Build great Teams – People management

Managing People – Things To Think About

Managing People – Things To Think About

Managing people looks easy when you see good people managers doing it. But if you’re struggling – don’t worry – you’re not alone. Managing people is not a bed of roses. People are complex. Get it right quicker by taking advice from people like me who’ve been there and done that!

Expanding your business so that you need to a team to support you is a great step forward. Most people who’ve done it, however, will admit it comes with challenges, especially if you have no experience managing people.

Managing People – Learning To Let Go

Maybe you’ve been running a small business on your own for the past few years. You’ve built the company up from nothing, and until now you were the employee and the manager. To keep delivering what you’ve promised to your clients, you need the support of a team. But you’re finding it hard to let go of doing the work yourself. You’re struggling to get your employees to do it the way you want – the way you would have done it. You find yourself micromanaging them which takes up all your time. It would be quicker to do the work yourself.

You need to find a balance. If you provide no guidance you’ll end up disappointed when the person hasn’t done what you wanted. Remember – they can’t read your mind! But if you provide too close supervision the person will feel smothered and never learn to do it themselves. If you micromanage every step of their work, they won’t learn any accountability for what they are doing.

Find a happy balance where you communicate well, set clear expectations and provide helpful, timely feedback. It may initially take longer than it would for you to do the work yourself – but persevere. Fight temptation to take over and do the work yourself because it’s only quicker in the short term. It won’t get you to the point where someone else is doing the work well for you.

Managing People – Inheriting A Team

Maybe you’ve inherited or bought a small business that already has a team. And maybe you have little or no previous experience of managing people. You’re about to learn that two-way communication is key. If you’ve inherited a team, talk to each team member individually before you do anything. Use the feedback process I describe in the next section to find out what they think about the way the company currently runs. Get their feedback before you start changing things. You can then take their views into account and get them to follow you willingly on your journey.

Managing People – Your Responsibilities

Whatever has brought you to this point should be seen as a step forwards and upwards. As you may already have realized, it comes with responsibilities. You are now responsible for many aspects of your team’s careers. That includes your team’s development, as a whole and individually. You’re responsible for making sure they receive the training and support they need to do their jobs today, and so that they’re ready for the future.

You’ll have to keep your team motivated and engaged, so they’ll be productive. You will have to set goals for your team that support your business goals, but which are relevant to individually. Then you’ll have to review their performance against those goals. Don’t forget to coach them to keep them on track, or to get them back on track if they go off course. And remember to give recognition when it’s due.

You now have to worry about growing your workforce, or at a minimum replacing any people who leave. This involves recruitment, interviewing, and induction. You’ll have to communicate well with your employees all the time, which includes delivering difficult messages when needed. You ‘ll have to learn to delegate to, influence and negotiate with your team. Finally, you’ll have to be able to manage conflicting demands, worry about your employee’s work-life balance (and your own) and think about their general well-being.

It’s No Longer All About You

You may have demonstrated fantastic business acumen as a small business owner working on your on, but suddenly, as a manager of other people, everything’s changed and you don’t feel as successful as you did before you had a team to worry about. Remember, when you have a team, it’s your team’s performance that reflects your performance – it’s no longer all about you! You have to learn to be successful through your team. Adopting a mind-set where you can be successful through others is vital, but not always easy.

Over the years, many best practices have been developed. Not all practices are relevant for all companies and situations, but just knowing what people management topics you should even been concerned about, and knowing how you might approach things based on lessons others have learned before you, will prevent you from having to re-invent the wheel for every new people management topic you encounter.

So far it all sounds like doom and gloom, doesn’t it? I’m sorry about that – but the truth is once you have the right tools in your tool kit, managing people is not that difficult and many people find it extremely rewarding. Learn from people like me so you don’t have to re-invent any wheels to get your team working productively and effectively. That will leave you with time and energy to focus on growing your business further.

Don’t Forget To Plan

As your company evolves and grows, your team will need to evolve and develop with it. That requires planning. You hopefully plan for most other aspects of your business, and the team should be included in your planning. You should have a plan to replace key people if they leave, so you’re not left high and dry. But you should also do general workforce planning, which should be done in conjunction with your overall business planning, since they are closely linked. People planning is most easily done based on an organizational chart. You should have a chart for now and one for some point in the future that you can use as the basis for your plan.

Getting Feedback

It’s always good to know how you’re doing and there are several ways you can find out. If you think you have fantastic communication skills, you’re unlikely to change anything you’re doing. But what if your team think you have poor communication skills? If you don’t realize and don’t change, you might lose staff. Most people won’t tell you, they’ll just quietly disappear so they no longer need to work for, or with you. Even if you notice people are leaving, if you don’t know why, it will be difficult to fix it.

Ask for specific feedback from your team to see how your behaviour affects the people you work with. A formal review may be awkward as employees may not feel comfortable being completely honest with you. But there are ways to get feedback about the business and about you that you can act on.

Be open to what they say. Don’t start out defensive. It can be difficult to hear criticism. Some people also find it hard to receive a compliment. Really listen to what they are saying, thank them for their honesty. You may need to ask for suggestions on how you could do things better. Don’t forget, it will be as difficult for them to tell you as it is for you to hear what they have to say.

Getting Feedback From your Team

One very simple but effective method to get feedback is to periodically ask some very open questions of your team. You can use it to ask for detailed suggestions on how to fix what needs changing. This method draws on the power of the team to make your business more effective.

The simplest way to do this is to ask these four questions of each team member:

  • What do you think we do well?
  • What do you think we could improve?
  • If only one thing could change in the next twelve months, which of the above items would it be?
  • For the things we need to improve, how do you suggest we achieve improvement?
  • Ask for positives first to get positive energy flowing. That might spark the ideas needed to address the things that need improving. It also ensures you don’t inadvertently throw out the things that work well as you address the things you need to fix! When asking about areas for improvement, get them to prioritize and ask them to suggest a solution.

    You can also use this method to reflect on what you’re doing yourself.

    Exit Interviews

    Getting feedback from people who choose to leave your company is a great way to find out about your company. Exit interviews are not like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. A structured exit interview administered by a 3rd party as soon as the person has left is most effective. Over time you may see patterns that unearth a problem that is lurking under the surface, and which may harm your business over the longer term.

    If you can’t engage a 3rd party to run an exit interview process for you, you can do it yourself. Use open questions and make sure any response will allow you to take action. Include questions about your management style.

    Employee Engagement

    Most of us are familiar with the idea of employee satisfaction, but what about employee engagement? Employee engagement brings together a range of concepts. They include commitment to your company, energy (yours, theirs and that of the team), job satisfaction and shared purpose. Employee engagement can be directed towards the job itself, relationships with colleagues, the company as a whole and with people outside the company (clients, suppliers etc.).

    Do not assume that employees are naturally demotivated and your role in life is to inspire and lead them in an engaging way. Some employees are naturally highly motivated, and for them you may simply need to make sure they don’t become demotivated by lack of support or resources or poor management.

    Typically companies assess how engaged their staff are by collecting employee engagement data via a survey administered through a 3rd party. However, very small companies can’t collect statistically valid data, so they need to gather information in a different way. If you ask the right questions you can still get valuable information that you can act on. You need to be very open with your employees so they feel they can be honest with you, and the questions you ask need to be specific.

    My Question To You

    Are you a business owner who’s new to managing people? How has that transition gone for you? What lessons have you learned? If this is something you would like to discuss or would like some help with, contact me at You can also buy my book Accelerate to Team Success which is available as a paperback or on Kindle.


    About the Author:

    Nikki Faulkner photo Dr Nikki Faulkner founded Mulberry Bush Consulting to work with business leaders and their teams to make the 'People' side of their business as effective as possible. Mulberry Bush Consulting's specialty is helping small businesses who are new to having employees and helping businesses who are growing rapidly and increasing their employee-base at a rate that is creating a significant challenge.

    You are not alone and we can help.

    We offer a Team Success program that will help you build a successful team that will support you, freeing you up to spend your time and energy growing your business.

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