April 17, 2019

Accidentally in Charge: How to Manage People When You’ve No Clue

By B&SC Career Services Team

Accidentally in Charge: How to Manage People When You’ve No Clue

With so many layoffs, more and more people are ending up in charge of colleagues, teams, and even departments – with little to no training in how to manage people effectively. Rest assured, you’re not alone – many other managers have never received any training, either. But business management is an important skill to learn if your job requires it, and you might as well make the most of your opportunity.

What is business management?

Business management can mean a lot of things. At its heart, business management involves understanding people – what motivates them and how to coordinate them to reach a common business goal.

Your best bet when managing people in a business environment? Learn to coach down, collaborate across, and manage up.

Coach down.  Supervising others is about helping them deliver their best stuff to the organization. You need to hold people accountable for doing their work successfully, but that’s a lot easier to do consistently when you understand and support their motivations, goals, and concerns on an ongoing basis, rather than only during an annual performance review.

When you get to those annual reviews, instead of simply evaluating your direct reports and telling them where and how they have or haven’t met expectations, consider also asking them to prepare their own assessment of their job, their career goals, and the ways they’d like to grow professionally. Are there other projects they’d like to take on, teams they’d like to volunteer for, additional skills they’d like to develop?

While you can’t accommodate all their goals, making the effort to create an environment where people can learn and grow will keep them much more engaged than one where employees are simply told what to do. Although when first thrust into a supervisory or management role, most of us lean toward micromanaging, in fact this is pretty much guaranteed to bring out the worst in the people reporting to us. So instead, consider working with your people to help them succeed in their jobs.

Collaborate across.  An awful lot of organizational culture is about competition – between departments, managers/executives, and budget priorities. You can see it in meetings where people vie for attention and credit rather than supporting others’ ideas or solutions. But life – and work – is not a zero sum game, where your win is my loss.

How much better instead to build bridges to others, to find ways to support good ideas whether yours or your colleagues’. You can demonstrate support in many ways, but one of the most basic is simply publicly acknowledging someone’s contribution; it’s as simple as saying something like “I think Bill’s idea is a great starting point for us.” Making the effort to value others’ participation is not only the smart thing to do personally, it’s also how teams become creative and innovative, instead of being mired in infighting and disarray.

It’s also how you begin building your impact within (and eventually, outside of) your organization. When you’re willing to acknowledge others’ good ideas, it’s much likelier that they will be willing to do the same for you. And when your colleagues move on to other jobs, they will take with them the knowledge that you’re a great team player, and someone with whom they can collaborate.

Manage up.  “Managing up” means doing those things that enable your boss to have confidence in your performance. That means finding out what level of communication your boss needs from you, what issues/concerns are important to him or her, and quite frankly, how you can help your boss succeed in his or her job.

Get to know their management and communication styles, and work to align with their comfort levels on both. Does she rely on numbers to make decisions? Come prepared with numbers. Does he tend to micromanage? Provide daily updates to diffuse his anxiety level.

Coach down, collaborate across, manage up. It builds trust, support, and long-term career growth – not to mention a much more effective organizational team effort.

Interested in learning more about effective personnel and business management? Check out the professional development classes available at Bryant & Stratton College or even consider a degree in business management.

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