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Good People Managers in 6 Steps

It’s simple… bad bosses are bad business. In the past years there have been various studies and polls that have given us insights as to exactly how much damage bad people managers can do to their teams’ engagement, their health, and the company's key business indicators.

Let me share a situation that hopefully won’t be too familiar (names have been changed to protect the guilty parties)...

Janet worked in the sales department of a major insurance company. Her boss Mike was an extreme micromanager. Granted it wasn’t just with Janet, but rather with his whole team. He’d call, stop by their desks, and otherwise check in with each member of his team to “see what they were up to”. Mike had a policy that all his team members had to have Skype open on their laptops or mobile devices when they were in the field so that he could also check-in via chat whenever he wanted. Sound kind of scary? Well that’s not all…

At the end of the day he had all team members send him an email detailing what they had done that day, which clients they had to talked to, and status updates of each of their open accounts. It was Janet’s job to compile all this information in a weekly spreadsheet that Mike reviewed with the whole team at the weekly team meeting.

Needless to say, my friend Janet was only at the company for a little over a month as she didn’t particularly enjoy her responsibility of “spying” on all her other colleagues movements and reporting them to Mike.

Unfortunately these kinds of experiences seem to be more common that any of us would hope. So what can you as an HR professional do to ensure that you don’t have too many Mikes (or even mini-Mikes) at your company? We’ve broken it down into 6 steps that allow HR to lead the charge in turning your organization’s people managers into the best they can be (and hopefully weed out the really bad ones that can’t be helped).

1. Be clear on WHAT people management is within your organization’s context.

What does it actually mean to “manage” people? Certainly we’re not talking about controlling every activity or every step of the process like our dear friend Mike did with Janet and her colleagues. So what exactly is it? Take time to define what an “excellent” manager looks like (keep it realistic though!), research best practices, take some time to think about your organization’s culture, values and mission and come up with an example of what this person is like. You can even give him/her a name and make a character out of the exercise. This will give you something concrete to present to leadership and managers at your company.

2. Ensure managers understand WHY they are being asked to do it.

You’ve taken the time to create this “model manager” persona, but you can’t just keep it to yourself. It’s time to share with the rest of the organization. You’re going to be asking managers to dedicate their time and effort to becoming better people managers, so make sure you’ve got some solid numbers and reasons why they should be taking time out of “the business” to address this matter. We all would like them to understand that this is important intrinsically, but unfortunately this isn’t often the case with those managers who probably need it most.

3. Adopt a PROCESS that suits the culture and abilities of your organization.

So now you’ve got your managers’ attention and you’ve presented them with what an ideal manager at your organization looks like, so now what? Well you need to have some kind of training process in place to help them get there. This can take on all sorts of forms, and you should choose whatever options best suits your organization’s needs, but remember the simpler the solution and the process, the more likely that it will succeed with large number of your managers.

4. Recruit and appoint TALENTED PEOPLE MANAGERS in the first place and make sure they have the TOOLS they need.

Of course the other option is to hire good managers from the get go. So no, you can’t just fire all your bad managers and hire new ones (even though you might wish you could sometimes), but you can certainly ensure that your newly-defined ideal manager profile gets incorporated into the recruiting process for any position at your company that is responsible for a team. What are the key leadership competencies necessary? What questions can management candidates answer to give you a better idea of what they’ll be like as people managers?

5. Use EXECUTIVE buy-in to support your message, and walk the talk.

We need to make sure that the top of our organization is leading by example. You need both their support in your efforts to make people management a priority across the entire organization, as well as a strong show of the very competencies and behavior that you’re trying to promote from the higher-ups. Even if their not perfect at it themselves, if senior management openly shows that they are also working hard at becoming better people managers they don’t need to be the ideal already to set an example.

6. Provide TECHNOLOGY to facilitate best practice sharing and a simple user experience.

I mean come on… we’re in the 21st century right? So let’s not waste too much time with massive in-person trainings or other out-of-date ways of getting the ball rolling. Find ways to embrace technology to help you in this hugely important cultural change in your company. You’ll probably save a few bucks while you’re at it too.

Want even more insights and details about what you can do to improve people management at your company? Download our free white paper now to learn more!

Topics: HR
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