Ten tips for becoming a great people manager

21 March 2016

tips for great people management

When you make the move into managing a team of people, it may first appear to be relatively straightforward. You’re no longer doing the ‘doing’, you’re just delegating tasks and telling people how well they’re doing them, right? Unfortunately, it rarely ends up being that simple, as effective people management is far more complex. When you become a manager, don’t take it for granted that you know what you’re doing, take the time to think about how you can motivate your team, gain their trust, and become a truly effective team leader.


1. Make plans, set dates, and stick to them


Having a structure in place will help team members feel at ease, as they will know exactly what to expect. If appraisal dates are planned in advance, it gives staff members time to prepare. If everyone is aware of when an important meeting is to be held, it gives staff members time to plan their day around it, rather than leaving a task half-finished as they jump up to join an impromptu meeting.


2. Don’t just tell people what to do, explain


If your staff members understand the importance of a task, and know exactly how it needs to be carried out, they are likely to be more receptive to your requests. If you simply bark orders at them, they may not understand the purpose of their task, and so may not feel any motivation. Every task, whether financially incentivised or not, has an end goal. If your team has concrete goals and know exactly what is expected of them, they are likely to be more focused and driven.


3. Recognise employees when they do a good job


No team is perfect all of the time, so it’s highly likely you’ll have to offer constructive criticism at some stage, but if you only criticise, team morale may be negatively affected. Offering praise to your staff will give them a boost, and make them feel valued. Never assume that your team knows you’re impressed. Vocalise your thoughts. Remember to treat everyone equally, so try and identify positive contributions from top performers and those who need a little more help. And don’t take all the credit in front of senior management, let your team shine – it will only make you look like a good manager for doing so.


4. Transparency is key


Don’t keep secrets, and don’t shy away from conflict when you’ve got something to say. Clear communication with your team is extremely important. If you are open and honest, then your team members are more likely to trust you, and be open and honest with you, too. When giving your team members feedback, you should tell them your true thoughts, though you may need to communicate them with some sensitivity. You shouldn’t simply tell someone they’ve done something wrong, you should explain why you feel it wasn’t right, and give them some pointers as to how they can improve next time. If you’re a coward and don’t face up to giving any negative feedback, then you’re not giving your team a chance to improve.


5. Listen to your team’s opinions


You may be leading a team, but that doesn’t mean you have to come up with all ideas and make all decisions on your own. Share the company objectives and have team meetings about how they can be achieved. If you involve your team in planning and get their input, it will show that you respect their opinions. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but it will give you some valuable insights, and you may find that you can learn as much from your team as they do from you.


6. Push your staff, but set goals that are achievable


If your team targets are impossible to reach, then your staff will never get to celebrate hitting that target, and they will miss out on that valuable morale boost. This doesn’t mean you should set targets so low you hit them without even trying, as challenging tasks can help to motivate your team to work harder, or smarter. The key is to understand your team’s abilities, and set targets accordingly, raising the bar as their skills improve.


7. Acknowledge your own weaknesses, and learn to delegate


Being the team manager doesn’t mean you have to take on more than you can manage. Good team managers identify the varied skills amongst their team, and delegate tasks based on this. Effective delegation isn’t about making someone else do your work for you; it is about recognising the best person for the job in hand, and accepting that sometimes that person isn’t yourself. Don’t think of this as loading extra work onto your team, instead think of it as giving skilled staff members new challenges that suit their abilities.


8. Stay in touch with your team


Hold regular one-to-ones to check their work progress, but also take the time to check how your staff are feeling – take an interest in them. Great people managers have a high degree of emotional intelligence, and can use this to recognise how their team members are feeling. This in turn can help you to identify issues, defuse conflicts, and overcome challenges, as it instigates communication. For example, if you can spot that one of your therapists is unhappy, take the time to speak to them. You may be able to catch a work-related issue before it develops further, or you may find that your therapist’s unhappiness is to do with a personal matter. Either way, the fact that you noticed and bothered to ask, shows a sense of empathy that your team will appreciate.


9. Don’t try and be someone you’re not


Becoming a manager doesn’t mean you have to take on a different persona, and you risk looking awkward and unnatural if you do. Being a manager doesn’t mean you have to take sides on a ‘them and us’ divide. As a manager, you’re guiding a team, but you’re also part of it, not above it. You don’t need to distance yourself from your work friends either, you just need to act professionally when in your work environment.


10. Don’t forget about yourself


Becoming a manager is not the end of your career development. You may now be responsible for a team, but that doesn’t mean that your sole responsibility is the coaching, training and development of others, as great managers continue to learn and develop themselves, too. Managing people is a skill in itself, and you can’t expect to get it right on your first week as a manager. Do think about the training you may need to improve your own skills, and set your own goals for becoming an effective manager.


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