What is people management?
People management is defined as a set of practices that encompass the end-to-end processes of talent acquisition, talent optimization, and talent retention while providing continued support for the business and guidance for the employees of an organization.
People management is a broad topic that covers what it means to develop, organize, problem-solve, and grow the employee side of the business.
If you own a company, you have a management team because you know employees don’t magically come up, embrace, and enforce your existing business structure. Similarly, people management’s idea is that you have managers because you also can’t expect employees to manage their development, processes, and problems independently.
People management, a crucial part of human resources management, covers all aspects of how people work, behave, engage, and grow at work. The systems used to manage people affect the organization and thus must be adhered to as dynamic individual puzzle pieces without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Key People Management Skills
We may not be the best at identifying the difference between a good manager and a great manager. But we are surprisingly good at identifying these different kinds of people managers in our lives. How is that? There are vital skills for effective people management that we seem to pick up on quickly.
- Active listening,
- Open mindedness,
- Leadership and problem-solving,
Let's start with the first and probably the most important people handling skill or competency:
Effective communication is quintessential to succeed in a workplace. When you look at some of the best business leaders, one of the essential abilities they possess is excellent communication. You need to remember that it is not only about verbal communication; it is also nonverbal, storytelling, engagement with the audience, and how you structure, summarise, and time everything. Yes, if you can tell a joke is a strength also; however, earning your people's respect is more important.
Good communication encompasses a wide range of skills, including:
- The ability to get along with others;
- The ability to persuade others;
- The ability to get others to listen to your ideas;
- The clarity of what you say, as time is limited, and the overwhelming presence of mobile devices in our society demands constant communication.
- Good managers will be crystal clear in communicating their message, ensuring that all employees understand.
Not convinced about the importance of excellent communication skills? Find below real business scenarios where champions will stand out:
- Delivering a 1-on-1 meeting with a direct report on an important milestone
- Presenting the product of the company at a large conference
- Leading the weekly team meeting
- Persuading your director about the headcount increase
- Talking with your supervisor about the challenges you’re facing
- Planning the upcoming team-building activity with the HR department
- Discuss your product's benefits over your competitors with a potential key client.
Patience is one of those skills that everyone thinks they have until well until they don’t. Some are born with more patience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your ability to keep calm in a stressful situation. When you feel everything goes downhill and you are losing it — try the following exercise:
- Close your eyes and take deep breaths.
- Slowly count to 10 in your head.
- This simple technique will help you stay patient and calm during challenging circumstances. And remember: when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
3. Flexibility and the ability to adapt to new circumstances
Mean understanding and accepting that there are often multiple ways to complete a task. Just because one team member chooses to solve a problem differently than you would have doesn’t mean that the approach is wrong. There may be a more efficient way to get the job done, but it’s the results that matter in most cases. Adaptability means being able to adjust quickly to changing circumstances.
Everybody feels safe in their comfort zone. But sometimes, it is good to bend the rules and mix things up. It’s beneficial to break the routine occasionally to disrupt predictable behavior patterns to avoid getting stuck.
In a recent HBR article, Prof Margaret M. Luciano showcases 4 ways managers can increase flexibility without losing productivity:
1. Rethink When Employees Work Together. Think about the timeline when employees work on the same projects in a focused way, in a world where work is hybrid - some people are at the office, and others at home. For example, during the vital project phases (e.g., kickoff, mid-point, finalization), all should be together; however, at rest, they can have more flexible work hours.
2. Rethink Who Works Together. Prof Luciano showcases that small teams perform better than larger ones and are more adaptable. For example, a team of 12 people requires a lot of coordination, planning, and handling of multiple employee requests; however, if the unit is divided into 4 groups of 3 people, then internal calibration is much more flexible, and more gets done at an individual level.
3. Rethink Information Sharing. Keeping everyone on the same page about the finalized work and key milestones is critical. When everyone shares an office, this activity is straightforward. Just pass by your colleague and tell them what happened when they were on vacation. However, when people are out, online tools help with information sharing.
4. Revisit What Employees Are Working On. As a manager, one of the most important roles is to reflect on the tasks and priorities of your workforce. You need to see the connection between different tasks and ensure that they follow the correct order so that priorities are respected, and bottlenecks are avoided. As a manager, you have to constantly check the priorities and ensure alignment, while employees that want to benefit from flexibility must be more autonomous and solve problems by themself.
Increasing flexibility is possible without losing your sanity; however, you need to address the questions: when, who, how, and what in a very professional way.
Related: We do share 12 email templates for managers.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein
4. Have confidence in yourself and your team members
You have to trust that they will work together to complete any task that comes their way without your constant supervision.
Remember, you can’t do all the work on yourself. At some point, you have to delegate and take trust — not just in your employees but also in yourself and your ability to be an effective leader. Choose macro-management as your style. Take a step back and give employees the freedom to do their jobs how they see fit. As long as employees reach the desired result, you, as the manager, don’t have to “hold their hands” or hover over their shoulders, looking for mistakes.
Find below some examples of how you can demonstrate trust with your employees:
- Empower them with new tasks where they can be the owners
- Provide the time and resources to finish the tasks
- Solicit feedback and act on it
- Avoid unconscious biases when making decisions
- Follow your commitments.
When you're looking for new ways to build trust within the workplace, we have 10 extra ideas for you to consider.
Confidence is suitable for your employees because it gives them the freedom to solve problems, perfect their skills, and become the best team member they can be. And if you would like to learn more details on how to manage better your team, check our guide on the topic.
5. Ability to relate and listen
Business is all about people. Being able to relate and listen to different points of view is vital to success. If you struggle to connect to another person’s attitude, try putting yourself in their shoes. When you can view a situation from a perspective that is not your own — and communicate that you see the value in that perspective — you avoid misunderstandings. Agree to disagree.
Most of your management activity should be listening to what your employees have to say without interrupting. Then think about what you want to say before responding.
This type of active listen-and-respond is not always easy, but with practice, it can make a difference in how you communicate with your team members and how they communicate with you.
If you’re looking to improve your active listening skills, then start to practice the following these tips:
- Give your full and undivided attention to the speaker
- Focus. Avoid any distractions from your mind.
- Don’t interrupt the speaker with your thoughts, judgments, or solutions.
- Rephrase what you heard to summarise your understanding
- Get additional details by asking questions when the speaker pauses
- Keep an open body language and face the speaker
- Read the non-verbal clues.
The ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation is defined by empathy. For example, if one of your team members is going through a divorce or their child is seriously ill, you must show empathy for their situation. That’s what being empathetic is all about: understanding that a team member may be distracted because of challenges outside of work, and it’s your job as a people manager to make their work-life balance easier for the time being until things settle down.
7. Keep an open mind
This skill is the opposite of “My way or the highway!” An open mind is predicated on the idea that you may not have all the answers or even the best answer for a given situation even though you are a people manager. Someone else’s vision of what to do might be better than yours.
When you keep an open mind and ensure that your team members know you have an open mind, it creates trust and respect. Your employees will understand that their viewpoint, feedback, and suggestions are valued and will be used.
Find below a set of key ideas to unblock your approach and be more adaptable, creative, and curious about your mindset.
- Practice intellectual humility. Although you have an idea, say I don't know, and let your coworkers identify solutions.
- Ask questions. Don't just take any solution as the best. Ask, ask why and you will learn more
- Avoid biases. Education/experience/culture/friends/routine influences how we see the world.
- Introduce variety. Change the weekly meeting location, go for a walking 1-on-1 with your direct reports, go meet someone new, and read a book in a different area than yours.
- Don't be the elephant in the room. Let your peers take the lead, organize a team building, test a new framework, or launch a new product.
Is essential if you want to build a strong team that trusts you and each other. So treat others how you would like to be treated and show honesty in all things. That means telling the truth in good and bad situations, even when it’s not in your best interest. But when your team sees you being honest at all times, they will look to your example and follow your behavior. Never pass the blame down the hierarchy to try to appear infallible — whether they are brave enough to say it or not, your team will know if something was your fault. Don’t lose their respect by shirking responsibility; show them how to own mistakes, learn from them, and move forward. Be fair, honest, transparent, and ethical.
Tip: One way to show your employees that you care about them and their work is to give credit by recognizing their hard work, acknowledging their dedication to a project, or appreciating successful work results.
Employees have a desire to be seen and appreciated. They are not robots with an on-and-off switch. Please spend some time learning about how they want to be recognized for their work. And don’t be biased. Be fair and honest when giving praise.
“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” - Douglas Adams
9. Leadership and problem-solving skills
These are some of the most important people management skills. Effective leaders motivate their teams to overcome problems and do great things. All it takes is understanding your team’s motivation, a willingness to make improvements, and plenty of practice.
Being a people manager means solving problems: you must figure out how to best schedule your employees, track your employees’ work hours and time off, and calculate payroll.
The problem-solving process can be summarized in six steps:
- Identify the issue
- Understand each part's point of view
- List possible solutions (and evaluate them)
- Decide on a solution
- Implement the solution
- Monitor implementation.
Each of these is a problem you must resolve. Be proactive. If you see a way to improve an existing process or recognize a potential problem before it becomes a real issue, do what every manager should do: take steps to fix the situation.
Being a good leader requires you to know your people, and to get them to the next level. Although it sounds difficult, there are simple ways to develop your leadership skills:
- Lead by example
- Be decisive
- Be confident in your abilities
- Give employee praise where praise is due.
Related: 100+ motivational quotes for employees.
Accountability means taking responsibility for your work and the work of your employees. As a people manager, you serve as a role model for everyone on your team. If you claim accountability when the job is going well but pass the buck when the job is going badly, your employees will notice. Effective managers take responsibility for failures as well as successes. A lack of accountability at the managerial level erodes your team’s confidence. It can create a “me first” attitude in your employees because they will follow the example of those in authority.
Accountability can be vague many times. Let’s see some examples to show accountability at work:
- Show up for meetings on time
- Respect project deadlines
- Give candid and constructive feedback timely
- Recognize your mistakes
- Involve your team in the goal-setting process
- Provide necessary resources
- Clarify expectations with your team
- Accept criticism and don’t make excuses.
Discover additional examples of accountability at work, plus the difference between accountability and responsibility.
Always be in touch, accessible, and approachable. Be one of the team, don’t set yourself above them, or ask them to do things you wouldn’t. Make time for them, make it clear that you care about their ideas and experiences at work, and value their work and input.
As a manager and leader of your team, at some point, one of your employees will come to you with problems and questions, looking for guidance and direction. Being open and approachable — even when you’re already busy — is the quality that builds goodwill, positivity, and loyalty in your team. Regardless of what you are doing, try to give your full attention to anyone who comes to you. Or, if you can’t be interrupted at the moment, apologize and reassure your team member that you want to hear what they have to say, make an appointment to talk, and be sure to keep it.
The word “organize” has many definitions, but speaking the business language means efficiently coordinating the activities of a group of people. Some people are just naturally organized. Others are not.
Find below key techniques to be organized at work and boost productivity:
- Use a calendar for all your appointments, to track time-off and setup reminders
- Have meetings in the same place at the same hours weekly and a clear agenda
- Share the meeting minutes to the team members and follow-up with the tasks
- Become paperless and have all your files in the cloud
- Delegate tasks efficiently
- Make weekly plans
- Create checklists and to do lists.
Regardless of which end of that spectrum you occupy, you can improve your organizational skills with the help of the LeaveBoard — HR and Leave Management Software.
Now you know that the key people management skills are Good communication, flexibility, confidence, flexibility, active listening, empathy, and open mindedness among others. In the image below, you have the full list of 12 skills.
Key components of people management
People management is an umbrella term holding within five key components that can build an engaging employee experience to optimize and retain the best talents and help the team safely navigate the ever-evolving work environment.
The five key components of people management are as follows:
A. Create a workforce that creates a brighter future
If people management were a linear process system, it would begin with talent acquisition — the foundation of building effective teams. The key to success is to know the purpose of each team and member within. When building teams, it is vital to use the right tools, strategies, and platforms, creating an employer brand that candidates trust and want to work with. Once you onboard the best-fit talent, the next step is training and helping them evolve. Investing in their development also builds more loyalty and commitment. Team building creates a roadmap to success and an operational plan to win.
B. Comprehend the present and the future
Effective people management involves comprehending the people who make up the organization — their personalities, motivations, and personal and career goals. Empathy, active listening, and a people-first approach lead to a deeper mutual understanding of individuals and collectives. The age-old technique of ‘management by wandering around’ has changed over the years, and while there are tech-enabled ways to mine data, spending actual time with people always leads to deeper insights and future satisfaction.
C. Communicate assertively to connect effectively
Communicating as a team leads to working as one. Open communication channels and feedback provide a valuable tool to manage people better. If dialogue is important enough to control how people feel at and about work, it is important to be a key criterion for effective people management. Organizations need to ensure that they provide their employees with the proper communication channels and feedback to encourage them to communicate often, effectively, and glitch-free.
D. Collaborate smarter, faster, and stronger
Keep up and use technology. Keep your finger on the pulse and share with your team any tools, hacks, and techniques that might make their day-to-day easier.
With the vast array of collaboration tools available in the market today, organizations and managers know that sharing and delegation lead to the best results. To add value to work and employees’ lives while also multiplying the team’s effectiveness, individuals must be assigned responsibilities to step up to and achieve effective team collaboration. Working with others helps employees realize the role that they and others play in granular tasks and the broader vision for the organization. And don’t forget, digital transformation enables you to create new or change internal management processes and meet the changing demands of your business and market.
E. Confront — embrace the healthy differences
An effective team is a balanced team. People are different, and to set a tone for respect, loyalty, and commitment within the organization, people management needs to optimize these differences. Good managers ensure the right people are in the right jobs and that the team is multidimensional. You want your team to challenge each other, add value, and “confront” different opinions and perspectives. With diversity in a generation in thinking, working preferences, and actions, people perceive things differently and engage with diversity issues. Solving and dissolving conflicts is integral to people management since they can either lead to negativity or strengthen the team.
Becoming a manager: what no one tells you, but you should know
No doubt becoming a manager is excellent news, but it comes with a downside. You probably think of yourself as a people person, a supportive member of your team, and a shoulder for your colleagues. And you probably are all these, but wait for promotion and see how everything changes: from your attitude to your colleagues’ perceptions. You may have been working toward becoming a manager for a long time, anticipating the chance to share what you know, show your boss that you can assume more responsibility, and spend your time on higher-profile projects.
Becoming a manager is a significant change, especially the first time, but there are some things you might not have considered.
Here’s what no one tells you about becoming a people manager from an employee
1. You will have to make tough calls
Sometimes, you may find yourself in situations where you’ll need to make difficult and unpopular decisions. While it’s essential to gather your team’s input, in the end, it’s your responsibility to decide what is best for the business — even if that means disappointing or angering some of your direct reports. At some point, you may also need to fire someone. Even if this is the right thing to do and have your superior and HR department support, don’t underestimate the emotional toll. Keep emotions out of the actual conversation, of course, but allow yourself time to work through any feelings you might have once it’s over.
2. Managing people is time-consuming
When you find out you will be managing a new team member, your first thought might be "less work for me." This is partially correct, as a direct report will help with your workload. But, you are still accountable for those tasks. And now, you can’t just do them and check them off your list; you have to take the time to explain them to someone new. Additionally, as part of your new role, you probably have more work on your plate. Be prepared to put in extra time as you get up to speed and initiate your new hire. Administrative duties and timesheets, reporting, and other HR requests will require your attention.
Book time into your calendar weekly to check in with your direct reports. Even a short face-to-face conversation can make you more comfortable with this new relationship.
3. The people you manage are your direct reflection
The best leaders groom employees and help them grow. In addition to overseeing others’ work, you now have a hand in their career development. Take the time to learn about your team members’ goals and explore ways to help them reach those goals. It takes more time, but you will end up with a more engaged, successful employee — which is a great reflection on you as a manager.
4. Your employee is not your friend
Being a people manager isn’t the same as being a friend. Ideally, you and your reports will establish mutual trust and respect for one another. Stay professional: don’t voice frustrations about colleagues to anyone on your team; stick to your superiors and your other half! Such an attitude undermines your position, authority, and team members’ relationships with their colleagues. If criticism is valid, take it directly to the person concerned.
Venting your frustrations is unethical, but it also breeds resentment and creates suspicion and tension, as people wonder what you might have said about them.
You owe it to everyone on your team to be a trusted resource, not a friend.
5. You may not be natural — and that is ok
Not everyone is a natural-born leader, but you can learn, and your manager thinks you have what it takes. Look at this new responsibility as a chance to push your limits. Find your weak spots and work on them: do you need to work on communication skills? Time management? Here are some ways to cultivate strong leadership skills as you grow into your new role:
- Think back: Who is your mentor? Why? Use this reflection to help develop your management style.
- Read: A few books about management that you should consider are:
- Ask for advice: Your mentor, boss, and other experienced leaders in your company likely have insightful wisdom that they would be more than willing to share with you.
Learning and working to develop your skills and competencies continually would be best. The world is continuously moving and evolving, and so should you. Be a shining example of continuous professional development.
Discover the top 15 qualities and traits of a good manager.
Whether you’ve been a manager for years or just been hired or promoted into a new management role, we are certain you will find some valuable pointers above.
Learning is at the heart of all success.
Learn about management, certainly, but more importantly, learn about yourself and your team.
Good managers don’t stand still; always be looking for ways to get the best out of yourself and your team, and in no time, you’ll be receiving great feedback from both above and below.
Good luck and remember…
- Create a workforce that creates a brighter future
- Comprehend the present and the future
- Communicate assertively to connect effectively
- Collaborate smarter, faster, and stronger
- Confront — embrace healthy differences.
Consider that LeaveBoard is a simple people management software that streamlines processes, centralizes employee data, accelerates decision-making, and brings out the best in its employees. Our HR software is simple, intuitive, and fast.