Managing People Without Being Awful

I think managing people well might be one of the hardest things to do in any organization. Mismanagement is such a vague, broad term that can refer to so many different small things about someone’s leadership style. From not being appreciative of employees to micro-managing to ignoring problems to playing favorites, there are so many different ways to be awful to the people that you manage.

When I’m managing people, I don’t really like to focus on the awful side of things. I think it’s good to self-reflect and realize both your own flaws and those of your employees, but you can’t paralyze yourself by reflecting so much you forget to accomplish anything.

For me, that means seeing that I can be demanding and expect a lot from people – or that I trust those I work with to put forward their best work. It means seeing that I really don’t like telling someone exactly what to do – or that I like people to be creative and independent. I hate hate hate being micro-managed – or I like to feel trusted by my managers.

Once you start trying to see the positives of your own negatives, do the same for the people around you. Do you work with someone who isn’t great with people, but loves counting things? Give them inventory. Do you have an employee who is really, really thorough but not very creative? Give them the rules based tasks that focus more on precision than innovation. Do you have an employee who is a little flighty, but truly imaginative? Give them tasks focused on development and fourth order thinking.

You can use your analysis of everyone’s positives and negatives (and your thoughts on how to leverage those negatives into positives) to assign tasks. If you did a good job, you won’t need to worry or hover nearly as much, which will make the good employees grow and the bad employees pretty quickly drift away. Let them fall away, if needed.

Overall, being a good manager is about finding people you can trust and giving them things to do that make them grow. With that positive outlook, you can create a culture of support and high morale. If you don’t trust the people working for you, it’s probably more of a reflection on yourself than them and it can really only lead to unhappiness.