When we were in the first years of business and we started to grow, I didn’t expect that managing people would be such a tough job. It fell into the category of things-I-didn’t-enjoy, like filing taxes in three countries for five businesses. Non-confrontational by nature, I especially didn’t like people-managing when things weren’t going well—sorting out differences between employees, firing people, that sort of thing.
The ironic thing? People are the absolute core—the heart and soul—of our business. Our small business could not have accomplished half of what it has without a talented team. People management is not a skill that comes naturally to me but it is a vital skill that can be learned over time. Here are a few things I’ve learned about managing people.
Don’t avoid problems
I have learned (the hard way) that avoiding people-problems doesn’t make them (the problems or the people) go away. A problem unaddressed will continue to grow and have a negative effect on your team.
We all know that communication is important, but communication is a two-way street. I had to learn to talk with (rather than talk to) employees. I learned to say little and listen a lot. I learned to listen to both sides of a story and to try to encourage people to talk with each other.
I’ve also found that it helps to spend time with key employees away from the office—go out for lunch or coffee and just chat about life or about what they’re currently working on. It helps build the trust and relationship in both directions.