Contrary to some schools of thought, successful “people management” is not a science (if anything it’s more of an art.) But it’s essentially a skill that can be learned.  Some managers are naturally blessed with great instincts for handling people – which means they make fewer unforced mistakes at first – but, with a little self-nudge and a learning attitude, any manager can do just fine in the area of human relationships with their colleagues and direct reports.

It’s important to know and never forget: your employees experience you first emotionally – by what you say, how you say it and, most obviously, by what you do. They have their own take, almost instantly, on what they think you think about them. It’s not that you have to be perfect, brilliant, or totally know everyone’s job down to the minutest detail, but “how you are” – the way you conduct yourself, handle yourself – is huge.

Some bosses are the driven, Type A characters who can be inspiring to work for, especially if their intelligence or creative gifts help produce tangible rewards for everyone else. But all too often employees can experience those bosses as “too much.” They’re too jarring, too anxiety-provoking to deal with comfortably. Plus, it’s hard to match the obsessive-ness, or successfully get into alignment with a workaholic.

The key example a leader should set is the focus on the work, while we’re all here at work. A good manager can be the total opposite of authoritarian – light-hearted, even funny. It’s possible to have wonderful, brief conversations about kids, baseball, movies – whatever – with relaxed bosses. But good bosses do tend to favor talking about, and get back to, the work – how are we doing, what needs to get done, what can we do better, how can I help you?

The best bosses convey a relentless, “present focus” on what’s on our plate now and notice and appreciate effort toward getting on top of things needing to be done while pursuing the mission and organization’s goals. Obviously it’s important to recognize good work, in both senses: be able to know good work when you see it, and also be generous about expressing it directly – out loud in front of the team, or privately in person.

Say “thank you” anytime you reasonably can. Sure, you can overdo the praise, especially if it seems like your just laying it on, but appreciating receiving praise is a well-known, powerful truth about people and actual human motivation. People need to know you’re watching, are recognizing what’s really going on, are appreciating all the effort, and are ready to respond right away to problems. That’s the best kind of trust.

And in that regard, integrity is more than not lying; it’s about generosity and honorable motivation around giving credit and accepting blame. Taking everyone’s efforts for granted is a major mistake, and it’s noticed right away if it seems like you’re trying to take credit for other peoples’ work. (And it hardly needs to be said that if you actually get caught doing that it’s a damaging blow to your credibility.)

Go the other way – convey to everybody that you’re the fortunate colleague of wonderful employees. Work to get them the resources they need. Shoulder blame, give credit to everyone else, and defend your people from criticism, especially from sniping, whether from outside or from on high. (That also makes it much easier to identify and stand your ground about performance issues.)

Being relaxed can make all the difference. The message is that the work isn’t overwhelming: “We’re in this to succeed, and we all will succeed if we just stay focused, keep moving forward, learn from our mistakes, and support each other.” That’s not Pollyanna; that’s the way it really works at work.

 

{ 0 comments }

I sympathize with that supervisor, but it’s the 21st century and people bring all kinds of personal baggage to work these days. But being from the old school can actually be an asset when managing people – provided they accept a few new realities and keep their concentration:

Here’s an audio that expands on that:

 

Shaun Kieran

ShaunKpro@gmail.com

(207) 767-3864

Or connect here.

 

 

{ 0 comments }

I’ve taken another stab at an audio about what happens when a parent talks to me about their situation. For a variety of reasons I prefer to call what we do “consultation” rather than “coaching.”  Our conversations help parents be more instinctively comfortable, and – most importantly – maintain their confidence and focus on the parental tasks in front of them.

Everything is better when parents step up and “be” parents to the absolute best of their ability. They both truly help the children they love, and they affirm pieces of themselves that help their own lives be fulfilled no matter what else happens on their journey.  Here’s the audio:  

{ 0 comments }

It’s more common than you might think that encounters between exes in public can generate a ton of anxiety and trepidation. I’ve been asked about this scenario many times:

{ 0 comments }

Even Though the Ex Continues to Be “A Real Pain” the High Road Is (Still) the Best Way to Go

by Shaun Kieran

This audio briefly summarizes why you don’t want to give in to your frustrations and the ex’s provocations.

   

Read the full article →

Being a Proactive Supervisor Doesn’t Mean Shooting from the Hip

by Shaun Kieran

As a new supervisor in today’s workplace, you certainly don’t need to sprint toward your people with fire in your eyes and a club in your hand to convince them you mean business. But it is also true that supervisors, especially line supervisors, really are the equivalent of early responders. They’re the ones whose early […]

Read the full article →

Workplace Coaching and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) are tools managers should be aware of and utilize to deal with situations in which all the stakeholders are good people, but the problems can’t simply be ignored.

by Shaun Kieran

One of my favorite examples illustrating the many benefits of “coaching” a line supervisor also happened because of the engagement and flexibility provided by a good Employee Assistance Program (EAP.) A supervisor who had only recently become the Office Manager of a very busy State bureau came to the EAP to see me (supposedly) about a […]

Read the full article →

Not a natural authoritarian boss? It’s not necessary.

by Shaun Kieran

Here’s a classic, common situation for line and new supervisors: for whatever reason, an employee has begun having trouble managing his or her feelings, it’s tending to spill out, and may be affecting customer service. From the outside it looks relatively minor. It’s not blatant or outrageous – not a firing offense – but it’s […]

Read the full article →

You’re on a professional “desert island” when real-world, very human circumstances drastically limit available alternatives – you’re stuck.

by Shaun Kieran

“I can NOT believe I’m in this situation!” She was putting her coat on at the end of our session, sounding pretty exasperated, but then – more sadly – she said, “I feel like I’m on a desert island.” The situation she was referring to is one I’ve encountered with increasing frequencey: professionals “stuck” in […]

Read the full article →

Accused of being a Micro Manager? It might be true – and you should definitely try not to be one – but some workplaces do make that hard.

by Shaun Kieran

I’ve done a few workshops where dealing with the accusation of being a “micro manager” has taken up a lot of time in the Q & A. It’s a topic that can really get people cranked up. Very often, what’s going on when that topic gets broached is that a supervisor is in the middle of […]

Read the full article →