Manage your people well

Manage your people well

Aug 8, 2012

If you’re in charge of a team, your ability to get the best out of your people can mean the difference between failure and success. We talked about how you should adapt your leadership style to your team’s skills and confidence. Here are a few more ideas that you can apply to manage your people well and:

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

This comes from Dale Carnegie’s excellent book How to Win Friends and Influence People. In fact, it’s the first principle in the book. I love this approach because it forces you to be positive: don’t talk badly about other people, and certainly not behind their back. If you have a criticism to do, try to have it directly in an non-confrontational way with the person.

Become an outstanding listener

Also borrowed from Carnegie, and also building on a positive approach, learn to be a great listener. The best example I can think of was Lon, one of my bosses at Accenture. Lon was in charge of a big engagement I worked on, so he was always extremely busy. Yet, whenever I asked him something, he would stop what he was doing, literally closing his computer, to give me his undivided attention. That was very impressive: we knew we could talk with the guy at any time and be truly listened to. In exchange, we learnt not to waste his time by bringing up only worthwhile subjects and packaging our interventions in concise messages.

Don’t punish negative actions, instead, reward positive ones

Training dogs works much better when reinforcing good behavior: praising them when they do a good job and ignoring them when they’re doing something bad. Well, that applies to humans too. You can even formalize this approach using a token economy system, which serves to reinforce desired behaviors. Mental-health professionals use it to address a variety of conditions, including drug addictions and psychological disorders.

Don’t just do what you want to do, do also what others want to do

Carnegie’s book was very popular at Accenture. Another popular title was Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of Covey’s points was based on his relationship with his kids, where, at times, they would do something together that he wanted to do but also they would do stuff that they wanted to do, like watching a movie that he didn’t particularly care for.

This also applies in the professional environment, especially when dealing with equals: some of us have an alpha personality and are used to taking the lead. That’s all fine, but your relationship with your peers might also benefit from letting them take the lead from time to time.

Don’t try to win too much

Marshall Goldsmith is an executive coach. In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, he warns about the negative impact of trying to win too much.

Imagine that one of your employees is pitching you an idea. Imagine that you like it but you think you can improve it, so you tell her so. She might indeed buy into your suggestion, but it’s also likely that, all of a sudden, her ‘baby’ doesn’t feel like hers anymore. While she would have been very motivated to implement her nearly perfect idea, she is now only half motivated—or not motivated at all!—to implement your perfect idea. So, in the end, you lose.

Therefore you might benefit from trying to always add value. If it’s good enough, let it fly. If, however, you feel compelled to improve her idea, do so in a way that she comes up with the improvement herself, using the Socratic method (‘so if we do what you suggest, we risk to face such-and-such problems; how do you think we should address those?’)