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Leadership in People Management

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 5 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Leadership People Management Good

One of the hardest jobs a leader has to do is to manage people. Done well, it can result in an efficient, productive team of happy workers whereas done badly, it can create resentment, bad atmosphere, loss of productivity and loss of team morale.

What Does People Management Involve?

Managing means not only inspiring, motivating and encouraging but also the less pleasant tasks of critically evaluating and possibly disciplining members of the team. Therefore, leaders need to be skilled at handling negative feedback and any conflict which might develop.

Managing also means having the right people with the right experience and skills in the right numbers, at the right place and at the right time. These people must also know what needs to be done, how to do it and when it must be done by. This can be a tall order as not only must these factual requirements but a good leader must also motivate his team to take ownership of the project as well.

How Can I Motivate My Team?

Showing good leadership will have a knock-on effect and inspire your team to follow your example. However, there are certain things you can do to help motivate your team even more and one of the most effective is giving positive feedback.

Most people are quick to criticise and note mistakes but often neglect to acknowledge good work and good results. This appreciation can be a very powerful tool in employee motivation. So don’t forget to use it at every opportunity. Here are some tips on how to do it effectively:

  • Be specific in your praise – a general “Good job, John” is OK but it is much more effective to be specific in your feedback, such as “John – that new procedure you developed for handling complaints is fantastic; it’s really helped improve our Customer Service ratings. Well done for thinking of it!”
  • Do it immediately – don’t miss an opportunity; if you see something worth commenting on, mention it right away. Don’t just wait for the big successes – celebrate the minor ones too.
  • Make a fuss! – teams love celebrating their successes so don’t stint: accompany the positive feedback with appropriate ceremony – not only will this make the receiver feel good, it will raise the whole team morale as well. Having said that, do distinguish between the level of recognition for big and small achievements – throwing a party for every small success will diminish the effect for big successes.
  • Be sincere in your praise – make sure you mean it when you give positive feedback otherwise people will see right through you.
  • Go public – unlike negative feedback, positive feedback should have a public audience so do it in front of as large a group as you feel is appropriate.

What Happens If Things Go Wrong?

Unfortunately, part of the job of being a leader and managing people is that you will also have to handle things when people make mistakes or fail in their jobs. This is one of the hardest part of people management and needs to be done with tact and skill. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Do it in private – it is crucial that negative feedback is given in private: never take someone to task in front of others! It is unprofessional and ineffective, as it is more likely to embarrass a person and make them resentful and defensive. Sometimes, it may be unavoidable but in general, try to avoid a public confrontation at all costs. Make the time for a private meeting and arrange to have no interruptions during that time.
  • Don’t rush in on a wave of emotion – if you’re feeling angry or upset over one of your team member’s actions, wait until you have calmed down before you approach them to discuss them. Get your emotions under control and plan what you are going to say - otherwise, you may say something in the heat of the moment that you may later regret or react badly to something that is said to you.
  • Focus on the action, not the person – remember, criticising the person does not help things and simply creates a barrier to communication. It is far better and more effective to focus on the situation and the specific actions which were objectionable and on what you want to change. Just telling someone that they have “bad attitude” will not help improve things much – you need to be specific about which actions and decisions you would like them to change and improve in.
  • Don’t delay – although it may not be pleasant, if you need to give negative feedback, then it is best to do as soon as possible after the relevant event.

Finally, don’t forget to show the person that you still have faith in them at the end of the discussion. This reinforces the fact that you are not criticising them personally but their actions and performance – things which can be easily changed. Tell them that you still have faith in them and their abilities and this will motivate them to improve themselves in the future.

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