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New managers need to learn to be great ‘people’ managers

14th April 2015

She’s bidding for Presidency, but Hillary’s Clinton’s doing it!

I’m always interested to read how former First Lady Hillary Clinton is planning her political campaign for the 2016 Presidential Election.

An article in today’s Telegraph says she is starting her campaign trail with a road trip in a minivan called Scooby Doo! Hillary apparently chose to name the van herself for the use in the surprise 1,000 mile campaign trip from New York to Iowa.

Whatever the reason behind the name, I’m guessing it’s probably a tactic tied into her overall a campaign strategy to portray her cast her as a “champion” of “everyday Americans” and as someone who understands the need to ‘keep it real’ and create a greater sense of approachability between her and her potential voters. Bottom line, the minivan is a far cry from the private jets and helicopters that took her between rallies in the Iowa in her failed presidential campaign eight years ago. Maybe the Scooby Doo minivan won’t get her into the Oval Office, but it may strike more meaning with voters because of its approachability.

In much the same way, as political candidates like Hillary want to be recognised as a great leader, being recognised as a great manager in the workplace is something that anyone in that position aspires to.

However, to get that requires more than just possessing the right qualifications or the necessary years of experience within the organisation or business sector. In much the same way, Hillary is trying to avoid any sense of entitlement as a former First Lady that dogged her 2008 campaign, when she entered the race as a favourite only to be upset in Iowa by Barack Obama.

Often the biggest roadblock on the way to becoming a great manager – or in Hillary’s case a great leader – is learning how to become a great ‘people’ manager.

Here are five top tips for managing people that any supervisor or team leader can use to help up their game:-

  1. Managing people is a skill

You may be a great supervisor but without strong ‘people management’ skills you’ll never become a great manager. On their own, the things that probably got you promoted to a manager will not be enough to survive in the future. It takes more than just your core technical skills.

A new higher level position doesn’t give you automatic permission to order people around and watch over their every move – would you have appreciated that in your previous role? On the other hand, as human beings we are often conditioned to seek the approval of others, so many managers experience internal conflict in trying to maintain harmony. Their desire to be approved interferes with their ability to manage and make confident decisions.

Your people are relying on you to be their manager, which means that generally you cannot be their best friend. Providing clear direction, making the tough decisions and being respected by your people are the hallmarks of an effective manager.

Managing people well is a skill that can be learned and much will come through time and experience. So if you are not good at it just yet, keep at it, the rewards you reap on a professional level will more than repay your extra effort!

  1. Make your people’s success your priority

It’s a very simple concept. If your people do well and succeed then so will you.

If a manager becomes known for being a great talent spotter – and talent nurturer- then they become an even more valuable asset to their organisation.

A great manager discovers what their people’s individual goals are and then does everything they can to help them achieve these.

Your role now involves managing a team of people with different styles of working, decision making and communicating. While your teams individual styles may not be how you approach your work, if the results are good then you will need to accept these differences.

Get to know your team, making an effort to spend time with them both as individuals and a professional group and this will help inform professional personal growth plans as well as establish the ground rules of team communication.

  1. Your style versus the last manager

One of the most common mistakes new managers make is by tying to change who they are to fit a pre-determined ‘manager’ mould.

One of the main reasons you got the job is because of who you are, however possessing a management style that differs from your predecessor will mean your people will need to align with a different set of expectations and preferences.

You can’t expect your team to somehow magically know how, or if, these have changed unless you tell them, so encourage an open conversation around similarities and differences between styles.

  1. Have a plan

Many managers simply react to what is happening around them by jumping around ‘fire-fighting’ the latest problem to hit them. Even very hands-on managers need to take time to plan their day and identify what needs to be done, as well as focus on the future.

We all know the old adage: ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’

Preparation is key to success at any level. Effective planning allows everyone to be on the same page and work more effectively as a team.

The 4 key steps to creating an effective plan are:-

  • Set goals

Determine with absolute clarity what you want to achieve. This goal must be specific – you and others need to recognise if and when it is achieved.

  • Clarify tasks

Once you have clearly defined your goal you need to do the hard work of establishing exactly what needs to be done (tasks) to achieve it.

  • Agree responsibilities

Every task needs to be owned by someone and just as importantly, why they need to know that they’re responsible for it.

For the plan to work, it’s important that every task is owned, and that everyone knows what they are responsible for and have agreed to own.

  • Schedule

This means establishing some time scales. By when is the goal to be achieved?

Working backwards, when will each of the tasks be completed to ensure the goal is achieved to the planned timescale?

Planning is an essential skill for ANY manager and greatly improves your chances of success whatever you choose to achieve, including becoming President of the United States!

  1. Communicate

People feel most valued when they feel listened to, when they are consulted about their work or new ideas and when they are trusted with important information.

If you don’t communicate regularly with your people – both formally and informally, as a team and with individuals, the unofficial grapevine will kick in and the rumours will almost always be far worse than the truth.

Some managers like to demonstrate they are in charge by keeping themselves distant or shut off from their team and only releasing selective information on an ad hoc basis. This is a big mistake! You need to know what’s happening ‘on the ground’ (just like Hillary!) so that you can make good, timely decisions and build positive and open, working relationships with your people.

Remember that effective communication is two-way. This means asking and listening NOT simply telling and informing.

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