People Management

What is people management?

People management, at its most basic level for our purposes, describes the action of how we, as managers, manage ourselves, our team and our staff on a day-to-day basis.

It is important that we recognise the significance of this statement: managing ourselves and our direct staff may well sound like common sense but we also mention here, a reference to ‘our team’. This may be, directly or indirectly, made up of employees from other companies and contractors striving to deliver a common goal or purpose alongside us.

How we interact, encourage, support and delegate to one another is at the crux of people management; it has the knock-on effect of influencing staff motivation, performance, general well-being and, ultimately – customer satisfaction. When a team of people are managed well they arguably become one of the most important assets held by a company. How staff behave and respond to their colleagues and to their customers can, quite simply, make the difference between customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction; a sale or no sale. A huge influence on this is whether or not people feel motivated.

What are the laws of motivation?

Abraham Maslow, an American professor of psychology, determined that motivation is centred on the hierarchy of the individual’s needs. There are four key observations we should understand about this hierarchy:

  1. It is based on needs, not wants.
  2. It operates on an ascending scale: only when a need is met will the individual discover the need on the next upward rung of the ladder.
  3. It is possible to revert back to an earlier set of needs if a feeling of insecurity occurs; people can move up and down the ladder.
  4. If needs are not met, this is demonstrated in people’s behaviour.

Douglas McGregor further developed Maslow’s idea of depicting peoples’ needs as a hierarchy. He identified that once our simplest needs have been satisfied they cease to be strong motivators to action and, less materialistic needs (such as self-expression), replace them; their combined work can be summarised as follows. The ladder is often depicted as a triangle:

– 5 –

— 4 —

—– 3 —–

——- 2 ——-

——— 1 ———

  • STAGE ONE = Basic physiological needs have to be met (e.g. hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.)
  • STAGE TWO = Safety (emotional and physical) needs have to be met (e.g. security, shelter, warmth.)
  • STAGE THREE = Social (group affinity) awarenesses (e.g. belonging to group(s), social activities, love, friendship, etc.)
  • STAGE FOUR = Self-Esteem (Ego) awareness (e.g. self-respect, status, recognition, etc.)
  • STAGE FIVE = Self-Realisation (Fulfilment, maturity, wisdom) awareness (e.g. growth, personal development, accomplishment, etc.)

As managers, we should recognise this ladder of needs as it suggests that, given suitable circumstances and proper management, most people can be self-directed provided they have become commited to an objective that they value. We should therefore respond to it by creating an environment for motivation as this will reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of apathy setting in and becoming endemic in our organisation.

So what really motivates people?

In order to manage and motivate people we need to understand what it is that motives the team or staff for whom we have responsibility. This is important as it will ultimately affect how we should provide feedback, recognition and reward to those individuals. Sources of motivation will be different in each person and can only be fine tuned by talking with and getting to know everyone as individuals; this action enables us to evaluate the different components that collectively form our group or team.

With Maslow’s Law as a theoretical template, by ascertaining where people feel they fit into the hierarchy of needs, we can for example, determine appropriate methods of recognition – it’s not just about giving people a bigger pay rise all the time!

In conjunction with this approach, it is important that we recognise that there are basically just four kinds of people in the world:

  1. people who watch things happen
  2. people to whom things happen
  3. people who do not know what is happening
  4. people who make things happen

As people managers we fall into the category of making things happen through other people. As such, we must be aware of how we can influence other people to work willingly and well; it is this action that will ensure their own job satisfaction and the organisation’s efficiency are increased in parallel. There are four areas which require our attention:

  1. Making subordinates feel valued.
  2. Providing opportunities for development.
  3. Recognising achievements.
  4. Providing a challenge.

How can we make subordinates feel valued?

  1. Create an atmosphere of approval and co-operation.
  2. Regularly monitor each person’s work and provide constructive feedback.
  3. Share an interest in each persons’ life and be aware of what they believe to be important.
  4. Confirm to each person the importance of their role and their team’s role in relation to the company’s overall objectives.
  5. Make everyone aware and feel involved in the company’s philosphy; highlight why their work matters in this context.

How can we provide opportunities for development?

  1. Set standards for everyone and individual targets for each person.
  2. Provide a mixture of on-the-job and off-the-job training.
  3. Allow people to train others in their specialist skills.
  4. Schedule work to take into consideration each person’s skills.
  5. Provide mentors for people who are particularly keen to develop and progress.

How should we recognise achievements?

  1. Praise individual successes and share the news with others.
  2. Report regularly on the team or group’s performance.
  3. Hold regular one-to-one meetings to monitor and provide feedback on progress toward achieving individual targets.
  4. Explain the organisation’s results and achievements; highlight how people’s work has contributed to that success.

How can we provide people with a challenge?

  1. Provide scope for individuals to take on greater responsibility.
  2. Create and communicate the team and the organisation’s objectives.
  3. Encourage people to put forward ideas to achieve objectives; where possible, allow them to become involved implementing those ideas.

What are BIG’s tips for approaching people management?

A great deal of study had been conducted by a huge number of eminent experts and behavioural scientists on this subject. Without wanting to disregard or dumb-down their valuable work, for now let’s just take a common sense approach. In other words, to simplify things, without going into different models, hypothoses or lengthy examples, let’s just say:

“We should always treat other people as we would like to be treated ourselves.”

There is a well known saying that: “what goes around, comes around” and certainly we have found this to be true on many occasions, in so many different ways and circumstances. For example, when a manager goes into a meeting and acts out an aggressive delivery of news, facts or figures, the audience will respond with a similar if not equal measure of aggression. Conversely, when a manager delivers a message in a controlled, even temperament, even bad news is far more likely to be taken on board by the audience in a non-aggressive, non-confrontational manner.

At the end of the day, people like to be treated as adults. They like to feel consulted and, where possible, be made to feel a part (even just a small part) of any decision process. As people managers, we need to be seen to lead by example; to be firm but fair, consistent and willing to listen and ideally, to compromise. Of course, in reality, this is not always possible but, if we at least strive for this and for the respect of the people we manage, then even falling short will bring better results than not striving at all.

For further tips, in-depth information about related topics and regular updates relating to people management, please refer to the Information Articles menu which can be found in the right-hand margin of this webpage.