Drive better results and build employee engagement through effective people management.
Becoming a manager is no easy feat. It often requires years of hard work and leadership skills that prove your proficiency and earn the trust of your peers. But earning the title and a team is far from where your hard work ends. In order to maintain your reputation as a good manager and continue delivering results, you need to understand how to manage people effectively.
Anyone can skate by with solid technical skills, but great people management is what keeps you and your company moving forward. After all, a team is only as strong as its team members—and your team members are only as strong as your ability to lead.
Below, we’ll provide a 10-step process you can take to boost your people management skills.
How to manage people effectively
Effective people management isn’t achieved in one day. Rather, it requires you to be dedicated to a journey of constant improvement, as well as open to feedback from the people around you.
The suggestions below will help you round out your skills and become the most successful manager possible.
1. Determine your strengths
Every manager needs to work on different skills. To become an effective leader, you have to understand your own strengths and management style. Many professionals choose trusted assessments like the CliftonStrengths Assessment (formerly known as StrengthsFinder) or the VIA Survey to get an accurate look at their current soft skills.
In addition to looking at your individual strengths, you may also want to consider the strengths of your team. Understanding where your team is currently in terms of skills, efficiency, and success will help you find areas of improvement. It will also help you customize your personal leadership strategy to accommodate the diverse people on your team.
2. Get your team evaluation
Personal assessments don’t always get you the complete picture, as they often reflect your own beliefs about who you are and who you want to be as a people manager. In order to see real-world perceptions, we recommend asking your team members to evaluate you directly, preferably through an anonymous survey so they don’t feel pressured to offer solely positive feedback.
Asking your team members won’t just help you get an accurate evaluation. It will also start a conversation with them that displays your commitment to effective management and a positive work environment. As you proceed with learning how to manage people, this ongoing conversation will build trust and make your employees comfortable with expressing their opinions. As a result, you won’t be surrounded by yes-men and your team will be more effective as a whole.
Any mentors, coworkers, and supervisors you have can also provide feedback from a different perspective.
3. Set goals
Once you have a complete understanding of your strengths, as well as your weaknesses, consider all of the skills that make a good leader—such as great decision-making and problem-solving skills. Determine which of these skills you excel at and which ones you need to improve specifically to help the people on your team succeed.
Then set at least five goals for improving your people management skills in the upcoming quarter. Make sure they’re specific so they can be as measurable as possible. You can start tracking these goals by logging them in a task management tool like Asana or Airtable or by using your own planner or journal.
4. Find a support network
Working closely with your team can help you build effective professional relationships, but working with peers can help you create a strategy to grow as a manager. A solid support network gives you an unbiased perspective of how your team is functioning and where you’ve made mistakes or succeeded in your decisions.
Your support network can be made up of people who are in a similar position in their companies and who therefore share some of your experiences. More experienced managers can also be great additions. Your network might be less formal, including mentors you’ve sought out on your own, or it can be a dedicated mastermind group or leadership development program.
Regardless, you should be able to brainstorm with your network and get proven strategies and team-building ideas to bring back to your team.
5. Do your research
A big part of learning how to manage people directly is expanding your knowledge. Doing research beyond conversations with the people around you will enable you to integrate expert tips into your everyday work life.
Find management books or leadership courses that provide solutions you can implement within your team to reach your goals. Then read up on modern management theories that are important for all aspects of people management, from how to boost employee engagement to how to resolve disputes and encourage good communication.
6. Open new communication channels
Good communication is the foundation of every happy and efficient team. Your team members—even those who aren’t direct reports—should feel empowered to reach out to you and each other at any time. Establishing new communication channels that encourage this exchange will build transparency and collaboration throughout your team. It will even help you practice and improve your active listening skills, which are essential for managers.
With 26% of employees finding email to be a productivity killer and 77% of employees believing email no longer improves communication, the right communication channels shouldn’t distract team members from their work. Instead, use collaboration tools that build productive communication.
As you perfect your online communication, you’ll also want to consider how to improve in-person communication. Over $37 billion per year is wasted on unproductive meetings where employees leave without any clear action items. Improving your agendas and methods for delegating tasks is critical when it comes to managing people.
7. Recognize your team members
When you make a big contribution to your team or simply work your hardest on a project, you want to be recognized for your efforts. Similarly, employees are motivated to contribute when they are consistently recognized for their hard work and ideas. After all, no one wants to work where they don’t feel their contributions are making a difference.
Of course, praise shouldn’t be limited to high performers. Awards like “employee of the month” designations can actually demotivate your team as a whole. Instead, recognize when people are doing their best relative to their usual performance, not in comparison to each other. This will reduce animosity among teammates, while improving employees’ confidence in their own work.
8. Promote professional growth
As you grow as a people manager, don’t forget that most of your employees want to experience growth, too. In fact, 87% of millennials and 69% of non-millennials believe in the importance of professional and career growth opportunities—though only 39% believe they’ve actually learned something new in the most recent month.
Set up one-on-ones with your direct reports about once per quarter to discuss their professional goals, so you can provide resources and even constructive feedback throughout the year. By helping with professional growth, you’ll inspire loyalty and increase proficiency in your team for better results.
One-on-ones will also help you figure out where people fit into a team (and where they’d like to fit), how they like to receive feedback, and how you can adapt and maximize efficiency as each person grows.
9. Implement cross-functional collaboration
Cross-functional collaboration is the concept of bringing together team members from different departments to achieve a common goal—and it’s a great strategy for successful people management. Whether your goal is to increase efficiency or build camaraderie, this form of collaboration can keep your direct reports as well as other teams at the top of their game.
While implementing this strategy may be simple for small businesses, managers at larger companies will need to practice their own collaboration skills with fellow managers at their company to make this happen. Communicate with each other to discuss what projects can benefit from mixed teams and create a game plan together.
10. Reevaluate and reset goals
When you complete Steps 1-9 of our suggested process, your growth isn’t over yet. Learning how to manage people is an ongoing process that involves constant evaluation of your skills and growth.
Create a feedback system that allows you to get input from your team at least once per quarter; then create a new goal each time you achieve one. Repeat each step of this process as needed to help you accomplish your goals.
Lead the right way
When you become a manager, your job is made possible by the employees you lead. Creating a great work environment that demonstrates value for each person’s opinion is the right thing to do and helps you get better results.
Of course, your direct reports shouldn’t feel comfortable working just with you. Every good manager needs to find ways to help team members work well with each other. An internal messaging platform can help each of your employees avoid roadblocks and improve their performance, thanks to the efficient individual and group messages. You can learn about how to leverage internal communication to do more as a team in our guide.