Leadership
Oct 1, 2021

People management: Where to Start

This Member post is brought to you by Kateryna Keretsman, ex-Head of BDR Team at Socialbakers, who is not only the member of the Femme Palette community but also a mentor and mentee in our Mentoring program! In this article, she shares some tips for those who are starting their journey as managers.

Managing people is probably one of the most interesting, rewarding, and at the same time challenging and exhausting work ever. First, it feels exciting, it looks easy, you imagine it simple and straightforward, but then you hit the reality.

In case you just started your journey as a manager, welcome to the club and fasten your seat belts, the road will be bumpy but fun :)

Entering into the new world of managing people can be both fascinating and scary, so here are a few tips that can help you make your start more successful.

Start off on the right foot

One of the greatest skills that help every manager nowadays is knowing how to manage a change. We all know that people are afraid of changes and very rarely welcome them.

The first change that you will need to manage is that your team has a new manager, yourself. Even if you’ve been working together before for years or just crossed each other in the kitchen, it’s still a new set up and they will naturally question how this will impact their life.

One very interesting theory of cognitive psychology, called loss aversion claims that we all prefer to avoid loss rather than gain something new. Simply put, we are afraid that we will lose something much more than we are excited to obtain something new.

The same happens with your team - they might question if their working hours will remain flexible if they will still keep the same status among their colleagues, and much more.

To properly manage this first change, reassure them that they won’t lose anything, but only gain something positive such as knowledge, empowerment, and experience, while enjoying the process of working together. It will make your start smoother and your cooperation stronger from the first days.

Even history suggests us the same: those rulers who preserved the existing traditions of the people that they conquered, and respected their culture, were always more tolerated and eventually better accepted.

Call spade a spade

As a manager, it’s important that you have your set of values and that you share them with your team if they aren’t there already, and the best way to do so is by giving the example. One of the values that good managers are respected for is transparency.

Have you ever been into a situation when you know that something is going on, you heard many rumors, and you feel insecure because of the lack of clear communication? Frustrating feeling, isn’t it? As a manager, you want to make sure that your team will never experience it and you will be the one sharing the important updates and news with them, both the good and the bad ones.

First of all, transparency makes life easier, because you don’t need to keep in mind which piece of information can be shared, who is aware of what and how the rumors may distort the reality. Keep it simple and keep it honest. It does require courage, but it pays back.

Honesty and transparency in a team can become the biggest bond for its members because a culture where people trust and rely on each other builds common integrity and a much stronger group.

Be clear in your strategy and share a big picture

According to studies made by Gallup, “67% of millennials are engaged at work when they strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important”.

You may find it strange, but there are many people who go to work every day, do their job, and still can’t answer simple questions such as how and why their job matters and what they contribute to. When I asked the team I started to manage in the beginning what value they add to the company, they couldn’t answer, and it wasn’t their fault.

To find that answer should be one of your first objectives.

Now you might think that the mission of a team and the mission of the company are two different things and it’s somebody else's responsibility (your boss, HR, etc.) to make people understand the company vision. Well, make it your responsibility. Talk to your team at least once a week about how they feel they contribute to the big goals of the company and of their specific group, what should be the next milestone that they want to achieve as a team, what would make them feel successful together?

Make sure to help them to find the answers and to see further, because when we feel that we contribute to something bigger we become much more powerful.

Motivate and empower

Every time I had a difficulty to get some task done or to convince my team of the importance of a new assignment, I referred to the quote of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea”. In simple words, share the vision and explain the reasons. The best way to motivate people to do something is to make them want to do it; therefore encourage, explain, inspire, and enable, so they can do more. 

It’s also very important to be open to their thoughts and to their vision, to learn from them, and to help them present their ideas to others.

By empowering others to grow and succeed, you share a great example among your team to strive for better and do more, which builds a real culture of excellence.

Embrace the difference and find your approach

One part of the management role that fascinates me the most is the opportunity to get to know every single team member closely, understand their strengths, and help them to develop. There are many teams where everyone is treated and approached in the totally same way, all one-to-one meetings follow the same structure, all the conversations are similar, which is probably not entirely wrong, but not always the most effective way.

Every single person in a team is different, they all have different motivations, work styles, strengths, and weaknesses, they will be inspired and discouraged by totally different things, therefore treating them all, in the same way, won’t bring the best result; it may fit some, but not to everyone.

Spend time understanding and creating an individual approach to your team members. Yes, it does require more time and yes, it’s much easier to make them all find one common approach that fits you, but it won’t help to get the most out of your team and make everyone shine in their own way.

Some people might require a more sensitive approach, some of them might be more motivated by a work-life balance than money, some of them might be shy only because they miss encouragement, there are so many different cases, and even more, there is so much potential if you will manage to find what motivates each of them, what makes them productive and that true reason which makes them feel fulfilled at work.

Luckily there are many tests and assessments available that can help you understand your team and every individual better, such as Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, DISC personality test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and many more.

Don’t forget to analyze your own personality and learn more about yourself, since it will help you to identify your key strengths, those that your team can rely on, and help you grow as a manager.

Find a mentor 

While managers are supposed to lead and manage the others, they very often feel a need to be guided themselves, which is totally natural. Of course, you have your managers and even their managers, but it would be very helpful to have a mentor, a person whom you can connect with when looking for advice, when you need to review your long term vision, to validate your new ideas, to reflect deeper on your failures and see what to improve.

It can be a colleague, it can be someone external, it can be your boss if you are lucky enough, anyone whom you will find comfortable to share with and whose opinion will be valuable to you, so you can rely on it.

The right person will not only help you with guiding others, but will also inspire you in the moments when everything seems to be wrong, and that inspiration will keep you going for much longer miles.

Be kind 

In the majority of cases, we believe that a manager should be smart, powerful, honest, but it’s not always clear that a manager should also be kind.

Once in an interview, I asked the candidate about his role models, people who inspire him: it was slightly unexpected when he mentioned Don Corleone from The Godfather. When I asked why so, his answer was quite simple - because he is not only fair, he is kind.

Remember that first of all we work with people, we work with different life situations and everyone carries a totally different world inside. If you have a chance to impact their world and not only their career, then you truly make a difference.

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