Posts Tagged ‘people management’

People Management: The Big 3

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Helping your employees perform at their best should be the mission of every manager. Unless you’re prepared to do everything on your own, at some point in time, you’re going to have to rely on others. And if you’re going to rely on your employees, why not elicit the best from them?

When I’ve found myself managing people in my career, I went looking for advice on how to do a better job. According to my un-scientific count, there have been somewhere around 4 billion books written about managing employees! The list of recommendations, advice, tips and downright orders on how to manage people is long. Too long.

So I thought a lot about how I liked to be managed, I observed those managers who consistently brought the best out in others, I talked with good and bad managers, and I read half of those 4 billion books on the subject. And here’s what I found: If you do just three things well, you’ll be an above-average manager of people, and go a long way towards helping your employees perform at their best.

Here are the 3 things every manager should do:

  1. Set clear expectations: Rarely does an employee get up in the morning and think, “Today I’m going to do everything wrong, I’m going to mess things up, and I’m going to cause trouble.” In fact, most people do what they’re expected to do. The problem is that many employees don’t know what’s expected of them; they’re definitely not very good at reading the minds of their managers. So, sit down and write out exactly how you expect each one of your employees to behave and do their job, then meet with them individually and talk about your expectations. And let them tell you what they expect of you as their manager. If you do that, both sides will have clear expectations, and it’s likely that this will help your employees do what you want more often. For more information on setting clear expectations, go to this blog post.
  2. Give lots of feedback, especially confirming feedback: There are two kinds of feedback, and they’re not positive and negative. No, they’re confirming and corrective. If you think about why you give someone feedback (to get them to do more of the right stuff, and to correct the wrong stuff), these terms – confirming and corrective – make a lot more sense than the old “positive and negative.” People will do more of what they’re praised or rewarded for, so every time you give confirming feedback you’ve increased the likelihood of them doing more of it. Corrective feedback should be given in private whenever you need something done differently. I’ve written in more detail about giving feedback here, but a goal should be to give at least four times as much confirming feedback as you do corrective.
  3. Connect with your employees: Without even checking I bet your employees are human beings. And therefore, your employees have the same kinds of problems, challenges, ups and downs, and emotional issues outside of work that you or anyone else has. If you’re not willing to accept this as a fact of life, you should probably hand over the keys to the people management role. I’m not suggesting you have to become close friends with your employees (that can even be a negative thing), but you should understand them, know a little about their personal lives, and be empathetic to what they have going on outside of the workplace – connect with them. I’ve written more about this in another blog here.

By the way, this is not just to get the most out of people so your business/department succeeds. If it’s totally one-sided like that, you’re doomed. No, in my experience and the experience of researchers who really dig into topics like this, most people would rather do a good job than a poor job. They like to do well. It’s less stressful, more fun, and there comes a sense of satisfaction with it. It might take a little more work, but in most cases it doesn’t. So if you focus on helping people do what they want – perform at their best – you’ll be doing both you and them a favor.

Lack of Sales? The Solution May Be Right Under Your Nose

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Sales. What company doesn’t want more sales? Is the solution to finding them an external or internal thing? Is it the economy (an easy thing to blame), the sales staff, or something else?

Within a week I had conversations with two different groups of people about how to increase sales. One was a company I’m doing some consulting for, and the other a group of business owners with whom I get together with (not often enough!) to share thoughts and ideas.

In looking at how to increase sales, both groups were focused on how to find and hire good sales people. We talked about all sorts of ways of identifying people who would be great sales people. We talked about using various personality instruments and tests to determine the traits that make a great sales person. We talked about recruiting techniques, about interviewing, about resumes. But in the end, both groups seemed to be resigned to not being able to find and/or choose the exact right person who will be a sales superstar. The conclusion was that it’s practically impossible to identify someone who will be a high-performing sales person.

I heard comments like, “You just can’t find a good sales person. They just don’t seem to want to work hard enough. It’s like I have to do it all.”

After much discussion I wondered out loud, “Is it a matter of finding the right person, or a matter of managing the people you have to make them successful?” In both cases, the people I was talking to were open-minded enough to consider that as being a big factor, one that could make a big difference.

To quote Sheryl Crow in the song, Soak Up The Sun, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”

Could it be that the solution to finding the right sales superstar is right under your nose? Could it be that you already have the right sales person? Could it be that you need to manage that employee for success, for performance?

In a separate conversation, I asked a manager, “What motivates your sales people?” She looked at me with a blank stare. She had no idea. I asked, “What do you know about your people – and I mean, personally?” Another blank stare. This manager had little to no knowledge about her staff, about what could possibly motivate them to become high-performers.

A theme for many of my blog posts is centered around personal accountability and if you’ve read more than a few of my posts, I suspect you believe in that. If you didn’t take personal responsibility for what goes on around you, it’s likely I would have offended you by now and you wouldn’t be reading this! So, when I suggest that the lack of sales – or anything else for that matter, as I’m using sales as an example right now – is something that you need solve yourself, I suspect you’re already onside with me.

Is it a matter of finding that one-in-million superstar that does everything and more with absolutely no management whatsoever, or is it a matter of looking at yourself – and your company/team as a whole – and figure out how to make that individual or group successful?

Ahh, but one qualifier: I do believe that the person or people you’re managing has to want to be successful, has to want to managed for success. But that’s a topic for another day.