Good people management is tricky. Every person has had different experience of previous workplaces. They also have different expectations of their manager and different ways of communicating. The best qualities of good people managers depend on that manager being both professionally good and of good character (Sison, 2003, Harvard, 2007). A new survey of over 1100 people from several countries, asked them to think of their best ever manager and agree or disagree with a number of character statements about that manager. There were responses from working people across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, the Philippines and others. The findings showed the five qualities of a good people manager (2022) – being trustworthy, concerned for the team,
In order to be a good people manager, one of the key goals to keep in mind is building trust, because trust is essential for initiating and maintaining social relationships at work (Dirks and de Jong, 2022). The long-term success of a team is built on trust. If a manager can increase the amount of thrust that their team have in them, the team will be much happier, more productive and more willing to contribute ideas for improving things (Dirks and Ferrin, 2002). It is important to avoid is the idea that just because they are a manager, they have to have all the answers, that they have to be perfect. In reality, this is not really possible, and quickly leads to burnout. It is much better for a manager to say ‘I’m not sure, but I will find out’, than to give a quick answer that turns out to be wrong. Teams are always assessing managers through their behaviour as well as through their words. The daily interactions with the team allow them to see and experience who the person really is behind the title.
The best managers are able to foster a learning environment, where team members are not afraid to make mistakes, but are focused on learning from them. Good people managers help to create this environment by taking responsibility for their own actions, and decisions. Most importantly, good people managers admit when they make a mistake (2022). This leads to people seeing them as down to earth and genuine. Similarly, they appreciate and encourage the sharing of knowledge and learning amongst the team. Publicly recognising the good ideas that the team share is very useful for building this environment – through rewards such as praise, presents, lunches and opportunities for promotion.
Concerned for their People
Good people managers strike an appropriate balance between the needs of individuals, the team and the organisation. They think about the needs of team members before their own needs, and are prepared to sacrifice their own comfort to help out where needed. They are often described as selfless. This genuine concern enhances each team member’s job satisfaction, but it also enhances business performance because collaboration and innovation are the key to creating value (Gronum, 2019). Being interested in the professional growth of their people, means that good people managers provide opportunities such as training, coaching and mentoring which increases the knowledge and skills of the whole team over time.
A common complaint about managers is that they have poor communication and interpersonal skills (SmartCompany, 2013). The best managers are available for team members to access whenever needed. They are approachable, easy to talk to and calm. When something goes wrong, these managers are able to control their emotions and maintain good relationships throughout their interactions. At the same time good managers were open to suggestions, valuing the contributions of all team members. Good communication was reported as building excellent motivation and team morale (2022).
Openness and good listening is also important for good decision making (HBR, 2020). Good people managers make decisions that consider the impact on the business, but they also involve the team in the decision-making process. Research shows that participation by team members in decisions leads to greater job satisfaction and feeling trusted (Guinot, Monfort, and Chiva, 2001). This approach is enacted by being as transparent as possible, explaining exactly how and why decisions are being made within the organisation (SmartCompany, 2022). Good people managers can overcome difficulties by working with the team to find the best solutions when change is needed (2022).
These five key areas are all within the control of the manager. These qualities can all be improved through practice. By being intentional about the practice of these five qualities, everyone has the opportunity to be a better manager, build trust and increase business performance.
Written by Dr. Dominic Mcloughlin.
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