There are a number of really critical aspects to managing people and you will hopefully be one of those people who gets it right.  You will have a great team that works really well for you and makes your management role much more relaxing. However, if you are one of those that doesn’t quite make the grade then pay attention, you might learn something useful. Here are my top five tips for being a good people manager:

1. Trust

This seems like the most obvious thing ever and I hear you screaming at the screen, “of course I trust my team.” But do you? There are quite a few signals that you might not trust people as much as you should but the big ones are:

a) Do you keep track of your team’s start and finish times, or how long their long breaks are, or the time they spend in the toilet, or chatting together, or on cigarette breaks? Stop doing that, right now. There is nothing more demotivating that fearing the wraith of a manager who expects you to run by Japanese train schedules. If you don’t know, should a train is Japan be more that 20 seconds late you will get an apology over the loud speaker. More than 5 minutes late and the conductor will issue you with a letter of apology for your boss!

There are jobs where being on time is a little more important than others, and unless you work in that type environment then RELAX already. It is more important for your team to know that you trust them to be on time and that you are happy that they are able to get the job done in the time provided to them. As much as you are paying them to be at work for a specific time, the reality is that you are paying them to get a job done. You would much rather they get the job done and spend some time relaxing than be stressed over time management but not get the job done and not be happy about it. A few minutes here or there is not the end of the world, so ease up.

b) Are you always asking your team members for status updates or progress for work that you are not expecting to be completed yet? In a working environment, there are a very limited number of people who actually like to be micro-managed. Believe me when I say that they exist, but chances are that the people in your team are not in the select group of micro-management supporters. If you are on your team’s case constantly for work to be done then you are a micro-manager and you are showing all of your team that you can’t trust them to do what you have asked them to do.

Let it go. Unless your team are totally incapable, because we all know it happens, you should be letting them get on with the job at hand. They are employed to do a job, so let them do it. Constant requests for updates are distracting, annoying, unnecessary and ultimately frustrate every one involved. You are their boss, so they stop and tell you what you’ve asked for. The 5 minutes, or longer, that it takes every time you ask for an update, could be the difference in efficiency that your business needs to get the competitive advantage. Be efficient, use your time wisely and let your team use theirs to do what you need them to do.

Trust is critically important in all relationships, even the ones with have with ourselves. Start with trusting your team and you will find that things run more smoothly and you will need to intervene far less often. Your team will respect you a little bit more as well.

2. Allow Mistakes

Descartes may have had it wrong when he said “I think, therefore I am”, because in most cases the point at which you really know you exist is when you’ve messed something up, or missed a bill payment. As a manager, you need to live by the motto “to err is human, to forgive is devine” because let’s face it, people in your team WILL make mistakes. This is inevitable. How you deal with it will be the difference between you being seen as a good manager or a bad one. Of course, no one is up for encouraging mistakes but the pressure you put on people by punishing them severely for mistakes will cause inefficiency, raise stress levels and generate ill feeling.

What to do? In most cases, you will treat mistakes in the same way that you have been conditioned to deal with them. You will replicate the activity that you have been shown when you have made mistakes in the past. Even though you remember it to feel awful, this is what you have learned and so this is what you put into practice. The next time someone makes a mistake, analyse how you react, what exactly do you do? Once you have done this, you will truly understand how you react and if this is by punishing people, ridiculing them or generally making their lives a misery, then it is time for a change.

React positively. By this, I don’t mean jumping for joy and buying everyone a round of drinks at the next team dinner. I mean, take the time and the opportunity to gain some insight into your organisation. Talk through what happened, understand who made the error and what failed in the overall process. Instead of using this chance to pounce on the person to blame, talk about how it could have been done differently, what learnings can be gained from the error, are there things we can do to improve processes, can training be given to improve expertise in this area?

If something goes wrong, it is an opportunity to make positive changes to prevent these things from happening again. Don’t punish people for making mistakes, allow them to happen but be seen to use them for the development and growth of both the individual and the organisation.


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