09 Aug 2016 17:25 IST

Fair and balanced

Being a people manager isn’t easy. Here's how you can exceed expectations from the role

There are many things that can potentially derail an otherwise well-performing manager — in the case of a people manager, the odds are even higher!

Managing people has been likened to “herding cats” by leadership guru, Dr Warren Bennis, and for good reason. His book by the same name ( Managing People is like Herding Cats) is a bestseller. As we grow in an organisation, we go from being an individual contributor to a people manager. There are, of course, organisations that provide specialised technical roles at higher levels to retain and recognise those who do not want to manage people.

But for those who choose to be a people manager, it is prudent and critical to understand the expectations from the role — and exceed the same.

The pitfalls

It is very easy to stray off the path of managing people well. Let us look at some of the instances that can derail a people manager:

~ Tolerating non-performance as though it is HR or some other department’s problem.

~ Forgetting commitments made to team members.

~ Not coaching members who do not play the team game but display a whole lot of Alpha male /female tendencies.

~ Not administering rewards based on merit, but on extraneous grounds.

~ Not delegating enough and not giving opportunities to people to grow and develop.

~ Not investing in building team members’ trust on a daily basis, or doing things that destroy the trust.

~ The inability to say “no” to unreasonable demands and, more often than not, granting them.

The above list is by no means exhaustive — it is merely a sample. If people managers reflect on and recognise these behaviours, they have an opportunity to correct them. If they do not, however, they become victims of their own doing.

How to avoid them

Here are a few steps you could follow guard against these behavioural flaws.

Reflect: There is nothing like self-reflection to know where you are going right and where you are floundering. All successful people from all walks of life — be it sports or business — do this frequently and effectively. It is extremely powerful when done a few times a month.

Read: Reading does not necessarily mean just management books. There are many interesting and inspiring biographies that can help.

Reading builds and improves one’s outlook towards a situation. It helps form different perspectives and explore better ways of managing people to avoid unbalanced actions.

Reach out: Reaching out to trusted colleagues, friends, and mentors at work or outside, can help too. Their feedback can protect the people manager from making many a mistakes.

Recharge: When a manager frequently reads, reflects and reaches out, recharging happens. This is basically reinforcing faith in yourself and your sense of being balanced.

Recover: When you realise you have wronged a person, this option is open most of the times. If you choose to recover by correcting it with an apology, you stand a greater chance of rediscovering yourself and reinforcing new behaviour.

In the end, good management is all about being fair and being perceived so by the people you manage. And remember, it is not about scoring 100 in every match you play, but consistently improving the batting average, as Peter Drucker explains. As with many other lofty ideals in life, becoming balanced is also something to work towards.

It makes us a better leader and advances our career.