4 Ways to Be a Better People Manager (and Books to Take You There)
In theory, management is simple. You find the best possible people, set them to work on their tasks, and stay the heck out of their way. In reality, things are a bit more complicated.
Below, we’ll discuss a few of our favorite tips for improving your people skills as a manager—and as a bonus, we’ll recommend a few of our favorite reads, each of which highlight these lessons in compelling narratives you won’t be able to put down. Read on!
1. Listen, and Learn Your Team
Take the time to listen to employees. Learn about their interests, which aspects of the job they enjoy, and their career aspirations. These are basic people management skills that every manager needs.
Your team will appreciate feeling heard, and this data can be helpful for long-term planning. (For example, in terms of recruiting, you’ll get great insight into which employees may be best suited to moving up the corporate ladder.)
Further reading: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
We’ve recommended Carnegie’s classic before, but there’s a reason this book is still being printed over 80 years after its publication. Human nature doesn’t change, and many of these tips are timeless lessons for dealing with people.
2. Set Up Weekly Progress Checks
Set up one-on-one meetings every week to go over goals, tasks, and any questions your team might have.
Don’t think of these in the same way as your annual performance evaluations; instead, look at them as opportunities to coordinate. When you receive regular direct reports from both lower-level staff and supervisors, you’re keeping a finger on the company’s pulse while staying invested in your team. To put that another way, your team is a resource. Use them.
Further reading: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
This book purportedly examines “stories of success,” but we found the message to be much deeper. What really makes high-achievers perform well? What social and cultural power structures influence our day-to-day work? It’s a thought-provoking read that might make you question the way you evaluate your teams!
3. Work to Set Achievable Goals
It’s not as simple as it sounds.
Managers have a tricky role in the organization. They have to keep tabs on their teams without micromanaging. They have to let their teams work freely while making sure the project heads in the right direction. It’s not easy to balance these goals, but it’s a crucial part of the manager’s job. ..
Further reading: Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Billed as “the disciplined pursuit of less,” this book will challenge you to re-think your strategy for goal-setting. The book offers a detailed approach for evaluating priorities and provides insight into how managers can maximize their contributions by applying the right approach at the right time for the right reason.
4. Think Stories—Not Numbers
Train employees to think in terms of stories rather than metrics. For example, if one of your sales reps doesn’t meet his lead generation target at the end of the quarter, you have two options: Talk in terms of metrics and ask them to justify the shortcoming, or (2) Ask them to explain their process and tell the story of what they’ve done. In our experience, option two almost always leads to a better outcome, as it better demonstrates the employee processes that created the problem. And from there, fixes are easy to find.
Further reading: The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox
“The Goal” is a bit unique; a business management book positioned as a fictional narrative. But that feature is what makes it so helpful for thinking in terms of stories. Goldratt and Cox do a great job of showing how storytelling can provide insight into outcomes, potential efficiency improvements, and how to identify the biggest barriers preventing your success.