How to manage your workers

For great results and great working relationships

Elements of people management

You have a great deal to think about if you manage other workers.

And it’s doubly hard to get it all right, all of the time, if you’re working flat out to run your own business.

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If you’re a parent – you can adapt these ideas to help at home too.

I’ve raised three children, so I know some of the challenges on that front 😉

Okay, so what’s the best way to manage your workers?

Well, the short answer is the same one I give to most complex questions . . .

It all depends on the context!

Yes, I know that sounds like a cop out but it’s true.

Very few of life’s big questions have simple ‘black or white’ answers. Indeed our happiness comes largely from embracing the shades of grey in life – as we saw here.

And this idea is supported by the situational leadership model in the acclaimed business management book ‘The one minute manager builds high performing teams’

This model summarises the challenge perfectly and the short book (by Kenneth Blanchard, Donald Carew and Eunice Parisi-Carew) is well worth a read.

And, it’s listed, with some of my other favourites at my bookstore here

The key insight, of course, is this

Good leadership is not one-dimensional, it’s ‘situational’ . . .

Which means that it needs to adapt to the competence of those being led.

Blanchard suggests four styles of leadership for different situations.

Stage 1 – the ‘directing’ (telling) style

This is clearly appropriate for a new and inexperienced starter into a business.

The ‘newbie’ is likely to be keen – and thus self-motivating – but may lack competence and will need clear direction.

Ideally the direction will come, initially, in the form of a solid induction training programme. And most good, medium or large organisations will have the resources to offer this.

If you’re a smaller company or one-person start-up without an induction programme, you may need to be more creative. You might just ‘make do’ with a walk through of some headings which outline the role of the new recruit.

You could also ask them to document the key processes that they’ll be working on – whilst you show them how to do the work. This is a great way to ’embed’ the learning and might throw up some improvement opportunities along the way.

You also ask your new recruit to develop and document those process improvements. And then, as your business grows, they’ll be able to help train the next recruit.

But we’re jumping ahead here . . .

Stage 2 – the ‘coaching’ style

At this stage, your ‘newbie’ has acquired some skills and has a better sense of the scale of their work.

They may start to question their ability to do it all and some loss of self-confidence is a risk at this stage. So, they’ll need more support from their leader alongside some continuing direction.

Stage 3 – the supporting style

This stage is reached when the recruit reaches a high level of technical skill and needs little or no direction on that front.

However, as they may still be regaining their confidence at this stage, the key role of the manager is support.

Stage 4  – The delegating style

In the final stage of development, the recruit is fully competent and experienced.

So the leader can pull back to a more ‘hands-off’ or delegating style of leadership.

The accomplished worker is now largely self-supporting on both technical and confidence fronts.

That said, a good leader will always make it clear that they’re there to help as needed.

And, of course, may remain actively engaged in the quality control of certain outputs.

Delegation is not a reason (as some managers seem to think) for abdication.

Blanchard’s ideas can help us in both work and home life.

And they can remind us to take more care in managing ourselves.

A lot of ‘strivers’ and small business owners (myself included) need that reminder.

So, please take extra special care with this issue now

Paul

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