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The Three Things That Every Manager Needs to Know About People
There is a lot of good guidance out there for managers and supervisors. Excellent books dedicated to the most minute aspects of working with and getting work done through people. The variety of information is a testament to the complexity of human behavior. Unfortunately for new managers, or older managers looking for higher insight, the amount of guidance available can seem infinite, and the task of becoming informed can resemble rewriting the card catalog for a university library. Fortunately, out of the best books, a few simple trends start to emerge. Those trends, plus good advice from mentors, have helped me synthesize what I believe are three essential truths that all managers need to know about supervising and leading people.
1. People want to work. More specifically, they want to work on tasks at which they can be successful. That second part means you have to help ensure their success. Maybe that means coaching and mentoring. Maybe it means sending them to training. But people do want to work, and if you can match their assignments to their skills and talents, 90% of your work as a manager is done.
2. People want to know where they stand. They want know what you think about them and they really hope that you think well of them. We usually place this topic into the realm of the annual performance appraisal, but your people wonder about this almost every day. That fact sets you up for a couple of reactions. First, you may think it is difficult to initiate a coaching session, but the reality is they are hoping you will say something. That doesn’t mean that you can have the conversation the same way with everyone, but you can have it. Second, knowing how important it is to them to know what you’re thinking about them means it is unkind for you to withhold that information.
3. People want to be appreciated. They want you to show your appreciation. They want you to actually appreciate them; for their skills, for their loyalty, and for their effort. When you are in those situations where you the “new boss,” you may be coming into a situation in which your predecessor has neglected this. Some people may even have suffered some emotional damage. So let them know that you see their value and let them know, in some way, that you are passing that knowledge about them on to your boss.
And that’s it. These three, fairly simple concepts, are what you need to know about how to manage the people in your charge. Match the work to their skills, give them feedback, and communicate their value. If you have time left after all that, consider reading a book.