How to manage people: developing management behaviours

Managing other people can be challenging. Individuals and teams differ greatly, and what works for one may not work for another. That’s why understanding management principles and developing the right behaviours is essential. 

As we explore some of the basics of how to manage people, you’ll learn how you can develop the skills for effective management. You’ll also discover several ways you can approach management, whether it’s at an individual, team, or company level.  

What is management? 

Let’s first start with a definition of management. By defining the term, we can better understand what is required of a good manager. 

Management is essentially the act of supervising and coordinating people and resources to achieve a goal. It’s part science, part art form, focusing on areas such as leadership, motivation, planning, and decision-making. 

Being a manager is about using your available resources to work towards a common objective. And, as we explore in our ExpertTrack from Savoir-Relier, there are many different management and leadership styles you can use to achieve these goals. 

You’ll find that there are many definitions of management, but they all centre around themes of organisation and the effective use of resources.  

What makes a successful manager? 

In a separate blog post, we explore how to be a good manager in more detail. However, it’s worth highlighting some of the qualities that are often associated with good people managers: 

A strong leader. Leadership skills are essential in management. A successful manager takes authority and responsibility, as well as ensures that those in the team feel respected and involved. 
Motivational. Encouraging and inspiring others to perform to the best of their abilities is another key quality in management. Good managers will help individuals reach objectives and teams achieve goals. 
Trustworthy. Other team members need to trust their manager, not only to have their best interests at heart but also to protect and promote them within an organisation. Similarly, a manager should show trust in those who have earned it. 
A good communicator. Effective communication and listening skills are essential in management. Understanding that different people communicate in different ways is also crucial, as is adapting styles for different purposes and audiences. 
Committed. Commitment to the team and the organisation shows the dedication of a manager. It sets an example for others in the team and can help to motivate people and demonstrate leadership. 
Emotionally intelligent. Qualities such as empathy and self-awareness are useful for all managers. It allows them to understand different points of view and bear the needs of other people in mind. Learn more about emotional intelligence at work with our course from Coventry University. 
Knowledgeable. Ultimately, managers have to make decisions for others (or give them the freedom to make their own choices). This quality often means that they have to understand the organisation and the roles of those they manage. 


What are management behaviours? 

Management behaviours are the actions and traits that make a manager successful. These behaviours, when demonstrated consistently, can help managers bring out the best in the people they’re responsible for. 

When it comes to managing people effectively, the right actions and strategies can be hugely beneficial to all involved. Whether you’re managing one other person or a whole team or organisation, developing the right behaviours can set you up for success. 

The first step is to identify the behaviours that bring out the best in others. You can approach this by thinking about the people who have successfully managed you. What did or didn’t they do? How did they approach praise, feedback, and constructive criticism? 

Next, think about the colleagues and coworkers you’ve worked with. How have they responded to their managers, both good and bad? This can give you an insight into some of the common themes in successful management. 

Of course, it’s also important to recognise that different people will respond to different management styles. Similarly, it’s worth bearing in mind concepts of a ‘good’ or ‘successful’ manager can be subjective. Someone who is likeable but doesn’t get results isn’t necessarily a good manager and vice versa. 

5 effective ways of managing people 

Let’s keep in mind this concept of management behaviours and how they can be used to get the best out of a team. Below, we’ve highlighted five effective ways that you can manage people. 

While this is not a comprehensive list, and it may not be applicable in all situations, it is a good starting point for those looking to increase their awareness of management styles. Remember, individuals may not always respond in the same way, and a good manager must be versatile enough to adapt their approach. 

Lead by example 

A good manager will hold themselves to the same standards as the rest of their team. By showing behaviours such as a strong work ethic, good organisational skills, honesty, and openness, you can inspire similar behaviours in those who report to you. 

Conversely, you should avoid saying one thing and doing another, or promising to do something and not following through. Strong managers get stuck in, take responsibility, and follow the values of the company.  

Listen to your team 

Leadership doesn’t mean simply barking out orders and expecting others to jump to attention. Managing others means listening to what they have to say, whether it’s their ideas, concerns, or overall feelings, and taking it on board. 

People like to feel heard and that their opinions matter. What’s more, part of being in a team is collaborating with others and contributing towards a common goal. A manager who can guide this co-working and ensure everyone feels they have a voice is a valuable asset. 

Involve your team 

Decision-making is an important quality in a management role. However, taking sole control over decisions that impact your team isn’t the best approach. Instead, involve your team when you need to take action and get their ideas and opinions. 

Not only will this involvement help your team feel engaged and valued, but it will also give you valuable insights into how they’re feeling about upcoming decisions. It means you can make a more informed decision and ensure that two-way communication is established. 

Delegate 

Management is often about knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team and making plans accordingly. It’s impossible for you to do everything yourself, and trying to do so means you’re leaving valuable resources untapped. Delegation means drawing on the strengths of everyone in your team to deliver the best possible results. 

Understanding what can and cannot be delegated, who will excel in particular areas, and how you can deliver and ask for feedback are all vital skills for a manager. 

Be honest and sincere 

Ultimately, to foster strong and trusting working relationships, sincerity and honesty are two essential qualities. It’s as important to be honest when things are going well as when they are not; trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. 

By treating others with respect, following through on your promises, and owning up to your mistakes, you can show your sincerity. Talk positively about your colleagues, give feedback in a measured and meaningful way, and take responsibility for your team and your actions. 


Tips on managing difficult people 

When written down in an article such as this, advice on how to manage people seems pretty straightforward. However, in practice, it can often be much harder, particularly if you have someone who is ‘difficult’ to manage. 

If you’re finding someone particularly hard to manage, there are a few strategies that you can try. Generally, it’s about finding a management style that best suits all involved, as well as recognising the limitations of what you can do. 

Here are some quick tips on how to manage difficult people: 

Use empathy. Emotional intelligence is a valuable tool here. You can use it to consider how the other person is feeling – why are they being ‘difficult’? Are they simply just going through a hard time? Try to understand why their behaviour is challenging and ask yourself how you’d react in their situation.
Find common ground. Finding a shared interest or common belief is a good way of making a connection with someone. It can show that you’re on a similar wavelength to the other person, which means you can better understand their feelings and actions.
Stay calm. Reacting to perceived transgressions can further sour a difficult working relationship. Although the person you’re managing may make things tough for you, it’s important to react appropriately and calmly. Remember, this doesn’t mean you have to passively take rudeness, insubordination, or other challenging behaviours.  
Keep it professional. You don’t have to be friends with the people that you manage. Ultimately, you’re all there to do a job. So long as you’re professional and civil, no one can ask any more of you. 
Be honest. Difficulties can arise when elements such as miscommunication or false assumptions come into play. Sharing your side of the story with a colleague you’re having difficulties with can help to smooth things over. 
Deal with conflict. Conflict is a natural process that can happen in all relationships. Don’t shy away from such occasions, but instead deal with them in a calm and analytical way. Check out our open step on conflict strategies to learn more. 

Develop your management skills 

Whether you’re a new manager, are aspiring to a management position, or need to brush up on your existing management style, there are several ways you can improve your skills. 

Perhaps the best place to start is with our People Management Skills course from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. This five-week course will help you discover the key methods, strategies and principles of people management and help you develop your own management style. 

Those looking to lead people and teams will find our ExpertTrack from the University of Michigan a useful resource. As well as learning how to inspire and motivate others, you’ll also discover how to manage talent and how to positively influence those you manage. 

We also have many other leadership and management courses that can help you develop as a manager. Some of the top ones include: 

International Leadership Skills for the Workplace 
Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work
Plan for Project Success: Project Planning and Management
Leading Culturally Diverse Teams in the Workplace

These courses can help you develop the skills needed to effectively manage people, no matter what the situation. Remember, people management is a skill that develops over time, and the more experience you have, the easier you’ll find it. 


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