5 ideas for improving how you manage people

Managing people well requires two fundamental skills sets. I call them the “2R’s”—Relating and Requiring.

Relating encompasses relationship-building behaviors: asking, listening, including, coaching, and encouraging. When you, as a manager, relate well, your employees feel heard and cared about. They know, at the heart level, you value them as people and as team contributors. They are motivated to work harder and share their ideas.

Requiring refers to results-oriented activities: creating expectations, focusing on goals, insisting on excellence, setting appropriate controls, asserting your views and confronting problems. When you require well, your group generates better project results.

If you Relate and Require well, your employees will deliver high quality, high productivity, and fresh ideas to solve existing problems.

Most managers find one of these skills sets more natural than the other. You may struggle with or even avoid the less natural skill set.

To be a maximally effective manager, you need to:

  1. Become keenly attuned to which “R” is dominant and how dominant it is. (If you are not sure, you can find out via the free assessment at www.ManagingPeopleBetter.com.)
  2. Honestly admit your weaknesses and the consequences of those weaknesses. Under- or over-use of Relating and Requiring skills can damage relationships, results or both.
  3. Vary the skills you use based on the specific employee you are managing and the details of the situation at hand. One size does not fit all.
  4. Adjust your approach if it’s not working. Perhaps, you are leaning too much on your natural style, and it’s time to engage your less natural style.
  5. Realize that some management functions require a formulaic approach. For example, decision-making should usually start with asking and listening, independent of your natural style.

When you consciously think of these five things, you increase your ability to help employees grow professionally and accomplish group goals. You gain flexibility to handle tough people management situations gracefully and decisively.

Delegation, Relating and Requiring

Take delegation, for example. This management activity virtually always needs to begin with Requiring activities.

Delegating is a risk-taking venture. If you delegate without retaining some control, you risk an end product that may not meet your standards. Yet if you control a project too tightly, employees may feel shut down. They may not offer great ideas that could improve the end product.

To delegate well, managers must find a way to trust others (Relating), yet maintain control of quality (Requiring). Effective delegation begins with examining several factors: the nature of the project, the skills needed to complete the work, the experience level of the employees on your team, etc.

Communicating well at the start of the delegation process creates greater likelihood of success.

Managers whose natural style is Relating have two problems to avoid:

  • Being too vague about what they want at the start (not asserting).
  • Failing to follow up to ensure everything is going well (not setting appropriate controls).

They must consciously using Requiring skills to clarify exactly what is to be done; define what a successful work product will look like; specify the deadline, staffing and resource constraints; and establish review guidelines (who needs to be in the loop and at what frequency do reviews need to occur).

Starting a project in this way makes it easier for a manager to stay appropriately involved. Built-in checkpoints keep the Relating manager from delegating and “being done with it.” They enable the Requiring manager to let go of the “hovering” habit. Requirers can allow work to proceed without constantly checking up on the person doing the job.

Building a 2R perspective

As a manager, you are responsible for a wide range of activities: recruiting, establishing a positive work environment in your group, managing expectations, performance management, decision making, coaching, and managing poor or marginal performers.

Each of these tasks requires a unique blend of Relating and Requiring skills. And you may need to further adjust your approach on an employee-by-employee basis.

Managers with a 2R perspective consciously subscribe to this tenet: I have two broad skill sets to help me accomplish my management goals, and I'll use whatever skill is needed with each person in each situation. I won't try to balance Relating and Requiring, or use each 50% of the time. I'll ask, "Do I need to ask, listen and understand, encourage, nurture, compliment, assert or require more to help each person achieve more?"

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