An Introduction to People Management
⏱ Reading Time: 8 minutes
Leaders and bosses might seem like they possess a natural gift for working with people. Managing a group of employees is not a skill anyone is born with. You have to work hard to get better at your job. Managers must also continually develop and strengthen their skills. That will structure a productive environment. It will also ensure the people they manage are happy and satisfied with their work.
We will address the core elements of leadership in a workplace and how you can begin to lead and manage your people more effectively. Maybe you’re new to the field or looking to improve after years of experience. This will allow you to reflect on your own strengths and easily identify areas you may benefit from focusing attention.
What Is People Management?
The broad field of people management contains many different skills that influence communication and productivity. Some of the most important skills for leaders to develop include communication, empathy, listening, risk assessment and project planning. This discipline bridges the distance between logistics, deadlines and objectives with humanistic elements that are often unaddressed in the office.
Anyone can learn how to delegate roles and strictly enforce rules, but that is not what people management is all about. It takes empathy, emotional intelligence and compassion to genuinely succeed as a leader. Managers who dedicate the time and effort to improving their management skills transform companies. The result, from static entities to rich, thriving spaces of transformation and growth. There’s an element of personal enrichment to professional development opportunities. Understanding how people management impacts day-to-day life and career will help you become a stronger, more capable, confident leader.
Picture 1. People management skills
Understanding Communication Styles
Have you ever struggled to convey a message to your employees only to face continuous misunderstandings? Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how detailed or well-spoken you are if the method of communication doesn’t match your audience. As a manager, you need to know to recognize each individual employee’s style. Also, you need to know how to express your thoughts and ideas in a manner that resonates with everyone. Communication styles can be broken down into four broad categories:
- Analytical: Inquisitive, research-driven and detail-oriented
- Functional: Methodic and streamlined, preferring instructions and guidance over theories and concepts
- Intuitive: Emotionally aware and goal-oriented, always focused on achieving results rather than hammering out fine details
- Personal: Curious and open. Interested in multiple perspectives and tends to work better when talking about thoughts and feelings over mechanical, mundane facts
Each person brings their own unique strengths and weaknesses to the workplace, and recognizing this is the most basic aspect of people management. Building and leading a good team means you always put the positives first. You don’t have to ignore anyone’s weaknesses. You should pay less attention to them in fact. Many times, they aren’t problems to be fixed so much as differences that have to be respected and compromised. Make sure that you also incorporate plenty of facetime into your communication. Even remote workers need to feel a real presence from their boss and colleagues. With nothing but a sea of emails and instant messages, your team is likely to begin feeling disconnected. They could ultimately withdraw from sharing their thoughts and even asking for help when they need it.
Cultivating a Positive Workspace
Small acts of kindness, like smiling when someone enters the room, have a huge impact. An empathetic and person-centered approach to conflict resolution is another major component of a positive workplace. You can avoid adopting a distanced, punitive mindset toward any type of undesirable behavior. Instead, recognize that disagreements and dissatisfaction are natural and work to resolve them together.
Job benefits also play an important role within people management. You can’t underestimate the importance of how happy people are when they come into the office every day. Paid time off, retainment programs and tuition reimbursement for continued education make employees feel cared for and supported. If any are currently in graduate school, they can use a private student loan to pay for higher education. You can later reimburse upon graduation and cover a portion of the difference. Knowing they have a way to alleviate their debt encourages people to work harder and stick with the company. Other ways to build a positive office include:
- Ongoing employee training programs
- Routine check-ins with both entire teams and individuals
- Diversity and inclusivity programs, including diversity-oriented recruitment strategies
- Zero-tolerance policies for discrimination, harassment and bullying
- Recognition programs that celebrate both hard work and big achievements
There should also be a commitment to personal development that every manager values. What if the higher-ups aren’t continually modeling the behavior and attitudes they expect from their employees? Can they really criticize or correct anyone for their own conduct? Staying in-tune with your own leadership means being accountable, humble and open to feedback. With this mindset, you’ll have the skills and emotional capacity to lift others up. You can help them grow and create an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
Increasing Employee Engagement
Colleagues can work in the same office merely feet apart for years and never really engage with one another. This type of work environment is stagnant, soul-crushing and leaves everyone yearning for something better. You will have a hard time breaking through if this is already the case for your office. It can be done with the right approach.
Consider what you’re bringing to the table as a manager. Do you create opportunities for your team to engage and build authentic relationships with each other? Is teamwork a core value of your company culture? Or a word that’s tossed around often without ever really being put into action? Send out surveys, host polls and ask questions each day that get everyone talking. Some managers tend to speak without ever prompting others for feedback. You’ll likely find that employees just assume you aren’t interested in what they have to say. Make an effort to reach out and have conversations. As personal relationships improve, something as simple as a “good morning,” can increase work engagement.
Improving Job and Personal Satisfaction
In order to make employees happy, you have to routinely conduct internal assessments to better understand their needs. Without an open dialogue, it’s impossible for any manager to know what their employees really value. Wants and needs vary by company. They even change over time, but there are some principal needs you should always address first.
Everyone should feel like they’re in an inclusive space. Even if they have major differences with their colleagues. Chances for good for the world and themselves make a big difference in how employees perceive their worth at work. Volunteering together, hosting mental health seminars and providing free access to resources like virtual talk therapy are all potential avenues. They help foster greater connectivity and feelings of attentiveness.
Don’t overlook small details, either. The physical office space also has to promote a good work environment. Are all of the chairs comfortable? Do people have their own space to work in peace and quiet without overhearing other people’s conversations or meetings? Is there a clean, well-stocked kitchen space to get coffee, water or a snack? Natural light and stimulating decor are also important as they naturally lift moods and make people feel more motivated.
Picture 2. Employee happiness stats
Building a Culture
Your company culture is more than just a set of values and philosophies printed on your website. It should be an active part of your entire management style that impacts, influences and uplifts everyone. From the CEO to an intern, a culture is something that creates a sense of unity. This is an atmosphere that people immediately feel whenever they come to work.
Creating this culture can be hard. What if your business already has one in place but it’s nothing more than a static list? How do you go about bringing it to life? First, hold an open conversation about your desire to bring certain values to the forefront of your operations. Without including others in the conversation, a list of cultural beliefs can ultimately feel like empty promises. Avoid making people feel like they need to falsely adhere to a random set of rules. Instead, ask employees what they want and what would make their work experience feel more meaningful.
Regular meetings and activities that strengthen your team’s bond. They help people become known outside of their roles will lead to greater collaboration, empathy and understanding across the board. After all, people management is about strengthening the cohesive bond of teamwork. While hierarchy is important, it shouldn’t stop from getting to see each other and learn about one another as individuals. Create opportunities for people to share thoughts and ideas with others they would normally never interact with. Continually revise your cultural integration strategy to make it more engaging.
You have to work through others when you’re a leader. That doesn’t mean you can assert expectations without upholding them yourself. People management will differ in every organization.
Adopting the core qualities of a strong leader will allow you to develop a style that suits your team. Flexibility and an openness to feedback will lead to the greatest results. Rather than focusing on strict rules or practices, create meaningful conversations and work collaboratively. With teamwork, your organization will be able to improve their productivity and reach both personal and shared objectives much easier.
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