Myths on managing others

These are Ten Commandments for budding managers, written by an experienced professional based on his learnings from managing large teams.

People Management skill is still relevant for managers; hence one needs to develop a deeper understanding of how to “manage others” with ease and grace.

As per the ‘The Future of Jobs Report’ (published by the World Economic Forum,) people management skill is rated as the fourth highest skill among the top ten skills. Though this skill got pushed down by notch when compared to the WEF’s 2015 rating; this skill continues to be highly relevant despite artificial intelligence and robotics reducing engagement with people in many jobs.

First Experience

My first experience of “managing others” was during my first job.  Two youngsters reported to me, and in hindsight, I am a little dismayed now as to how I always tried to “manage” both of them by exercising my authority which I derived from my designation. Not surprisingly, most of our work- related discussions ended up in an argument or even when differences were not articulated, I could sense something was missing, and this kept us from bonding as a team. I soon learnt that “managing others” was not so easy.

Key Learning

“People Management” is a myth. Instead, it is all about Self-Management.

With experience I have realized that “People Management” is a myth. Instead, it is all about Self-Management. If we are able to manage and lead ourselves well, we will be able to “manage others” with ease and grace.

Ten Commandments for Managers

Any behavior change takes time and it demands a very high level of courage, optimism, understanding, discipline and most importantly deliberate practice as we live in a time when 80% of the world lives between fear & anger. I gained a lot from the following 10 concepts hence I thought to pen them down so that young managers could benefit from it.

See People as People

This was an important learning which I gleaned from the Arbinger Leadership Training.

Failure to establish a rapport are not failures of strategy, but failures of ‘being’ because of our pre-conceived ideas and self-justifying reactions

The notion of “see people as people and not as an object” was the core and they pointed out about the “way of being”. What we do or how we act is behaviour and how we see others while doing those actions is our “way of being.” Every act or behaviour can be done by either treating the other person as an “object” or as a “person.” And this choice is the differentiator.

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You

The seminal article by Robert & Gareth on the question why should anyone be led by you strikes fear in the hearts of most executives. He writes ‘you cannot get anything done without followers, and in these empowered times, followers are hard to find – except by leaders who excel at capturing people’s hearts, minds and spirits. To do that, one of course needs vision, energy, authority, and strategic direction and also the following four additional qualities [1] show you are human by selectively revealing your weaknesses [2] be a sensor, perceive emotions [3] show empathy, care passionately about people you manage and their work while giving them only what they need to achieve their best and [4] dare to be different by capitalizing on your uniqueness.

Avoid Emotional Hijack

By developing an understanding on how the emotional and thinking part of brain works, one can manage emotional triggers gracefully; which has the power to hijack our thinking brain. Writing all such nasty incidents in a journal whenever we have reacted emotionally in the past, can remind us not to repeat them in future. It works.

Six Leadership Styles

Daniel Goleman in his inspiring article “Leadership that gets result”  suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of distinct leadership styles, each in the right measure and at the appropriate time. Such flexibility is tough to put into action, but it can be learned through deliberate practice. Based on the need of the hour managers should use their thinking brain to select the most appropriate style out of Coercive, Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, and coaching styles as defined by Daniel Goleman.

Focus on Decision Making

We all make decisions at work, ranging from simple (e.g. daily priorities) to complex (e.g. people related decision). Most of young managers avoid taking people-related decision. Best decisions are undoubtedly those which are good for the organization, one’s team members and you. But sometimes such decisions are not possible; in those circumstances keeping organization’s goal at the core of our decision making can help us to move forward. And most importantly, decision should be taken on time, after refereeing to all the available information, and not based on presumptions. Avoiding emotional hijack and using appropriate leadership style can be of immense help. Andrew S. Grove talks in length in his book ‘High Output Management’ on decision making process. One may refer to that as well.

Manage Energy, Not Time

Schwartz and Catherine in his detailed paper on “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time” recommends four dimensions of personal energy, we should focus on – [1] Physical Energy: Good sleep, daily exercise brief and regular breaks away from your desk etc. [2] Emotional Energy: Meditation, deep breathing, appreciate others etc.

Mental Energy: Reduce interruptions by performing high concertation tasks away from phones, emails. Every night identify the one most important challenge for the next day and then make it the 1st priority when you arrive at work in the morning. [4] Spiritual Energy: Be driven by principles rather than just policies. Have some time for you and your family. All the above practices not only help in maintaining high energy levels & positivity but it can also motivate us to learn new things and take up new challenging goals.

Appreciate More & Reprimand Less

How have you felt when your manager appreciated or reprimanded you? Positive emotions can encourage a person to do more. Most managers are quick in reprimanding and forget to appreciate.

Develop Storytelling Skill

Story sticks; I am a firm believer in communicating things through story telling. Focus on developing skills on how to narrate a business story. Story based on anecdotal wisdom are not very effective. Story supported by data and evidences are highly effective.

Get Aligned

It was always difficult to align my team when I myself was not convinced about the ideas or objectives. It makes huge sense to get clarity, by asking questions, sharing perspectives to know why organization has this goal and get aligned. Once we are aligned it is easy to align our team members. Aligning your team by connecting their daily activities with the larger purpose is the key. Else work can be sometime really boring, demotivating and highly stressful. We all have such days.

Train and Inspire

Finally you and your organization have only limited power to motivate employees. An HBR book on People Management captures it beautifully; ‘the real key to motivating your employees is enabling them to activate their own internal generators. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck trying to recharge their batteries yourself – again and again.’ As a Manager it is really difficult to “motivate” others but we will have ample opportunities to inspire the people we manage by demonstrating the above behaviours with a right “way of being”. Groove wrote in his seminal book “Outcome Based Management”, that you can only do two things: train or motivate. And by motivation, he meant creating an environment where the person can deliver.

PS: I should not undermine the role of mentors who can give right feedback to sharpen your skills. Look for those mentors. But the journey calls for introspection for there are no “others”, there is only “self” that needs to be managed.

Pranav Kumar Choudhary | Director Operations

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