An article by BBC business correspondent Jonty Bloom entitled 'Why the Productivity Gap?' states that "bad management alone accounts for a quarter of the difference between the productivity in the UK and that of our rivals"! One question we should ask ourselves is why are our managers falling behind, and have we invested in their development? Being a manager is an extremely challenging role, and without training, support and coaching, they can wreak havoc, resulting in high staff turnover, high sickness rates, conflict and stress. Having worked as a manager for 30 years, here are my seven steps to being an effective people manager.
The definition of management is 'getting things done through people'. Our research shows that post-recession, due to the lack of investment in first line managers, the essential skills of building trust and developing a relationship with staff are the areas that managers find most challenging. As the old adage goes, people do not leave companies, they leave managers, so having managers who are competent when it comes to managing people is an essential tool for any organisation. So what are the essential steps?
1. Get the right mindset
Run your department as a commercial business; understand your place in the organisation, where you fit in and your impact. Read the organisation's strategic plan, and establish how your department fits into this plan. Constantly review your job role and that of your team; often, after working at an organisation for a period of time, we can forget why we were employed in the first place. We tend to perform the parts of our job role we enjoy, not what we are being paid for.
2. Define and clarify a clear vision and values
It is difficult to get employees to achieve goals and gain their commitment if they do not understand where the business is going and their place within it. Do you have a clear vision? What are the values that underpin this? Are you sharing it in a creative way? I recently met a HR Director at a networking event who shared with me his method of achieving this. He put together a festival involving the whole organisation; they had bunting everywhere around the office, for the auditory staff there was music (including karaoke) and for the kinaesthetic amongst them there were games and fun interactions. A key part of this event was getting all staff to take part in the festival, and each individual was given a list of values to choose from. The outcome was that they helped to shape company values. A clear winner was showing appreciation for each other and saying thank you!
3. Involve your team in the decision-making process
We cannot always act on staff feedback, but we can listen and get their opinion. We have all experienced the situation where decisions are imposed on us without any rhyme or reason, leaving us feeling undervalued. The earlier example I gave about the staff involvement in setting the values means that they are more likely to get behind them and support them in the future e.g. for performance meetings et cetera. It also means that we all speak a common language: if I had a penny for each time I have delivered a training programme where the question 'what are your company values?' has been met with the reply 'to make money', I would be a very rich woman.
4. Understand what makes your staff tick!
Whether you use Myers Briggs, the Thomas International DISC model or TetraMap, it is vital that you understand how your team work and how to get the best out of them. When I am coaching a manager who is having issues with getting the best from his/her team, I will often ask them to tell me about their team members: their good and bad points, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they motivate them. Often, they have a particular person they are close to but have not taken the time to have one to ones or delve a little deeper into their team's specific needs. A manager is like the conductor of an orchestra: how can you create harmony without knowledge? When this is brought up during training or coaching sessions, managers often say that they have no time to coach their staff or have one to one meetings. Ignore this at your peril; this lack of knowledge leads to underutilisation of staff, demotivation, and a lack of engagement.
5. Hold regular meetings
Staff need an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas and receive honest feedback. A meeting should not be the manager just imparting their opinions; if possible, rotate who chairs the meeting, allowing staff to set the agenda. This will give the manager a great insight into the employees' needs. The meeting need not be a long, drawn-out process; three key items on the agenda could be:
- What have we achieved that we are proud of?
- What do we need to be concerned about?
- What do we need to focus on next?
6. Communicate and share information
I do not advocate 'mushroom management' - keeping people in the dark to enhance the power of the manager. Staff are knowledgeable about what to expect from their managers, and they expect to be consulted, listened to, developed, and to receive appropriate praise and rewards. Once, when I was delivering a Customer Services programme, staff on the course had no idea regarding how they were perceived by their customers as the management had not shared with them that there had been an increase in customer complaints. So my training course was the first time they had seen figures and condensed feedback. When they arrived, they did not know why they were attending the training programme; when they left, they were fired up, determined to turn things around with a selection of solutions. Often, the solutions to organisational problems can be found if you communicate and share.
7. Sell it to them
It never ceases to amaze me when managers say: 'We have this new initiative, but all my team are against it. They just can’t see the benefit of implementing it!' I always ask: 'How did you sell it to them?' The manager usually replies: 'I just told them that it was happening and we had no choice as higher management said we had to do it.' Well surprise, surprise - negative delivery of the message gets a negative response! Managers often make things difficult for themselves by not preparing how to deliver bad news or change processes to their staff. In order to get everyone on-side, there has to be some time spent preparing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, making sure it is motivational, with prepared answers for challenging questions.
If you have enjoyed these 7 key points for being an effective people manager and want to hear more, our next Effective People Manager course will be held on the 26th of May, at Peters House in Manchester.
Olive Strachan MSc, HRM, Chartered FCIPD,
CIPD Council Representative and HR Leader
Managing Consultant, Global Executive Coach and Motivational Speaker
2015-16 Woman of Influence in the North West