Managing People 5 Things I've Learned

My management career started six years ago, and I knew nothing. Ok, maybe that’s not fair. At that point in my career, I had been managed by a variety of people of all shapes and sizes, so I at least knew of a few traits or tactics that I liked/disliked. But my own style? I much as anyone else doing something for the first time.

I have managed over a dozen people since then, and I feel like I know a little more now, or at least I hope so. Right or wrong, I decided to share the 5 most important things I’ve learned in my first six years as a manager. This is in no particular order.

1. Personality is not equal to talent

But it’s close. This is one I know some will disagree with, because I have spoken with many people who believe personality is more important than talent. I don’t agree. At least not for engineers for GCS, which is what I manage. But like I said, it is close because personality is definitely very important. I would not take a psychopath engineer just because they’re a whiz at C#. That’s ridiculous. However, if you remove the extreme examples, the reality is that I can put up with a few quirks for a person who delivers at a high level.

Want proof? Ask anyone who’s managed this question: “How many talented people they have fired over the years, simply due to personality?” And then ask the opposite. It won’t even be close.

2. People don’t change

Or at least it’s rare. For the most part, people don’t change much across their years with a company. Sure, if you hire someone at 21, and they stay with you for 20 years, there will be changes. But that isn’t the norm anymore. This isn’t your parents’ workforce. Given the shorter retention, it is highly unlikely you get someone that undergoes significant personality changes during their employment.

What does that mean? Well, that means if you hired a self-driven, hard worker… they will likely remain as such. If you hired a 9-5 person who never thinks about the work once they log off… they will likely remain as much. This is one of the biggest reasons personality is important when hiring, and why some people think it is more important than talent. Talent can be taught or acquired MUCH easier.

3. People are different

I know what you are thinking… NO S**T!. And you aren’t wrong. This is the most obvious thing I could write, but it’s still important to point out that PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT. But its also important to point out that the result of that, SHOULD mean the way each person is managed is different as well. That’s the key point here. You shouldn’t treat a hard working introvert the same way you treat a lazy extrovert. As a manager you have to adjust your style to enable them to be the best they can be for your company. Keep in mind we are talking small differences. 90% of your management should be consistent across all. But it’s that extra 10% you leave for adjustments to each that can make all the difference.

4. Trust is a difficult necessity

One of the hardest things to do is to trust other people with your success. That’s what you do as a manager. If your team fails, you fail. That makes it so hard to avoid from putting your fingers in everything they do, or hold on to the more critical processes and business functions for yourself. But you have to. It is the only way to reach an optimal level. It will give you stress, no doubt. You will want to say “I’ll take care of it myself”, but you have to resist and trust your people. When you do, your job becomes easier, your business becomes more successful. Plus, your employees get a significant boost in confidence with the added responsibility and trust.

5. Firing sucks

I hate firing. Maybe this gets easier with bigger companies on bigger teams, but as a manager in a small company, I dread the day I have to let someone go. At that point, even if they are new, I know this person on a personal level. I know of their family, their kids, and sometimes their financial situation. It’s even worse when that person is someone you truly like, or has become a friend. It’s business, but at that point, its also personal to them. I know it comes with the job, and I will continue to do it when I have to for the sake of the company, but that doesn’t make it suck any less. Truthfully, I hope it never gets any easier, because then i may have bigger concerns.

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