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Management 101: Person vs Program

Looking for how to become a better manager? There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of books on the subject. To name a few, programs have been written, checklists made, and top 10 ideas published.

Yet when it is all said and done, there is really only one very vital element to remember. Your employees need a person to lead them, not a program.

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If you are placed into a management job for the first time, you will likely look for help. At least you will go home at night and think about it.

If you find a book, a pod cast, or a program, you might even go all-in on adopting its teaching. However, I caution you to stay in tune with the people side of things. Don’t get too focused on the programming of your performance.

There is the other extreme. Several of my HR friends joke about the buzz word “people person”. They tell stories of candidates being interviewed and proclaiming they are a “people person”. So the HR response is “Great, we’ll pay you 5 people a week. Is that good for you?”

No, I am talking about being able to connect with your team. You can follow a road map for doing X, Y, and Z about being a better manager, but when crunch time hits, being able to relate to your direct reports on a personal level is far more effective.

Management Person-hood is “Be-ing”

Here are five ways to do this:

1. Be Available –  Life happens. We may not work 24×7 but we live 24×7. So your team members will be experiencing their own individual situations. From one day to the next, you may never know what may come up. Be available to allow your people to come in and share or vent the issues they are facing.

I do not mean you become some kind of counselor or confessor. I mean you make it known you are there when their crises impact their work. You are willing to talk through the issues to reach a mutual understanding about what has to be done at work, so that the rest of the life situation can run its course.

This is not an easy task. Often you will have to be firm about the needs of the work place. But if the employee can walk away with the sense that you were available to hear them out, you will have created a better result.

2. Be Real –  Programmed responses and reactions feel stiff and fake. While you may be working to improve your persona as a manager, you still have to wear your own skin. Anything too different from that can be detected as being unreal.

If your natural personality is a little fun loving, let it show. Your responsibilities may keep you from being the class clown, but don’t shut down the fun.

If you are more reserved, fine. Don’t try to become the class clown.  It won’t work.

3. Be Flexible –  A rigid programmed approach to problem solving may not get you the right results. You need to vary the stimulus and your actions. Why? Because people think and act differently. Their personality types determine the reaction to your leadership.

When you announce a new policy or procedure to the group at large, you may need to enforce it individually. Therefore your handling of each person’s questions or objections may require flexibility.

4. Be Aware –  It is human nature to look at the world from inside our own box. Our core values are influenced by our own life experiences. Just because we look at things a certain way does not mean ours is the only way.

Yes, I realize some of you reading this right now will disagree. Yet the truth is, yours may not be the best and only way.

Get rid of your “ought to’s” and “should be’s”. Get out of your box. Be aware of your own filters that might distort the view. At least learn and know where these limiting factors may be, and be willing to become more objective when viewing a situation.

5. Be Open –  Ask questions. When you become a manager, there is likely no way you know all the answers to everything in your domain. Some programs may tell you never let your guard down. This is not about that. Being open is to freely participate in grasping the scope and significance of what is around you. Being open to learning has several side benefits.

  • Involving your team in your learning will show them respect for the things they know.
  • Talking through the details makes communication grow. Better communication is always a good outcome.
  • Being open helps enforce the other “Be’s” above.

Summary

In conclusion, I encourage you to keep learning about improving your management skill. Just don’t go too far the way of a program as a replacement for being a person to your team. The ability to perform as an effective manager, turning to your person-hood versus some program, is accomplished by “be-ing” the five things above.