The complete guide on how to manage people - by Steer

People Management 101

People management is one of the most difficult areas of management nowadays. People are not machines, they are complicated, emotionally unstable and a good manager needs anticipate any possible issue that might appear in their job lives in order to maintain the team motivation and performance.

Our ultimate guide, developed and trusted by top managers, will help you learn what are the best tips on how to manage people.

Introduction

Being a manager is hard. Your responsibilities include improving the morale and performance of your team, staying up-to-date on what’s going on in your sector, and being the leader who does everything from coaching to delegating with success.

Managing people is much of an art than it is a science. We could say that management is the art of making people more effective than they would have been without out. There is no silver bullet or secret formula to follow though. Like any true art, it takes personal style and a deep commitment to develop a successful management career.

Why do we manage?

Management is needed in order to facilitate a coordinated effort towards the accomplishment of a company’s goals using the available resources as much efficiently and effectively as possible.

Good managers are needed to keep their teams on track and aligned towards the organization’s objectives. They are needed to provide the right balance of motivation, creativity and discipline into the key areas of any organization or business.

Why do you want to manage?

Most new managers advance in their careers due to their great technical skills, but they don’t necessarily have the leadership abilities needed in order to success in their new managerial position. This presents an interesting challenge for organizations because their first time managers are quite often not ready for the new role they are about to assume.

Understanding your motivations for a career change into management is critical to understand what kind of manager you want to be. Most technical people who become managers do so because they want more scope and control. Others are attracted by the pay raise and the influence you get within your company. Whatever are your reasons, remember you don’t become a good manager by being good technically - you become a good manager by being the leader that inspire and get things accomplished through other people.

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Your management philosophy

In 1960, social psychologist Douglas McGregor developed two contrasting theories that explained how managers’ beliefs about what motivates their people can affect their leadership style. He labelled them Theory X and Theory Y. These two competing management philosophies continue to be relevant even today.

Managers who subscribe to Theory X assume that:

  • The average human being is lazy and unambitious, with an inherent dislike of work that they will avoid if possible.
  • Most people have to be coerced, controlled, directed or threatened to get them to work towards organizational objectives.
  • The average person prefers to be directed, has relatively little ambition, witshed to avoid responsibility and wants security above all.

Theory X assumes immaturity. It implies the need for constant intervention and supervision by management to modify people’s behaviour. Managers with this assumption motivate their people using a “carrot and stick” approach.

Although Theory X tends to reflect the views of last century, many managers still appear to practice this theory successfully. However, getting the best out of all the members of the team offers many advantages, as Theory Y contrasts.

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Managers who subscribe to Theory Y assume that:

  • People are self-motivated to complete their tasks and enjoy taking ownership of their work.
  • With encouragement and little direction, most employees not only accept responsibility but also seek it proactively.
  • If people are committed to objectives, they will exercise self-direction and self-control in working towards them.

Theory Y assumes maturity. It implies people are not passive by nature but are self-motivated, responsible and enjoy the challenge of work. Managers with this assumption have a more collaborative relationship with their people and empowered them to make decisions and work on their own initiative to achieve the organization goals.

Contrasted with Theory X, Theory Y is a more dignified and enlightened management philosophy. Theory Y approach is much more in line with the environment and attitude of today’s workplace. Theory Y managers consistently obtain better and more profitable results. Their people show creativity and innovation, there are fewer people issues and lower employee turnover.

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Your leadership style

The perfect leadership style does not exist. However, it is useful to understand what your natural approach is so you can work on the skills you might be missing and enforce the ones you already have.

In the 1960s, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton further developed Theories X and Y into what was called the Blake Mouton’s Managerial Grid, a popular framework that shows a range of five management styles. These styles are basically the result of combining the two main concerns on the mind of a manager seeking results.

Concern for Results: this is the degree to which a manager or leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task. It reflects Theory X.

Concern for People: this is the degree to which a manager or leader considers the needs of team members, their interests and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task. It reflects Theory Y.

Based on these two concerns or behavioral dimensions, Blake and Mouton defined five leadership styles as illustrated in the diagram below.

The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid

Typical traits of the five leadership styles are described below.

The Impoverished Manager (Low Results / Low People)

  • Always plays by the rules and is mostly ineffective.
  • Has little interest in creating a satisfying or motivating team environment.
  • Avoids being noticed and resigned to not being appreciated by their team members.

Impact: Employees have a high degree of dissatisfaction and productivity sinks to the lowest tolerable level. It translates in high staff turnover.

The Authoritarian Manager (High Results / Low People)

  • Has a maximum concern for getting the job done at all cost.
  • They believe team’s needs are always secondary to its productivity.
  • May not always be right, but rarely suffers from any self-doubt.

Impact: May achieve high productivity in the short-term but it will cause low production in the long term. High level of conflict within the team will cause employee turnover.

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The Political Manager (Medium Results / Medium People)

  • Middle-of-the-Road manager aims for security through continual compromise.
  • Seeks solutions which please the majority but delivers mediocre performance.
  • Fails to inspire high performance and also fails to meet people’s needs fully.

Impact: Employees are not really discontent nor are they happy but the performance achieved will be average. Lack of confidence to take risk will not inspire and challenge staff.

The Social Manager (Low Results / High People)

  • Mostly concerned about people’s needs and feelings.
  • Rarely criticises and tends to avoid conflictive situations.
  • Assumes that, as long as team members are happy, they will work hard.

Impact: Employees are happy and productivity may be effective in the long-term but short-term productivity can be very low. Irresolute style can actually create conflict.

The Team Leader (High Results / High People)

  • Commit to their organization’s goals and mission while motivating their people.
  • Has clear convictions but is always open for new ideas and opinions.
  • Inspires and works hard to ensure people work as a team and deliver great results.

Impact: Employees are satisfied, motivated and forming a highly cohesive team. Productivity is consistently high and staff turnover is low. It translates into high-performance teams.

The Team Leader management style is often the most effective approach but other styles might be applied effectively in specific situations. For example, a Team Manager may switch to an Authoritarian Manager style when a crisis arises. Likewise, a naturally Authoritarian Manager who meets continued resistance from their team members may shift to a Team Manager style for cooperative problem solving.

Your development wheel

The management development wheel is a valuable tool for supporting self-evaluation, exploring current reality and helping you to critically reflect on yourself as a manager and the practice of your leadership skills. It can help you to create clarity about the areas you wish to focus on, and to perform a simple gap analysis about where you are now and where you would like to be.

Management Develoment Wheel

The following is a brief description of each area:

  • Coaching: ability to use the coaching style of management with your team members to get results in a nondirective approach.
  • Delegation: effectively delegating tasks so everyone can move on to achieve higher team’s objectives.
  • 1:1 Meetings: having regular and meaningful individual conversations with your direct reports to discuss anything about them.
  • Priority Management: planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on your tasks to increase effectiveness, efficiency and productivity.
  • SMART Goals: setting SMART goals for you and your team so everyone can focus their efforts and user their time and resources productively.
  • Aligning People: communicating the direction to the team so everyone understands the vision and strategies and accepts their validity.
  • Observation & Feedback: ability to observe your people behaviors and provide regular honest feedback, positive and constructive.
  • Right People: hiring the right people for your team, firing the ones that don’t fit and ensuring your team is always well-balanced with the people you need to succeed.

How to use the development wheel?

  • Take each area in turn and score yourself (from 0 to 10) about your own perception of how effective you are in each of the areas or skills above.
  • Place a dot on each spoke of the wheel (0 = centre of the wheel, 10 = rim).
  • Then join up all of the dots going around the wheel to see where your overall strengths and weaknesses are.

Looking for a employee feedback solution? Steer is a team management tool that helps you maintain a team without issues. Request a demo to experience it by yourself.

Key Takeaways

People management is one of the most difficult areas of management nowadays. People are not machines, they are complicated, emotionally unstable and a good manager needs anticipate any possible issue that might appear in their job lives in order to maintain the team motivation and performance.

The success of any business depends heavily on the effectiveness of its managers. Good managers need to make the right decisions and ensure their people are protected so they can perform at their highest. And good people management requires deep human qualities, beyond conventional notions of authority.

When you want to become a manager, understanding your motivations for this career change is fundamental for your success in this new role. Whatever are your reasons, remember good leadership demands emotional strengths and behavioural characteristics which can draw deeply on a leader's mental and spiritual reserves.

Likewise, understanding what motivates people is one of the greatest challenges that managers are facing today. If we know why people behave the way they do, we can develop greater understanding, better relationships and a happier work environment. This leads to a pile of positive side-effects for the organisation.

Finding your management style and understanding their philosophies behind it, will help you to adapt yourself depending on the context. While the Team Leader approach is often highly effective, there is no one right way to lead or manage people that suits all situations. A good manager will find himself or herself shifting instinctively between styles according to the people and work they are dealing with.

The development wheel of management is a valuable self-evaluation tool that can be used by any manager, experienced or not, to reflect, explore and consider his or her own progress and development. The challenge now is to transform all this knowledge and desire to be an effective people manager into a positive program of action.

This guide was written by:

Rafa Paez

Rafa Paez
Based in London, Rafa is on a mission to make remote teams happier and more productive at work. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.