How to Manage People if you Haven’t Done it Before

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Not many of us set out to be managers. We work hard at our career, work our way up the ladder and get rewarded with the daunting task of managing other people!  Many managers report feeling ill-equipped to manage others, so you’re not alone. In this post we look at how you can draw on skills you already possess to learn how to manage people successfully.


Learning How to Manage People

For anyone new to managing other people in the workplace, it can be a daunting proposition. Do I have the skills and experience to lead and motivate? Will I be any good? Will they like me? In some industries a job in “management” is a planned career path, gathering experience and knowhow along the way. But in other sectors becoming a manager is one of many facets to a varied role, and often it’s accidental. Perhaps the reward of a promotion involves heading up a team. Or your agency hires extra freelancers for a big project and you find yourself managing others when before you worked solo.


Your Management Experience

You may not think you know much about how to manage people, but you do. Having been on the other side of people management, you will have experienced first-hand good and bad management. From this experience you can hone your own management skills. Ask yourself:

  • What can I take from my experience of working for other people?
  • Who do I consider to be good at managing others, and what makes them effective?
  • What “mistakes” have others made in their management that I want to avoid?


Look at your experience of being “managed” from the point of view of an employer. While we all like to work with charismatic people, did the laid-back, fun-loving boss actually get results? And the proverbial “old dragon”, didn’t they head up an award-winning team? I’m not suggesting that you adopt a regime of terror, but equally being everyone’s best friend is not necessarily the best way to lead your new team.


Be True to Yourself

While it’s useful to look at other people’s management styles and analyse how you respond to them, you cannot pretend to be someone else when learning how to manage people. Instead, use your own strengths and unique personality to shape your managerial skills. Be aware of your weaknesses and play to your strengths. This way you develop a management style that is true to yourself.


Develop your Empathy Skills

What makes the members of your team tick? By understanding the different personalities you are managing you can develop individual ways to lead and get results. Adapt your style for each individual: what motivates them, how do they like to be treated, how much support and feedback do they require? You may also like to read our post Delegating and Empowering Your Team for further tips on getting the best out of the people you manage.


Lead by Example

If you expect your team to work late, you can’t skip off at 5pm. As a manager you need to earn the respect of your team so they want to give you 100%. Whilst your managerial position may put you further up the food chain than the rest of your team, a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy can only create division and disharmony. When learning how to manage people, remember that leading by example is a sure fire way of gaining respect and the support of your team.


Practical Help

Arming yourself with information and resources will also give you confidence to learn how to manage people. There are all sorts of books and courses available out there if you want additional support.

  • Management courses – these can offer modules on: principles of management, setting priorities, meeting skills, managing people, leadership and teambuilding, motivation theory, communication skills, assertiveness and presentation skills.
  • Books and online resources – there is plenty of bedtime reading available whether you are after a manual like Managing for Dummies, or inspirational advice from top influential management gurus. Check out Thinkers 50 for their annual awards.
  • Read your company’s handbook – reacquaint yourself with your company’s procedures, ethos, employment terms and conditions. This information should form the backbone to all your interactions with others.
  • Ask for support – who’s managing you? Just as you are responsible for giving your team support, your manager is there to help you do your job. If you have reached the top of your agency and there’s no one else to call on, congratulations!


Have you been thrown in at the deep end and found yourself managing others? How did you discover your management style?  Do you now find the role rewarding having gained experience in how to manage people? Or do you look back with nostalgia at the time when you were a mere underling?



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