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10 Essential People Management Skills Every Manager Needs

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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 October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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