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.

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“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?


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