Whether you have been given a promotion at work or you run your own business and you’re planning to outsource, if you suddenly find yourself responsible for managing people/projects, you might experience a range of emotions.
Excitement because suddenly you have added responsibility, it will enable you to grow (personally and professionally) and the opportunity to potentially delegate more.
Overwhelm because you’re feeling scared, you’ve never done this before. Where do you start, what do you need to consider? Perhaps a little imposter syndrome is kicking in right now…
Either way, being a manager brings with it new challenges.
Think of your own experiences
Whenever I manage people, the approach I take is based on me thinking about how I would want to be treated, along with my own experiences of being managed.
I remember working for someone in my late teens and he was all about blaming others and never taking responsibility for his own actions. It led to a horrible working environment and if it wasn’t for my colleagues, I would’ve left. I have witnessed this style in other businesses and it really leads to a bad culture with people feeling undervalued and low morale.
I’ve also known managers and leaders who really look down on people based on their job roles within a business and/or when outsourcing. Again an approach which I would never advocate because it shows a real lack of respect.
Thankfully, it’s my positive experiences that have really shaped my approach.
What I learnt early on was the managers who really inspired me were those who really listened and they were genuine. They weren’t afraid to get involved with tasks and conversations, they communicated and made you feel as though you were valued and respected.
It was also about the little things, the stuff you didn’t think anyone noticed, but they recognised and appreciated what you did.
To me, the managers I really respected came across as being invested in people and get to know them, they showed they had excellent people skills, they didn’t micromanage, they inspired and they led with confidence (even if internally they didn’t feel that way). They were natural leaders.
Your role: Managing a team for the first time
When managing a team for the first time, decide on the role you want to play. How do you want to be perceived by the person/people you are managing? It might sound crazy but it’s important to think about it, the boundaries you want to set and what you expect from your team.
If you are managing people within an organisation, it’s important to consider the time you allocate for taking care of the people side of things, such as 1:1s and appraisals. These are important and help people to feel valued, they should happen regularly and shouldn’t be pushed back to make way for work you deem to be more important because the impact on the individual can lead to them feeling unmotivated and not valued.
If you’re a business owner and you’re looking to outsource, it’s still important to set aside time to catch up with key people you’re outsourcing work to because it helps to ensure everyone is happy, you can update in terms of your goals and the bigger picture. By updating the person/company, they may assist in other ways you’re not aware of.
Understand your team
Whether you’re managing a team of one, ten, fifty or more, it’s important to build a rapport with people. Of course, if it is a larger team, you can’t take your time getting to know what makes each individual ‘tick’ but it doesn’t mean you can’t build a rapport.
If you work in an office, the conversation doesn’t always have to be work related, you might spot something on someone’s desk and it could be a conversation starter. Whether it be a family picture, a character or a picture of something else, it might lead to finding out more.
It’s all about being seen to be approachable and friendly, so if the individual has an issue, they will be happier to discuss it with you. I have witnessed people who wanted to come across as being a little scary but it meant people avoided having conversations with their manager and this would later lead to problems.
If you are managing a bigger team in an office, consider using Belbin as a way to understand how the different roles fit together or maybe StrengthsFinder to understand more about the individual and where their strengths really fit. If you’re looking to outsource, both Belbin and StrengthsFinder could be a useful way of you understanding more about your own style and where your strengths are.
For example, when I last completed Belbin I came out as a Complete Finisher and my top 5 strengths from StrengthsFinder are Empathy, Includer, Consistency, Relator and Developer – all people-related skills.
Communication, communication, communication
Yes, there will always be things you can’t discuss, for example, if you are new to a role and you’re notified of impending redundancies or changes to structures, you can’t be immediately open about those topics but it doesn’t mean to say you can’t be transparent in other ways.
In my experience, it links one of the biggest breakdowns between a manager and a team member to a lack of communication. Share as much information as you can about the plans for the business and ask for feedback on ideas, this will help the team to feel like their role matters and they will feel valued.
Communication is so powerful. For example, tone of voice, the unspoken word, the ability to listen and to pick up on body language. Understanding when is the right time to be empathetic and when to be firm but fair and to not be afraid of having difficult conversations. It’s an art in itself, but when you get it right, it is hugely beneficial.
Regardless of whether it’s an internal/external person you’re managing, setting clear goals is key. Agree from the beginning what the goals are and how they will be managed. For example, how will the work will be tracked, do you want weekly updates, milestone updates, or are you only interested in hearing when a task/project is completed.
I know a lot of people groan when they hear the term KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) but if you are creative in the way you use them and manage them, they can be really beneficial in monitoring progress, especially when you use the traffic light system (red, amber, green – RAG). KPIs focus on the results, rather than the action, and the RAG report will quickly highlight the progress that has been made.
Another way of empowering your team is to ask them for their opinion. It’s often said you should surround yourself with people who are better than you because you will learn from them, so be open-minded, find out what your team have to offer and really listen to them.
Don’t immediately shut them down, respect their opinion, and if it’s not suitable and/or you know something won’t work (whether it be based on current circumstances, budget, etc.), be honest. Feedback your reasons why.
Motivate, lead by example
It doesn’t take a lot to motivate someone, by showing a genuine interest in them, asking how they are and showing appreciation, that can be enough to motivate them. Appreciation doesn’t necessarily mean financial appreciation, it is about recognising their hard work or achievement and saying thank you.
When you get to know more about them as an individual, you will understand more about their values and this will help you to get the best out of them and in return, that will help with motivation. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach.
Encourage them to be open and creative (if the task allows) but be clear with your expectations.
Be consistent, there is nothing worse than when someone doesn’t know what to expect from you, by that I mean one minute you’re behaving like you’re best friends and the next you go cold on them, behaving in a much more formal way.
Lead by example, again this comes back to thinking about what works for you. Think about your own personal values, what keeps you going? It might be financial rewards, it might be flexibility in your job or it might be recognition but to achieve whatever it is, you probably need to behave in a certain way. Is there anything you could pass on?
Managing a team remotely
The points I have made in this blog are the same if you managing remotely or if you’re in the same building, the only difference is the approach you make. You need to make a conscious effort to remember to include people because it’s easy to fall into the trap of out of sight, out of mind.
If you are managing remotely, it’s still important to hold team meetings, and hold regular 1:1 meetings. If you have a messaging system in place, check in unexpectedly to find out if someone is having a good day. The unexpected message can show you care, if done in the right way, rather than making the person feel like you’re checking up on them.
If part of the team is in the office and the rest remotely, don’t exclude them. If it’s possible, keep them in the loop, even if it’s about non-business related events. I have witnessed this too many times were remote workers feel left out and a little unmotivated because they really felt as though they were not part of the team.
Yes, it can be daunting when you first look to manage someone, even if it’s managing your first project and the requirement to liaise with others but take it one step at a time.
If you don’t know the answers right now, be honest and explain you need to find them out but you will get back to people.
Map out what you want to do, don’t be scared to take calculated risks, it’s all part of your growth and having self-belief in yourself.
Build trust, respect people and relationships
I cannot stress this enough. Think about your own experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly.
What did you learn from the managers you have had? How did the experience change based on the type of manager you had?
My guess is that a lot of the positives come from when there was trust, you felt respected and you had a strong working relationship.
You don’t have to do this alone
I have lots of experience of managing people and mentoring people, if you’re feeling a little out of your depth right now, get in touch to find out how I can help you.
It’s an exciting time and once you have the confidence, you will wonder why you ever doubted yourself.
Why not get your diary and book a virtual cuppa with me and we can have a free 20-minute chat to identify what would work best for you. I look forward to chatting with you.