people, communication is a breeze. When your company is 10 people, you need to have regularly scheduled meetings to make sure people are on track and know what’s going on. When your company is 100 people, you need to invest a LOT more into communication to make sure your employees are engaged and you are an effective manager.

Example

You notice that many of your employees are misunderstanding directions for a project, so you check in with them to identify the source of the problem. It turns out, your communication around the project was unclear and confused your team.

To ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future, you gather actionable feedback about what went wrong and improve that aspect of your communication style.

2. Demonstrate Trust

One of the most important skills to have as a manager is the ability to demonstrate trust to the people you manage. According to research, 61% of employees say trust between them and their senior management is very important to job satisfaction.[1]

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But you don’t even need to see the statistics to support this. You’ll be hard pressed to find an employee who enjoys being micromanaged or feeling like they’re not trusted to do their work.

Example

Your high-performing employee wants to step up in their role and take on a challenging new project. You encourage them to run with it and let them know you’re available to support in any way possible. As a result, the employee delivers outstanding outcomes and is grateful to you for entrusting them with such a big responsibility.

3. Practice Empathy

To build strong relationships with your employees, you need to practice empathy. Whether someone comes to you with a work conflict or is struggling with personal matters at home, as a manager, bringing compassion to your conversations will make it easier for your employees to open up to you.

If you feel like you’re not a naturally empathetic person, don’t worry. Studies have shown that empathy is something that can be taught.[2]

Example

A member of your team has recently lost a close family member and is having a hard time focusing at work. You encourage them to take any time they need to heal, allow them to work under more flexible deadlines, and take some work off their plate.

Because you demonstrated empathy during this tough situation, your employee feels comfortable opening up to you about other issues or problems they face.

4. Listen Actively

True, deep listening skills are difficult to develop, but managers who have this ability are guaranteed to be much more successful than those who don’t. The difference is that managers who listen are actually present during a conversation and absorbing the information shared with them.

On the other hand, managers who simply hear the conversation are not fully engaged and will likely miss key information that’s being shared with them.

Learn to improve your listening skills here: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

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Example

Your employee is frustrated and needs to vent. Instead of zoning out during the conversation, you pay close attention and identify the root of the problem. Together, you discuss a solution and take action to address the source of the conflict.

5. Motivate Others

Inevitably, most of the employees you manage will get stuck in a rut. Perhaps they’re feeling bored with their projects, questioning their career path, or simply not feeling engaged at work. No matter the reason, you need to have the ability to lift them up and motivate them to start being high performers again.

This goes beyond just providing encouragement – it requires you to identify the cause of their disengagement and find solutions to actively address it.

Example

A high performer on your team seems to be disengaged. You approach them to see what’s going on and learn that they’re bored because they’re not being challenged.

Thankfully, there’s a significant project that just started and could use an extra helping hand. Your employee is excited about this new opportunity, so you work together to make sure they’re set up for success.

6. Give Recognition

Before you were a manager, you were an individual contributor and likely received recognition for your work. As a manager, your role is now flipped and your focus is now about putting the spotlight on the team.

There are tons of benefits that come with recognizing your employees, such as the fact that when companies spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition, 85% see a positive impact on engagement.[3]

Example

Your team has spent weeks fixing a bug that was causing your customers a lot of problems. After the problem is fixed, you reward them with an impactful recognition idea[4] such as giving kudos at the next all hands meeting or taking the team for a nice lunch out on the company.

7. Delegate

This isn’t just about randomly assigning work to your team. It’s about listening to the goals and preferences of your employees and taking those factors into account before making decisions.

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This can be tough since you can’t always make everyone happy, but as long as you make a genuine effort and communicate the reasons behind the decision-making process, your team will understand.

You can find more tips on delegating effectively here: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

Example

You’re about to launch a big project, so you have a team meeting to get a sense for who might want to work on what. After hearing the preferences of all your employees, you take the time to carefully consider everyone’s opinions and delegate assignments based on what you heard and believe to be the best decision for the team.

8. Provide Feedback

As a manager, one of your most important roles is to provide feedback – and not just during your performance reviews. It’s critical to consistently share valuable insights with your employees as to what they’re doing well and what they could improve.

This is a tricky skill to master, as it requires using the right phrases and striking a balance between candid and empathetic. Here’s a guide to help you: How to Give Honest Feedback that Inspire People

Example

One of your employees isn’t performing well, so you need to have a tough conversation about how they can improve.

You approach the discussion with an open-minded attitude and clear communication to ensure your employee understands what the issue is but doesn’t feel attacked. You work on a performance improvement plan together and check in regularly to make sure progress is being made.

9. Connect

You don’t want your employees to only view you as a “boss.” While this was once the expectation at the workplace, that’s no longer the case as modern companies focus on developing genuine and long-term relationships with their workers.

That’s why learning how to connect with others is an important people management skill to master. This includes being able to find areas where you can relate to your team, making time to check in on them, and demonstrating that you care about your employees as humans – not just workers at your organization.

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Example

It’s busy season at your company, so in addition to the weekly one-on-ones you have set up with the employees you manage, you also make an effort to join them for lunch or check in on them via Slack occasionally to make sure everyone is doing okay. As a result, your employees feel supported and cared for during this hectic time.

10. Empower Others

Finally, the ability to empower others is hugely important when it comes to being a manager. Empowering employees is about granting them a certain level of autonomy to make their own decisions and take on responsibilities – in other words, giving them the time and space they need to thrive.

Example

Your employee wants to roll out a new initiative that they’re passionate about, but it’ll take some convincing to get the leadership team on board. You encourage the employee to pursue this program and empower them with the support, resources, and knowledge they need to be as successful as possible.

Your employee runs with the new idea, presents it to the leadership team, and completely blows them away.

The Bottom Line

If you don’t check off every one of these people management skills, don’t worry! The great things about these skills is that anyone is capable of developing them – all it takes is some intentional practice and self-awareness.

Identify a few that are personally meaningful for you or are traits you’ve admired in your past managers and start with those. Over time, you’ll be able to develop the full range of people management abilities.

More About People Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dmitry Dragilev

Single-handedly grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views, Dmitry is a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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