8 People Management Skills for Modern Leaders

Mark Lewis
May 5, 2020
min read
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Command and control style people management has steadily been dying over the past couple of decades, but if there’s one thing the pandemic has highlighted… You can’t manage modern emplyees with command and control!

Some might ask why not? Well this traditional approach to people management relies on oversight, a fear of mistakes, and micro-management. This may sound draconian and you’d think it might never exist in your organization, but here’s the thing, it’s not always a black and white picture of authoritarian vs collaborative.

Managers usually operate on a scale between the two, and what we’re seeing after this pandemic, is those managers that lean towards the command and control side are struggling with ‘how’ to manage their team in this new environment. People have become self-reliant and independent in the way they work, they've had to develop those skills.

But all is not lost, right now is a perfect opportunity to reinvent your people management skills post pandemic - where everyone is far more forgiving of our fumbles and mishaps.

SEE ALSO: The ultimate people management tool for remote teams

In this environment a manager’s people management skills will literally mean the difference between a highly motivated, engaged and productive team that gets LOTS of stuff done vs a sluggish, unproductive team that isn't as focused on work outcomes.

Putting the following people management skills into action will quickly develop team trust, alignment and performance.

1. Show Consideration

Managers that listen and demonstrate an interest in the lives and well-being of their team members develop stronger, more meaningful relationships. Taking the time to understand individual circumstances and challenges, then talking through potential solutions and next steps sends a clear message that a manager cares for and wants to help their people succeed. A simple 4 step coaching framework can be used to help managers avoid slipping into a ‘telling’ style.

2. Seek Input

A good manager sets their ego aside and seeks input from team members. Being curious and seeking alternate views is an important people management skill that tells team members they’re valued and making a meaningful contribution to a bigger picture. This doesn’t have to mean all views are implemented, but it does mean people feel heard and were given an opportunity to share their perspective.

3. Share Information

Being thoughtful about the information in your possession that would be useful for your team to know, and sharing it in a timely fashion demonstrates a commitment to openness, trust and transparency. During the pandemic this people management skill is critically important as the opportunity for team members to find information through other channels is significantly reduced. As a manager, you’re expected to be a primary source of important information.

4. Frequently Recognize

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking feedback is all about pointing out flaws. One of the most effective people management skills is the ability to recognize when team members have achieved a great outcome for themselves, their team or the company - and then letting them know that you noticed and why their work made a difference. Learn how to make feedback your secret weapon

5. Request Feedback

Managers that request feedback from their team are leading by example, showing that no one has all the answers and that everyone has room to improve. This people management skill demonstrates humility, and coming from a manager, can start a chain reaction by making it safe for others to ask for feedback too. All it takes is two questions to get going - 1) What should I keep doing? 2) What should I change? These questions are especially insightful in the current pandemic where many of our ‘normals’ have radically changed. What better time is there to ask for feedback? If you would like to start this practice but aren't sure how our Manager Feedback 1-on-1 template can get you started. It will help you gain direct feedback about how you can improve.

6. Communicate Team Goals

Being very clear about team goals creates valuable context for each team member on how their work fits in to the bigger picture. Team goals serve as a guiding light so team members can make more effective decisions around priorities and knowing if they are on the right track without having to ask at every step. Learn more about team alignment .

7. Focus on Outcomes

Being outcome oriented is the opposite of micro-management and is particularly effective when working with remote teams. Good managers empower their team members to suggest the top priorities they might work on that will have the biggest impact on the team goals. It’s an even greater people management skill when managers help team members predict any obstacles and identify action plans to deal with them. By empowering team members to take care of the details and individual steps, a manager builds significant trust, saves time, and becomes focused on the outcomes achieved.

SEE ALSO: Getting everybody working together, in the same direction

8. Be Adaptable

Perhaps one of the most effective people management skills for this post-pandemic environment and the modern workplace is a manager’s ability to recognize that most decisions are reversible and it’s okay to treat ‘unknowns’ as experiments. This fosters a more agile, adaptable and innovative team environment. By recognizing upfront that a decision might change, it helps take the pressure off any unspoken ‘need to be right’ and free’s peoples minds to bring their creative capacity to the experiment at hand.

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