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The 12-Step Process For Improving Your People Management Skills

People aren’t easy to quantify and control. We all have our individual hopes and dreams, as well as our own opinions and weaknesses. We’re imperfect, but we’re also motivated, strong, and powerful.

As a manager, it isn’t easy to manage a group of people. Humans are tough, and when you’re the leader, it’s hard not to pray for a magic wand that could help you get your team in line. You want to lead, but sometimes it can seem that your team isn’t listening. Sometimes, it feels like you’re not doing a great job.

Thankfully, you can always improve the way you manage people. If you employ our 12-step process, you will be well on your way to creating a motivated team that’s as powerful and strong as you are.

Here is the process:

Step 1. Outline Your Goals

Surely, as a manager, you have reasons you want to improve. Perhaps you’re responsible for large company goals that you need your team to help you with or maybe you feel like you’re leadership strategies aren’t ineffective, that your reports don’t like or respect you. Maybe you think you’re a pretty good manager, but that it’s part of your job to continually work to better yourself.

No matter your story, outline your goals– and write them down. A famous study conducted by The Harvard Business School in 1979 found that those who wrote down their goals were much more likely to make higher salaries and see greater professional success.

Step 2. Determine Where You Want to Improve

We’re all different, and your areas of weakness are going to be different from mine. Once you’ve outlined your goals, you should determine areas for improvement. How to do this? Consider taking a variety of professional assessments and personality tests to assess where you’re at.

Step 3. Talk to Your Team

Your team has a wealth of information on you as a leader, information that can help you improve. Looping in your team to your pursuit will help them help you.

  • Tell your team you’re working on improving your leadership skills.
  • Send out a survey, allowing your team members to remain anonymous. Ask employees how you’re doing as a manager, where you could improve, what they do and don’t like about your style.
  • Conduct one-on-one meetings with your direct reports and ask them point blank how you could be a better manager.

Step 4. Get Organized

One of the reasons leaders are ineffective is because they’re all over the place. They don’t have the right software solutions, they’re unsure about their goals, and they have difficulty resolving conflicts. Organization can help.

At the start of every month or quarter, outline areas that are disorganized and confusing, and strategize on ways they can be improved. Maybe you need a software solution to help you organize your calendar, or maybe you need a new meeting schedule with your reports.

Step 5. Take a Leadership Course

Sometimes, it is difficult to improve on your own. Courses can help. Look to your local colleges and universities to see if they offer any courses on leadership. There are tons of online courses as well that you can take at your own pace.

Dale Carnegie Training offers affordable leadership courses on decision-making, critical thinking, how to disagree agreeably, and how to lead change effectively. Udemy also provides a large array of online courses– we especially like their course on habits of highly effective leaders.

Step 6. Read Management Books

Each day, you’re confronted with the same problems, and it’s unlikely your mindset will change. Books transport you outside of yourself, and allow you to look at your situation from new perspectives.

There are tons of great books on business management worth reading, but here are a few favourites that will start you off on the right foot:

Step 7. Learn How to Listen

One of the biggest complaints of employees everywhere is that they don’t feel heard. They don’t feel as though they have the ability to express their opinion or positively make a change in the organization. When they speak up, they feel ignored, and that makes them unhappy and unmotivated.

According to Udemy, there are five aspects of good listening— receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating, and responding. You need to be able to understand all five of these steps to listen to your employees.

Step 8. Practice Praising and Rewarding

To be a good leader, you have to give feedback to your employees, especially praise and rewards. When you’re praising an employee, be specific.

Instead of saying “you’re doing a great job,” highlight a specific project, and explain why their help was so important, try “the project for client ABC was very difficult, but the way you communicated their needs to the entire team is what made us get it right. I was really impressed with that. Nice work.”

In a Harvard Business Review survey on employee engagement, 72% of survey respondents said that recognizing high performers had a large impact on engagement.

Step 9. Find a Mentor or Coach

It can be difficult to accurately assess your own leadership skills. That’s why many turn to executive coaches, mentors, and others they can trust. Perhaps you already have a mentor, or maybe there’s someone you can turn to for honest assessment of your skills.

Executive coaches are also a great option. Those who specialize in leadership can work with you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then help you put a plan in place to tackle your goals. Harvard Business Review suggests executive coaches, and gives a great outline on how to find one who’s a good fit for you and your organization.

Step 10. Learn How to Effectively Communicate with Anyone

Effective communication is one of the most important parts of leadership, but as humans, we’re different, and we respond to different styles. Workplace psychologists have defined four communication styles that we all fall into. By reading about and understanding these four styles, you’ll be better able to communicate with those that you work with.

  • Thinkers – Thinkers need time to process and think things through before responding. They work slowly, deliberately, and want to make sure everything is just right.
  • Socializers – Socializers thrive on talking with others and get energy from their colleagues. Socializers work fast, have great ideas, and process information very quickly.
  • Directors – Directors are known for getting things done quickly and efficiently. The process things quickly, make fast decisions, and like research and proven facts.
  • Relaters – Relaters are relationship-oriented and enjoy working with others. Unlike the socializer, they move at a slower, calmer pace.

Step 11. Be More Transparent

Companies are beginning to embrace transparency in the workplace. As a leader, you should embrace it with your staff.

Today, about 25% of employers don’t trust their employer, according to survey by the American Psychological Association survey. That’s bad news. Employees who don’t trust their company or their boss are unlikely to put themselves on the line for their company. But this can be fixed! Harvard Business Review found that 70 percent of people are most engaged if senior leadership updates them about what’s going on with the company as a whole.

As a leader, you’re in a great position– you can be transparent with employees and let them know what’s going on. In turn, they’ll be more engaged and regard you as a better leader.

Step 12. Create a Feedback System

It’s great that you’ve invested so much in becoming a better leader, but you have to continually go back to your people to find out how you’re doing.

How to do this? Implement a system for giving feedback, so that your employees always feel as though they can express themselves when something is wrong. For example, many companies offer performance reviews on a quarterly basis, but these reviews should also allow employees to make suggestions to their managers.

12 Steps to Leadership Success

Managing people isn’t easy, which is why many leaders spend significant time investing in their skills. If you complete all 12 steps, you’re sure to improve your people management skills. In doing so, you’ll become the kind of leader you want to be– one who inspires, ignites, and builds your team.

By Rob Wormley


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