Whether you are a team leader, manager, or in charge of the local girl scout group, enhancing your people management skills will improve the quality of your interactions daily. These skills include effective communication, which encompasses verbal and written communication, as well as active listening and appropriate feedback.
You will also need to know how to provide adequate training in addition to motivating individuals and delegating tasks. Flexibility and organization are vital aptitudes to focus on to successfully manage groups. Finally, being a leader means you must be able to manage and resolve conflicts while being culturally sensitive to an individual’s differences. Let’s take a look at these essential people management skills in more detail.
People Management Skills: Effective Communication
One of the chief people management skills is communication. You need to know how to communicate effectively with your group so that everyone is clear on procedures and expectations. It is not the most productive way to conduct business to keep your employees, team members, or club in the dark about what needs to be done and what is in progress.
As a leader, you can have one-on-one meetings or group meetings to keep everyone up to speed on what is happening. You could also choose to inform members through emails or other types of written correspondence. These meetings and bulletins don’t need to be tedious and drawn-out affairs. Effective written and verbal communication will keep them from becoming so.
When interacting with your team, remember to use good manners. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ will go a long way in creating a positive environment even when the news being conveyed is less than stellar. Communication includes active listening and appropriate feedback in addition to verbal and written communications.
Your ability to manage people is dependant on your skills at communicating verbally with those that you oversee. Oral communication doesn’t come easy to everyone. Some of us have difficulty expressing ourselves well. If that is the case, take heart. There are a few things you can do to communicate more effectively when speaking.
Begin by thinking through and organizing your ideas before you even open your mouth. When you have a clear plan, you won’t stumble over your words or frantically scramble for the next thing to say. Outline or write out your speech for a smoother flow if you are presenting information before a group.
Another way to better your verbal communication is by choosing precise words and making clear sentences. Do this by keeping your audience in mind as you plan your discourse. For instance, the fifth grade Brownie troop has a different level of comprehension than the board of directors of an international company. Adapting to your audience doesn’t mean talk down to the group. Instead, use terminology and concepts that the group is familiar with to convey your thoughts.
Written communication is just as important as verbal communication when it comes to people management skills. While verbal communication can become distorted when repeated, written communication can serve as a clear record of what was said. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar detract from the clarity of written correspondence and can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications.
Just as everyone is not a good speaker, not every person is a good writer. You can improve, however, with practice. When you write, be clear and to the point. Both sentences and paragraphs should be concise and short. Remember to capitalize the first word in each sentence. Also, be sure to choose appropriate punctuation at the end of the sentences.
There are a myriad of grammar apps and spell checkers available online. Use them to check for errors. You can also use an online thesaurus to increase the variety of your word choices without compromising on meaning. If managing people requires you to create many written documents, you may want to take a writing course to sharpen your reports.
Active Listening Skills
Those who are successful at managing people have excellent listening skills. While some of the aspects of active listening might be intuitive, others require a concerted effort. Listening is one of the best ways to enhance personal and professional relationships. Hence, listening is an essential skill for group leaders.
When you listen to another person, you are paving the way for that person to develop trust in you. You demonstrate your empathy and support by giving the speaker your full attention. In this way, you can understand his or her perfective, leading to more effective communication overall.
Make Eye Contact
So how do you show someone that you are fully attentive to what is being said? Eye contact is one way. You should try to maintain eye contact for about 70% of the conversation. The remaining 30% you can look away, while still indicating you are paying attention by nodding your head at appropriate intervals.
Eye contact with acquaintances, strangers, and managers can be awkward for some people. If eye contact makes you uncomfortable, start by making eye contact with TV characters. Then work your way up to making eye contact with people you are comfortable with.
Some people with social anxiety disorders (SAD) or autism have difficulty maintaining eye contact. Others who are shy or feel uncomfortable in a situation may also struggle with this. If you have trouble with eye contact, then you’ll need to work on it. You can work on making eye contact in small increments, increasing the time you meet someone’s eyes as you become more comfortable with it.
Start by enlisting the aid of someone you feel very comfortable with. During the conversation with your friend, see how long you can hold his or her gaze before looking away. You can also focus on the other person’s forehead or between their eyes if direct eye contact is overwhelming. Be diligent at meaningful eye contact, gradually work up to making eye contact even with acquaintances and strangers.
Be Aware of and Use Appropriate Body Language
Active listening also requires an awareness of body language, both your own and that of the speaker’s. Leaning forward indicates active listening. Leaning backward and crossing your arms is the opposite. This posture suggests that you are closed to listening.
Jerky foot, leg, or finger movements can indicate impatience. A disdainful smile is easily identifiable and interpreted. However, a genuine smile will foster connection. Lack of eye contact can also mean a lack of attention or interest. The tone, volume, and speed a speaker uses can also tell much about their emotional state. Good listeners pick up on these subtle nuances.
Ask Questions and Paraphrase
Those who excel at active listening can paraphrase what was said to show their understanding. Rephrasing and repeating not only helps you process what you heard but also lets the speaker know you were listening. Use phrases like ‘It sounds like you are saying…’ or ‘What I hear you saying is ….’
Paraphrasing is a useful technique if you find yourself responding emotionally to what is being said. Part of being an effective leader is being able to listen respectfully, without becoming defensive or emotional. Paraphrasing gives you a moment to work through the emotions that were triggered. It will also clarify what was said. It may be that you misunderstood the intention or misheard the sentence.
Once you fully understand the speaker, ask genuine follow-up questions. On the other hand, don’t spend excessive time asking about details that may be irrelevant. Additionally, don’t be in a hurry to respond. Do not try to top the other person’s story with one of your own, which discredits the speaker’s experience. Instead, be present and attentive. There will be time enough to respond afterward.
Providing Appropriate Feedback
It’s essential to let the people you are in charge of know how they are doing periodically. This implies providing appropriate feedback. You may need to deliver a formal performance appraisal indicating which tasks someone has done well and where improvement can be made. Feedback isn’t merely an evaluation of work done but instead includes a development plan to help with performance improvement.
Informal feedback is also very beneficial. Good leaders make an effort to recognize the advances and successes of those they manage. When praise is due, it often can be done publicly. Everyone likes to be a shining star. However, criticism should be made far from the listening ears of others. Remember to be positive in how you make suggestions or make corrections. No one likes being yelled at. It causes the feedback recipient to become defensive and thus not open to listening.
When providing feedback that may be construed as unfavorable by the listener, begin by praising a particular function, the person does well. Jumping immediately to the reprimand is more about making you feel better than it is about correcting someone else.
Take the time to write out a plan of what you would like to say, again giving priority to positive feedback. Don’t just criticize. Instead, work with the person to create a procedure for improvement. Be sure to listen to concerns or suggestions made by the other person. Use active listening skills to have an open and productive discussion rather than a dressing down.
Feedback will only go so far. You must assure that those that are tasked with specific responsibilities are adequately prepared to complete them. Otherwise, there will be frustration, anger, and poor results all around. To make sure members can achieve their function, you may need to provide training.
Training is especially helpful to those who are new members of the team or those that have been given a new responsibility or position. You could have coworkers take charge of this training, or conduct it yourself. On the other hand, you could have outside agencies come in and provide specific training.
Include a variety of team-building training and personal development seminars in addition to specific skills training. Top performers will find these types of activities attractive. Their enthusiasm will spread to other team members that may not be as motivated.
During the training process, pay attention to the skills the person already possesses and then determine which abilities are still lacking, focusing on those. Ideally, you want team members to be able to function independently, without micromanaging. Allowing them to be responsible for certain aspects without your direct oversight not only gives them a sense of empowerment but also frees your time up to complete other tasks.
Approximately 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her manager. Thus, another one of the crucial people management skills to focus on is motivation. Motivation is the process of encouraging people to take action to accomplish specific goals. Motivation means that your team members are excited about performing the tasks they have been assigned and will work harder to reach the larger objective.
An effective leader gets to know the people he or she has been charged with motivation well enough to determine what drives them. A leader will create opportunities where team members are rewarded accordingly.
For example, some individuals may be motivated by public recognition. Therefore, a general recognition board in a central location may inspire more effort. On the other hand, other members may be driven by the opportunity to further their outside studies. Thus, a fund for university courses could be established. Therefore, some individuals will be incited to work towards meeting the criteria to take advantage of this opportunity.
Motivating others is a skill that combines your emotions, the other person’s ambitions, and the ability to articulate both the feelings and aspirations logically. When you apply sentiment without logic, then the result is manipulation, which both parties can come to resent. On the other hand, if you use logic without taking into consideration the ambitions of the other person, the motivating factor will be ignored.
Being in charge also implies delegating some activities and responsibilities to others. In most cases, you can’t complete every task yourself and meet deadlines. Therefore, skillful delegation is in order.
Each person that has been assigned a task will be held accountable for its completion before the deadline set. A good manager will know which tasks complement the skills of specific team members. He or she will also know how to motivate those with responsibilities.
For example, a detailed report might be assigned to someone who has excellent organizational skills, while a company-wide presentation would be given to someone with an outstanding speaking presence. Both individuals will appreciate that the tasks fall into their skill set and that you, as a team leader, recognized this fact.
Be careful not to lean too much on the top performers. Assigning too much responsibility to one person can lead to burn-out, resentment, or non-completion. Everyone has particular abilities that can contribute to the whole. If you choose someone who is not as strongly skilled, make sure to provide regular feedback to guide them and appropriate training when necessary.
It doesn’t hurt to explain why you are giving certain tasks to specific individuals. It works as a type of public praise in addition to soothing ruffled feathers for those that were not selected.
When you are the leader of a group of people, you will need to interact with diverse personalities, communication styles, needs, motivators, and abilities. All of these factors can create quite a bit of pressure on you. Learning how to be more flexible will undoubtedly aid in handling these multiple elements successfully.
Flexibility implies you understand that there are often a variety of ways to complete a task. Although you may prefer a precise method, another may find a variation that works just as well, if not better.
As a leader, you need to stand back and let the team members complete the activity in this new way. Stepping back doesn’t mean washing your hands of the whole thing. Instead, you should observe, provide appropriate feedback, furnish training, and support the endeavor in any way possible. Even if you believe there is a more efficient way to get the job done, remember, it’s the results that matter.
Being flexible also means that you can adjust to a change in circumstances. If a team member has a family emergency, and can not attend a meeting, find a way to accommodate him. Can the information be sent to the absentee in an email later? Is there a way that someone else could present the income report? Could the meeting be postponed even? If you are so rigid that you refuse to compromise when a situation arises, you create a set of circumstances that will frustrate everyone involved.
As a team leader, you will need to have excellent organizational skills. Not only do you need to organize the people, but also tasks according to priority in addition to keeping track of the group’s mission, vision, income, and expenses. Strategic planning is called for.
Although you can delegate specific tasks, you’ll need to oversee each aspect of the group’s activities. Transferring responsibility, while remaining involved, means that even though Tim is in charge of the budget, you must know how much money is being spent on a given event so that you can plan for the subsequent one.
You will need to organize regular meetings, request periodic reports, and keep the lines of communication open among all team members. It often helps to have a formal process in place and have team members adhere to a specific method in providing you with regular updates.
Once you have all the information from your group, you’ll need to organize it in a way that makes sense to you so that you can use it efficiently for planning. Make dedicated files on your computer to house relevant information. Use a file cabinet to keep a paper trail of documents and receipts.
Being organized is an ongoing process and apt to change when new information is integrated. Periodically check how well you are informed about tasks you have delegated and be ready to make adjustments when need be.
Conflict Management and Resolution Abilities
Remember how we mentioned how managing people meant dealing with diversity? Unfortunately, conflicts inevitably arise. People have different personalities and communication styles, which are sometimes opposed to one another.
Conflict management is when you recognize and mediate disputes so that everyone involved is satisfied with the result. Finding the perfect balance is no easy task! You will need to work on those people management skills to create an open and problem-free environment.
To do that, you may need to provide conflict resolution training to your entire group. Conflict can be reduced through effective communication and active listening, skills that not everyone may have yet. Other skills that may be needed are critical thinking and creativity for problem-solving.
Negotiation is yet another skill needed to find balanced resolutions to conflicts. Negotiation refers to a back and forth communication process where two or more opposing sides try to reach an agreement even though not all parties have the same interests.
Listening During Negotiations
In the best-case scenario, everyone leaves the negotiation feeling that they have won. Therefore, as the leader, you will need to determine what it is that each person wants to have a successful negotiation.
Doing so requires calling on your active listening skills as well as the information you have about each individual’s motivational factor. After this, you will need to effectively communicate the terms and possible solutions to the conflict, making sure that you are understood completely. Only then can a productive dialogue take place.
If there seems to be no logical resolution to the conflict, don’t be afraid to offer more creative solutions that still factor in the needs of the opposing parties. Sometimes a brainstorming session will provide answers that you may have overlooked. Other times, having a third party come in and help with the mediation works better, especially if the conflict is emotionally charged.
You may find yourself the leader of a culturally diverse group. Because of fundamental differences, more conflicts may arise, or you may not be able to pinpoint an individual’s motivation determinant. In this case, improving your cultural sensitivity will go along way in allowing the group to function as a whole since you’ll be able to recognize differences and similarities of group members without judgment.
The first step in improving your cultural sensitivity is to spend some time learning about your own culture. Take the time to consider if you have internalized biases or prejudices about another culture. Then learn about the other individual’s society. Compare the reality of that person’s behavior with those internal biases you have. Is there any truth to them, or can they be dismissed?
Remember to treat all team members with respect so that you will be respected. Learning about your group’s individuality will help you make the most of the skills each person brings to the table.
How to Improve Your People Management Skills
If you find that there are some skills that you need to improve when it comes to people management, then it’s time to get to work on them.
First, determine which skills you can improve upon. If you aren’t sure, ask your team for suggestions. Don’t become defensive and sullen when you hear their responses. Remember, your goal is to improve. Once you have a handle on where you are lacking, write down your goals.
Decide if your development will require taking a leadership course or reading a series of management books. You may want to find a mentor or coach to help you. Is there someone you look up to whose people management skills you admire? Ask if they will work with you one-on-one. They may be able to provide that third-party objective that you’ve been missing.
Your willingness to learn can also be inspirational for those you work with. If those that you manage, see you making an effort to better yourself, don’t be surprised if they decide to do some self-development as well.
As you’ve seen, being a team leader requires that you have certain people management skills. These include effective verbal and written communication to express tasks and requirements clearly. Good leaders also are excellent active listeners. They use their communication and listening skills to provide appropriate feedback to individual members.
Managers also must understand that group members need the training to fulfill their roles well. Learning what motivates each person will provide the incentive to get the job done right. Because one person can’t do it all, managers must also learn to delegate.
With so many different variables to contend with, being organized yet flexible are vital competencies to work on. Those variables also sometimes give rise to conflicts. Therefore, every leader must develop his or her conflict management and resolution abilities and cultural sensitivity to foster a positive work environment.