I love managing people. And it’s not because I want to give other people all the jobs I don’t want to do! It’s because managing people can be such an amazing, rewarding, and teaching experience. I love working with people and figuring out how to fit their talents with activities that are just the right match for them. I like connecting with them on their work, helping them to improve in some areas and highlighting where their skills are strong.
I’m lucky in that I get to do a decent amount of management / delegation / supervision in my line of work—but it isn’t a super easy thing to do. Managing people is an art, and you need to be strategic about it to build positive relationships and ensure the employees are getting a lot out of it, and that the project is moving forward efficiently.
When I was recently checking references on a new employee, one of the questions I asked was, “do you have any recommendations on how best to manage this person?” The reference responded with, “manage them well.”
I think they made a great point here. You have to manage people well. If you don’t manage them well, it doesn’t matter how talented they are or intelligent they are or friendly they are. They likely won’t do as well and you likely won’t have that great of a relationship with them. Project management and managing people need to be strategic in that they ensure everyone benefits: you, the employee, and the project itself.
A few pointers when it comes to managing people:
- Give them some background and context. Explain your position and role, and why you are their manager. This might be fairly obvious in some circumstances, such as if you own the business, but if you’re at a nonprofit or similar, then it’s good to give the person you’re managing some explanation for why you’re going to be supervising them (such as your expertise, education, and background).
- Provide a work plan with timelines. Work plans are so much fun to put together (seriously. I’d love to put together work plans and timelines and reports all day long), but more than that, they’re a valuable resource for the person you’re supervising. The person you’re supervising can refer to the work plan to ensure they stay on track, follow deadlines, and have a general idea of what their responsibilities will be in the coming weeks or months.
- Meet regularly. This can be once a day for someone who has just started, once a week while they settle in, and once every couple weeks after they’ve become comfortable with the work. Take advantage of this time to check in and see if they have any questions, and also to give feedback on their work. Compliment them on work they do well, and recommend areas that they can improve in. Managing people is all about effective communication.
- Ask them what’s doable. If you need to delegate something, check what their schedule is like and what their skills are in relation to the task at hand. Ensure that they understand what the task will entail. By taking a few extra minutes to walk it through with them in the beginning, you can save yourself and them time later on by reducing the chance that the task will be carried out incorrectly or poorly. When managing people, don’t assume that they that complete a task as quickly (or as slowly!) as you might.
- Find out what they need. It’s important to provide feedback on their skills and abilities, but it’s also important you find out from them what you excel in and where you could strengthen your skills! Ask them if they need more or less guidance from you, if you’re asking a reasonable amount of them, and if there’s anything you can do to make them feel more comfortable or work more efficiently. By doing this, you can quickly find out if they want to meeting every two days rather than every two weeks, or you can find out that they might prefer specific tasks with deadlines rather than general tasks. This will be invaluable to ensuring efficient work and a healthy relationship when you’re managing people!