23 Tips To Manage Like a Champ
Is there a “best way” to manage people? No, but there are a lot of great examples to learn from. Managing people is an art form that will exhilarate and frustrate you equally. It’s the hard part that comes after you recruit the right people. You have to balance your company’s, your, your team’s, and each individual’s priorities. Many people are overwhelmed when they start managing people for the first time, but there is help.
I managed a team of 30 research analysts for five years at a small, fast growing company with a sprinting pace. I had the privilege to hire my team from scratch, set up systems and processes, designed career paths, and fit a personal life for me somewhere in between. Most were fresh graduates and most were women. The interesting thing about working with young women is how amplified the emotional factor is. It was emotional roller coaster: life was peachy when they were happy, but when they were unhappy they had this incredible ability to charge each other up to a boiling point. It was a crash course in management for me.
I distilled my experience into these 23 lessons to manage people effectively:
1- Set a common goal: A common goal is what differentiates a team from a group. It surprises me how many managers miss this basic and essential element.
2- Measure: Set how you will measure progress towards the goal. Track these key metrics regularly and communicate that progress to the team. If you don’t measure it, you won’t improve it and if you do, you won’t know.
3- Align: Make sure the company, team, and individual goals and performance metrics are all aligned. If quality is important, measure it for the company, team, and individual performance.
4- Match their career paths to the company needs, not other way around. Build a career path for them to grow into. Make sure their career path helps the company achieve its goals. Don’t get too caught up trying to please your team and create a career path that adds bloat instead of value for the company and it’s customers.
5- Set ground rules early: Decide on and communicate your rules up front (e.g. be honest, work hard, communicate, respect others, admit mistakes, etc).
6- Expect a lot: Set goals that will stretch people to achieve and learn. They will complain about the workload, but will appreciate it in the long run. Raise the bar and keep it high. This will weed out anyone who is not willing to do the hard work.
7- Give a lot: At the same time, give your team a lot of support, rewards, and attention to go with what you expect from them. Your appreciation is worth a lot more than you think.
8- Set clear expectations: If you are delegating a task, explain the reason, actions, deadline, and desired results. If you are delegating a responsibility, be clear on the desired outcome. Simple, right? For some reason, many managers (especially entrepreneurs) are a moving target in terms of their expectations.
9- Lead by example: If you expect your team to work hard, you should be working harder. Slacking off, walking in late and leaving early is a sure way to lose their respect and build resentment towards you. If they can’t look up to you for inspiration, they will go somewhere else with a stronger leader. It’s not just about how hard you work. It’s also about how you behave and what you know.
10- Be fair: Distribute the work fairly. Promote people who deserve it. Give people what they deserve even if they expect less. This builds trust and nurtures loyalty.
11- Pay fairly: Giving more money will not motivate them, but paying them less than they deserve will demotivate them (Frederick Herzberg calls it a hygiene factor).
12- Communicate frequently: Do more listening than talking. Just the act of actively listening to a frustrated person starts solving the problem. Don’t let things fester and build up.
13- Give regular feedback: Have regular one-on-one “tune up” sessions to review their work (I did monthly). There should be no surprises in annual reviews.Praise them when they do something well. Point out problems and mistakes (in private) and include actions to rectify it. For example, I once pointed out to a high achiever that she should improve her interpersonal skills with her team mates to get ahead in her career.
14- Adjust your communication style to their personality: People have different personalities and see the world in different ways. Some prefer to be direct while others are more emotional.
15- Celebrate accomplishments and praise your team regularly. It instills a sense of pride in their work, boosts their morale, and injects positive energy all around. I surprised my team once after a great quarter by taking them out on a day-long road trip. The effect it had on team morale was worth a million dollars.
16- Protect them like they are your children. Do not let any “outsider” (e.g. customer, supplier, your boss) overstep their boundaries with your team. I witnessed a great example on a plane. One passenger kept nagging and shouting at the hostess about how late the flight is from its takeoff time. The pilot intervened when he learned of this and spoke to the passenger by politely explaining the cause for the delay, but became assertive when the passenger kept shouting.
17- Be honest and transparent: This applies to everything you do. If the topic is confidential, tell them why you cannot share the information and when you will if you eventually can (e.g. if the company will be giving out bonuses).
18- Admit mistakes & take responsibility: You will make mistakes. When you do, be mature and admit them. I once held a meeting with my team when I was frustrated about how far behind our targets we were falling. I praised two people who were achieving their targets. Later, someone told me that many did not appreciate how I singled out those two people only when others were also doing well. I thanked her and held a meeting immediately. I apologized, explained my point more clearly and assured them there was no favouritism.
19- Train and develop: Invest in helping each person grow as a professional. Share with them your experience. Discuss her/his career plans and how to achieve it. Give them projects they will learn from and guide them through tough and complex issues. Start training them for their next career step before they get there.
20- Be consistent: Stay consistent in how you interact with your team, the expectations you have for their work, how often you review and discuss their performance.
21- Fix the system: When there is a problem, always ask yourself how you can fix the system to prevent the issue from recurring. Toyota’s production system has a great concept of asking 5 why’s when a problem occurs. More often than not, you will get to the fact that you have a systematic issue (gaps in your training process, hiring wrong people, inconsistent quality assurance process, etc).
22- Respect them: Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Respect their values and beliefs and don’t look down at anyone. Don’t take out your frustrations at others.
23- Have fun: You will be spending a lot of time with your team. Let your personalities shine and have some fun at work. It shouldn’t be all business or go out of hand.
Managing people takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. Share your experience with managing people.