The act of managing people involves working to optimize the performance brought by team members and ensuring they are tracking towards your company goals. Managing people effectively takes this steps further through motivating your people to bring their full potential and full selves to work, leading to improved engagement and productivity as well as returns on employee retention and significant business results.
Stephen R. Covey’s 1989 groundbreaking bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is a mainstay in the minds of business professionals and those devoted to self-improvement and self-fulfillment. Within the habits he highlight are the values of proactivity, using empathetic listening to truly understand others, synergizing through teamwork, and continuous improvement.
When applied to people management in the workplace, the ideas and values identified in Covey’s 7 Habits can transform the workforce.
Here are the habits of highly effective people managers who make an impact on the people they manage.
1. Promote open communication and active listening
People can’t do what they do best if you don’t communicate with them or if they feel they can’t communicate with their managers. Make sure that your workplace is an open and comfortable environment for conversation. In your communication with your team, give your people the information they need to succeed by being open, honest, and transparent about what is happening within your organization. Share the strategy, the goals, and the vision for where the company is heading to show your people that they have an important role within the grand scheme of things.
Master the art of active and empathetic listening. When employees come to management with their questions and concerns, it is crucial for managers to hear them out and address what they have shared. In feeling like they have a voice that is heard and respected, your people will feel empowered.
2. Exchange feedback regularly
In addition to providing constructive feedback to their employees for their continued success, effective people managers continually seek feedback to improve their own performance. Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, recommends managers proactively request input from employees by asking questions regarding their communication style, such as "What type of information do you need and want from me?" and "What am I doing well and where can I improve?"
When evaluating your people's performance and giving feedback, communicate to them what else they can do to improve their performance in their role and offer to provide the support they need to get there. Successful managers demonstrate consistency between their words and their actions, as integrity strengthens their trust in their management's ability to lead. If you say something, mean it. If you promise something, deliver.
3. Provide opportunities for growth
Be a leader that commits to and champions a spirit of learning in your work environment, sending a clear message that the growth of your people is of utmost importance and priority to your organization.
For employees to do what they do best, they need to be constantly challenged. They will benefit and thrive from new opportunities to leverage and build upon their existing skills and to add additional skills to their toolkit. As a leader, provide your people with new learning and development opportunities. Allow for each employee to set personal goals so they can achieve what they feel is valuable to their career trajectory, and adapt those goals to specific roles and responsibilities tied to your organization's strategic priorities. When managers support their people to get even better at what they do best, they are helping them help your company.
4. Create a network of support
In order for employees to feel empowered to do their best, they need to feel that they have the support and encouragement of their leadership and their team. Effective people managers are willing to try new ways of thinking and experiment with new ways of doing things. Taking risks builds confidence and sharpens one's ability to be decisive. Build an environment in which they feel safe and supported in risk-taking and support your people, even when (and especially when) things do not go according to plan.
Effective management also requires engaging other team members and encouraging them to work together towards their shared goals. Sharing information and inviting others to participate in collaboration establishes trust and a common sense of purpose within a team.
5. Reward good work with recognition
Effective people managers know the value of telling employees when they’ve done a good job, and they demonstrate this frequently. Giving others credit when credit is due and acknowledging their people's contributions are two ways that successful managers create high achieving teams. When managers let their people know their impact, they ascribe meaning to the work they do. In promoting their accomplishments within their team, they encourage momentum for further achievement.
In performance-driven workplaces, expressing gratitude is often overlooked. Thanking employees for their hard work lets them know they are appreciated and valued. Saying "thank you" takes a few seconds of time and yet leaves a lasting impression.
6. Be a mentor
The best people managers are those who invest in their employees' talent and potential through mentorship and coaching. People want to gravitate to leaders who will guide them to success. Leaders that dedicate time to providing professional guidance can help their people remain connected to their job purpose, performance measures, and fulfilling the organizational mission. Successful managers provide their teams with the encouragement, tools, and resources they need to not only do but excel at their work.
7. Thinking ahead to the future
In an ever-changing workplace that is increasingly being impacted by technology and global markets, positioning oneself for the future is critical for the success of the company and the team. Effective people managers position themselves for what lies ahead by staying on top of their industry through reading periodicals, attending conferences, and networking. From there, they seek opportunities to share what they learn with their team members and incorporate new methods into their work processes.
Highly effective people managers lead best when they adopt the leadership philosophy of valuing employees and putting people first. Support your people in doing what they do best and encourage them every step of the way—making these actions habitual shows that your management is committed to their people, and that reflects back positively on your organization.