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If Managing People Were Easy…Everyone Would Do It! Part I

I was having a conversation with someone I met at a conference recently who told me that she was promoted to a management role about a year ago. She manages a staff of 10 and she recalls how excited she was when she was promoted. She isn’t any longer. She recounted this story about how she always felt that she would be a terrific manager of others because she can recall all of the things her own bosses have not done so well and she has learned from them.  However, she said – it wasn’t easy! She had no idea how difficult managing others could be. It was, in her words, draining and exhausting and she was considering leaving the role.

Let’s face it – if managing other people were easy, everyone would be manager! As it is there are plenty of managers out there who shouldn’t have their job, or at least shouldn’t be managing people as part of their job. Managing others is not easy. It can be frustrating. It can really wear you down. It drains your energy. However – it doesn’t have to be all that – it can be exciting and worthwhile! It all depends on your attitude and outlook, and how interested in you are in other people.
Let’s look at “interest in other people.” To effectively manage others, you need to be genuinely concerned about them – their welfare, their happiness, how they are developing professionally and what they want out of the job and life in general. You need to be able to build strong relationships with others. It shows you care about them and where they are going. The best managers I have had when I’ve worked at companies are those who are sincerely interested in me and what I want to do. The worst managers were those who cared only about what I could do for them and how much work I could produce to make them look good. Whenever I’ve managed others, I took a sincere interest in them. I gave them assignments that would challenge them and help them grow. If I knew they were interested in working in particular areas to build their skills or knowledge, I’d be sure to give them opportunities. I encouraged them regularly to take advantage of training programs, shared articles that I knew would interest them, have them lead small project teams, and otherwise pushed them to continue to grow and develop themselves professionally and personally. This is taking an interest in another person. And it is essential to success as a manager.

Without a doubt you can get burnt out as a manager. Managing others takes a significant amount of energy and time. It is exhausting. And on top of that – you have other work to do in your role besides manage staff. Consider any of the following:

  • An employee who you know is ready for a promotion or new challenges and nothing exists in the company for that person.
  • An employee who is doing an absolutely outstanding job but you can’t give them any more than a pat on the back since salaries are “frozen.”
  • An employee who is interested in attending a conference or a training class, but you can’t get approval because funds are tight.
  • An employee who sees that those who don’t work as hard or go the extra mile, get rewarded just the same.
  • An employee who is burnt out and you either need to get them back on track or manage them into another role or another job.

These are all true scenarios from companies where I have worked. And they were frustrating situations. Not just frustrating for the individuals, but frustrating for me as their manager. There is only so much you can say and do. If you can’t change the situation, your hands are tied.  This certainly wears you down. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are small things you can do – no matter the organization you are in – in order to ensure your staff is supported. More on this soon.

Back to our story. My new friend was frustrated because her staff was working twice as hard as before to make up for less resources in the company and the push to get new products out to market quicker to compete more effectively. No surprise there. Sounds like most companies these days, doesn’t it? Her frustration stemmed from the fact that there was not much she could do except give them a “pat on the back” and thank them for their hard work. Had she done that yet? No….she hadn’t. Because she felt it was insufficient. She is not in a unique situation. Managing employees is challenging and even more so when you can’t reward them. And when employees get frustrated about the situation they can become demoralized and disengaged from the business. That is when the real managers show their skills!

Stay tuned for Part II on how to reward your staff when additional money is not possible.

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