The 5 mantras of People Management

I have been meaning to blog about this topic for long. Over the past few years, I have had my share of Managers, exposing me to different styles and methods. Even outside of my own experiences, I have found myself studying different styles as a third person. It is sad, but true that most of the Managers in the software industry have had little to no training in the role. Large and mature organisations pay attention to this fact and constitute training programs to address this gap which is a welcome move. Good people management, like so many other intangibles in an organisation, starts from the top. If the executives do not walk the talk, there is no pathway for the rest to follow. Undoubtedly, it is a delicate balance to maintain – achieving business goals, catering to multiple requests and being a good people manager. As humans, I think we grow into the ability to multi-task. For example, take any woman with a single or multiple kids (a stereotypical prototype) and you get the idea. On the professional front, it is often no different. At any given time, a Manager has so many items to cater to, that it can be overwhelming. I have found 5 mantras, 4 of which I was exposed to through the Manager Tools podcast, to be extremely helpful. These have been the vision, the True North, that I followed during my years in a role as Manager. I’ll begin with an overview of these before diving deep into each in later posts.

  1. Weekly One-on-Ones: If there was a way I could stress on this more than placing it at #1, I would. These have to be scheduled by the Manager and it must be weekly. The logic being that the employee would always look forward to talking with their Manager and arguably, the Manager would have a busier calendar than the employee. By scheduling it weekly, in the off-chance that either is busy, the gap between any two consecutive 1:1s is never more than 2 weeks. As a general guideline, I always followed a rough agenda – 10 mins for the direct to talk about whatever they wish to, 10 mins for me and the final 10 minutes about the future. Additionally, 1:1s must not hinge on status updates. These are handled outside of the 30 mins that are sacrosanct.
  2. Feedback: Employee behaviour is influenced by the environment that they are exposed to at the office, and nowadays, by the email and Slack/ Teams responses or lack, thereof, that they receive when working from home. As a Manager, when, on what parameters and how, this feedback is provided will impact the outcome of the team’s deliverables. Feedback is a powerful tool to use to influence the impression that peers will carry of the team. It should be delivered as soon as noticed unless, emotions are running high at either end – the Manager’s or the direct’s. Feedback should not wait for the following appraisal cycle.
  3. Coaching: In today’s organisations, it is not necessary that the Manager is more knowledgeable in a given technical area. Crucially, it is not a requirement of the role. Taking a basketball analogy, an NBA coach such as Greg Popovich need not have won a NBA title to coach his players to the championship. Sure, Steve Kerr has won championships. He was not the best player in the Bulls at the time nor would he qualify as better than Stephen Curry at the Golden State Warriors. The Manager must coach the direct on behaviours that impact the team positively and reflect the culture of the organisation.
  4. Delegation: Every employee would like to try their hand at something that their Manager is doing. We all have discussions or thoughts on how we would handle a situation differently. Managers must delegate tasks that the direct can handle on their own, with the relevant guidance. It may be something as simple as requesting the direct to attend a meeting on the Manager’s behalf. It is the only way to whet an employee’s appetite for taking on more responsibility. Delegation is a tool to advance the careers of all those involved, the Manager and the directs.
  5. Emotional Intelligence: The only one of the 5 mantras that is not an actionable item, it is a tool for Managers to inculcate. The ability to emotionally identify with the thoughts, challenges and what keeps people ticking helps a lot in making the right decisions when it comes to implementing the 3rd and 4th mantras. Each person is unique and has very different capabilities. Appreciating these differences and tailoring the coaching and delegation to the strengths and weaknesses of the direct comes with Emotional Intelligence.

These 5 mantras helped me in my role as a people Manager. I tried to imbibe these in my interactions every day and every week. I believe that no matter the role, be it a CEO, a Sales VP or a Finance Manager, the mantras for being an effective Manager do not change. At certain points in the relationship between the Manager and the direct, one or the other of the above may be stronger than the rest. The vision remains the 5 mantras.

Do you follow these or do you have another set of mantras that you like? I’d love to read your thoughts.

Residing in Bengaluru, I am a Techie by profession and a thinker and doer by birth. I muse about any topic under the sun and love to share my thoughts in print when I am not doing something with them. I love reading and at some point, thought that maybe others would like to read what I have to write, too!

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