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10 Essential People Management Skills Every Manager Needs

10 Essential People Management Skills Every Manager Needs
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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