Three simple steps for successfully managing people

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First of all, management of people is NOT the same as leadership. Leadership is a highly critical skill that will essentially define your success in the workplace and life.  However, many of us are also in positions that require that we lead people.  And, in many cases, we do so by managing the performance of people.  Much has been said and written about how best to manage these activities.  Today, I wanted to share my perspectives and thoughts developed over my 35+ years in the workplace.

To me, management of people can be condensed into three key, critical steps. Today, I share these steps:

  1. Choose the right people for the right jobs – I believe that some individuals are capable of accomplishing almost anything. These individuals can do almost any job well, they represent you well, and they will get things done right and on time. Find these people! When you do find them, do whatever you can to get them into your organization – even if that means creating a position for them. Then, you need to match people to the right jobs. You cannot completely ignore matching skills to job requirements, but we often make the mistake of by-passing a very capable individual because we feel their skills match is not perfect. What I am saying here is that if you find the right person that can add value to your team, be creative in matching them to a position. I would rather have the right people on my team even if their skills were not a perfect match, than individuals with perfectly matching skills that were not those “magical” individuals I seek. Look for the magic and work out the rest! In my experience over all these years, when you find that special person with that “special sauce” that is hard the describe, they will accomplish more than an average individual many times over.
  2. Clearly articulate everyone’s “box” of responsibility and expectations – I like to describe the scope of an individual’s job as a box. We all have a box within which we must work. However, most never fully understand what is in their box, how far their responsibilities go, and when they need to elevate issues or concerns. I think it is critical to be clear about the “box” given to an individual. For example, I like to outline:  exact responsibilities, how far the individual can go without coming to me, any limits on authority, financial responsibilities, goals and objectives to be successful, and examples of things “outside the box” that need my input before action.  Then, when this is clear, I communicate that everything in the box in that individual’s responsibility. They will be judged by how well they handle the items in their box.  And, they don’t need to come to me to ask about things in their box unless they are seeking my advice or input.  By doing this, you provide a level of freedom for the individual to use their own skills and reasoning abilities to manage the way they feel is best.  Plus, this gives you insight into their capabilities for future opportunities.  As they prove their capabilities with their box, you expand the box to include a larger scope or more responsibilities.  By providing ongoing input into the box and its contents, you help the individual understand their role and contributions they can make to the organization.
  3. Get out of their way – Finally, once you have accomplished steps 1 and 2 above, you simply get out of the individual’s way. Don’t micromanage! Don’t hover! Don’t require constant updates or infer that they cannot make decisions within their box. Don’t provide conflicting signals, such as “this is your box, but don’t act without my input”. Let the individual operate freely within the box you have together outlined. When you stay out of their way, you do two things: 1) you ensure that they

Why you follow these three steps, you avoid many of the pitfalls of management that can cause poor performance, low morale, and frustration, such as:

  • Micromanagement
  • Stretching individuals too far
  • Preventing personal development of your team members
  • Mismatching of skills versus job expectations
  • Inhibiting individuals the freedom to operate
  • Second-guessing
  • Hovering or doing the work yourself

So, there you have my simple list of the three keys to management: find the right people for the right jobs, clearly identify their box of responsibilities, then, get of their way.

Have a great day!

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