So you’ve taken the plunge and made your first hire? Or maybe you’ve already got a small team? All you need to do now is sit back and watch the work happen… right? Err no. In fact, you might find just the opposite!
In my early days as a manager, each new person I brought on to help with the business, actually seemed to create more work for me. What the?! That was until I learned how to actually manage people properly…
Disappointing as it may be, having a team does not mean;
- just giving someone a job, a desk and hoping for the best
- giving orders and picking up the faults in your teams’ work
- having a replica of you that will just double your output
No, unfortunately there is much to be said for the skill of actually managing people in order to get the benefits of having a team. So how do you actually manage people? What does that even mean in a practical sense?
What all People Managers Need to Do
After you’ve hired and trained a new recruit, the ongoing task of management means that you need to;
Set the direction of the business and communicate this effectively to your team.
With a strong vision for your business, this becomes a lot easier. However, you also have to translate it into something meaningful for your team.
Divide up the work that needs to be done, set responsibilities and communicate.
Sometimes this will involve task scheduling (eg project management), or sometimes role definition, but it will always include a deep understanding of the skills, knowledge and aspirations of your team members.
Solve problems and remove obstacles.
Although being the manager doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have all the answers or be better equipped to solve all the problems, in small business, chances are that this role will largely fall to you.
Keep momentum up by holding people accountable.
In my experience, this role is extremely important in the day-to-day of running a business. Finding ways to keep the focus on the right things, and keep people progressing (without it seeming like a grind), is something that really makes a huge difference.
Motivating the team and building a positive culture.
There’s no doubt that employees that are happy and positive do the best work and everyone wants a workplace culture that reinforces the desired behaviours. This again becomes part of your job as the manager to make it happen.
So that’s what we need to achieve as managers – but what does that mean in practice? Well, I’ve found that there are several tools that are most commonly used to achieve these outcomes. No one tool covers everything, but you also don’t need to use them all.
The Practical Tools of People Management
None of these should come as a surprise to anyone, but it’s sometimes the obvious things that we forget (or neglect) to do.
Obviously these are not really needed unless you have a team, but as soon as you have more than one team member, these become really important. Everyone needs to know that everyone else is on the same page as them. That you’re all striving for the same goals and all have the same constraints in mind. There are lots of different ways to do team meetings, but the best ones are regular, short in duration, and stick to a set agenda.
You can use team meetings to communicate the vision – both initially and as a constant reminder through sayings, agenda items etc. You can also use team meetings to communicate the plan and various responsibilities. Plus, you can hold pople accountable by asking for regular progress reports in team meetings. Team meetings can also be used to solve problems, although this can become problematic in itself if the problems are large. But they can definitely be used to help build a positive culture and lift morale. I know of one business that asks each person for their “win of the week”. It’s a great way to hear the positive things going on within the business.
Team meetings are pretty important but you can always design them to suit your style. Not a natural chairperson? Make the meetings shorter, allocate responsibilities for different agenda items to different people, or make them less frequent.
1:1 Meetings or Phone Calls
Individual catch-ups are a really useful tool for setting and clarifying responsibilities, solving problems, and especially for keeping momentum going. Unfortunately many of us need some sort of deadline or time when we’re asked to show our work to actually make sure we get it done!
One-on-one meetings are also the ideal forum for getting to know your team members individually – particularly in assessing how they are feeling at the moment, whether they have any issues that need sorting out, and what aspirations they hold for the future.
Again, the key to great one-on-one meetings is keeping them regular and fairly short. It’s far better to do a 10 minute update every week than an hour long update once a month. Schedule them in and don’t let other priorities push them aside. Show your team member they’re important to you by valuing your time together.
Metrics via Reports / Tallies / Scoreboards
This might seem like a strange idea for a management tool but regular reports, visible tallies, or scoreboards can actually serve quite well as a management tool. Especially in cases where you have a team working together on something or several team members in the same role. In my last business we tried several versions of this – ranging from a full-scale digital dashboard which showed all the business metrics, to sales reports, to bells ringing in the office. The best was a single measure which we tracked each month displayed prominently in the open working space. The whole team understood the goal for the month and which different factors influenced that number.
Another way is to have your team member/s send you a regular report. This could be a quantitative report of their output, or something they just fill in to let you know what they’re working on and what their progress is. I particularly like the idea behind this tool. The way it works is that all team members send a quick email at the end of the day to report what their achievements for the day and anything they’re stuck on. It’s a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment and keep everyone clear on what’s going on.
Incentive Programs / Rewards
In the right circumstances, incentive programs or rewards can take the approach of managing through metrics up another notch. Although these can be highly effective, getting the exact rewards and measures right though can be really tricky. Sometimes your team can become so focussed on achieving the metric that their performance in other areas goes down. For example, do you want your sales team pushing so hard for a sale that it annoys customers or increases your churn rates? If your team’s goals are relatively simple and measurable, then this could be something well worth trialling.
Holding regular performance reviews is a basic expectation that most staff have of a good employer. This is obviously an opportunity to assess performance, but also to motivate, share your vision, get a better understanding of your employee’s aspirations, and come up with a plan for the next period. Although many managers dislike doing performance reviews, I can’t think of any situations when they aren’t appropriate and useful.
Don’t just try and wing-it though. Go into the performance review prepared with detailed notes. Ask your employee to prepare as well. It also helps tremendously if you have a pre-defined set of criteria that you are assessing performance against. Then during the performance review, keep your objective in mind. Most likely you want to inspire your team member onto higher levels of performance. Usually the best way to achieve this is to be lighter on the criticism and heavier on the praise.
For the right type of manager, adhoc feedback can work really well. If you’re the sort of person that can walk around the office revving people up, high-fiving successes, and giving meaningful praise, that can go a long way towards having a motivated team. Adhoc feedback can also occur when you’re driving to meetings together, having coffee, solving problems together etc. And praise is even more important when you deliver it in front of others.
Don’t despair if this is not your natural way of operating though (it was never mine either!). Fortunately, if you use a combination of the other tools, you can get by just fine.
Yes, I consider social functions to be a management tool. They can be designed to help people relate better to each other, have fun together, and overall feel more positively towards their work. Obviously the type of social functions you hold need to be appropriate for the team and your budget, but done right, even a couple of well thought out events can pull your team together and help them work more cohesively.
As a rough guide, the following diagram shows which people management tools are most useful for accomplishing which people management goals;
Choose the tools that are right for your purposes, and also the tools that suit your personality type. That way you’ll get the results you want and you won’t feel like managing people is a constant drain on your energy!