How to be a better people manager: one fundamental

Why don’t they just get on and do their job? People stuff can be exasperating. Life would be so much easier if people just do what they’re told, to the level as expected, in a time frame that fits expectations. How often does this happen? Not often enough for people leaders to feel at ease with their direct reports. It’s sad case of PICNIC - Problem In Chair, Not In Colleague. Any people problem should start with a solid look at oneself first. Thankfully there is a fundamental that you can turn to every time: read the manual.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

“Read the manual.”

This was Rob’s response when a message to assess tyre pressure flashed up on the dashboard of our new sports car.

The more technology in a car, the more things are likely to go wrong. And need a complex fix.

I don’t want to read the manual. 

I just want the car to work.

I have absolutely zero interest in how a car works, its specifications, performance level, torque, revs or any other statistic. It bores me senseless.

A car is to get me from A to B. I don’t really like driving and can’t wait for the network of driverless machines to arrive. It will save so much productive time.

For some leaders, people stuff is the same. 

We just want people to do their job, to the level that’s expected, in a time frame that suits our needs. Resistance is irritating. Robots would be better.

Just as some people love cars and spend hours studying all the nuances of their structure, shape, and drive performance, some people love people stuff. 

I happen to be one of those people people. 

I am obsessed with learning as much as I can about why people do what they do, how they think, how they see the world, how they act in it, how they interact, what motivates them.

For others, this feels like a waste of valuable productive time. Time that could be better spent actually doing work that produces results.

Unfortunately, until robots and AI replace various human roles, we can expect years of future interaction with those complex pesky beings called humans. 

And if you’re not a people person, you’d better read the manual.

What manual?

There are plenty. Since the dawn of the written word, people people have been capturing insights about humans and their behaviour.

Start with any article or book on:

Emotional intelligence, social intelligence, difficult conversations, feedback.

The fundamental practice for being a better people leader is this:

Be curious. Ask ‘why’? Read, ask, or learn something about the human behaviour you are experiencing. Experiment with what you learn. Reflect and journal about it. Repeat.

If only you could take people to a mechanic…

What people manuals (books/podcasts/magazines/resources do you recommend? How has that made a difference to your leadership?


Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


5 Benefits Of Going Car-less

by Alisa Spirit of the Wind

“Build a Network of Mentors Who Can Help Guide You” with Tom D’Eri

by Jean Ginzburg

Jobless to Joyful

by Jolynn Swafford

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.