5 Steps to Become an Outstanding People Manager

20 November 19

Searching for advice on how to become a great manager provides any number of pointers.  Some of it valuable and evidence based.  Others less so.


There’s no doubt that improving skills across a range of disciplines (for example communications, influencing, project management to name a few) could help improve the quality of your management practice.


However, managers need their people and teams to perform if they are to succeed.  No matter how good your systems, project management or communications, it is people who are the route to great performance. That is why my advice to most organisations is start with improving people management skills, then move on to the rest.


Here are the five steps for managers to become great people managers.


Improve the quality of your 121 meetings


One to one meetings are one of the most important management activities in an organisation.  They are an essential and highly valuable opportunity for managers to develop their people,  improve the performance of their team members and positively impact organisational culture.


One to ones aren’t anything new but despite managers recognising the need for these meetings they often treat them as just ‘nice to have’ or frequently cancel them.


Why is this? Perhaps managers don’t know what makes them productive, have too much on their plates or want to avoid sensitive topics. Managers can become frustrated that employees are disconnected from the values and vision of the organisation or not performing to the level required.


This is bound to happen if managers aren’t meeting regularly with their people to discuss their work.


Here’s some guidance on how to conduct effective one to one meetings, not just giving feedback but the right kind of feedback, to help managers grow their team.

Set goals


For all the debate about scrapping annual performance reviews (or not!), there has been remarkably little discussion about what research tells us can improve performance.  And if you look at the evidence you won’t find much to support the annual appraisal.


Setting goals, on the other hand, is closely linked to performance improvement.  But, there’s always a but, there are a few factors that can influence this link.


First is you need to write down the goal,  Second is progress against the goal should be monitored regularly.  Thirdly, accurate, timely and well-delivered feedback on progress is essential.  Finally, the more complex the goal the less the link to performance improvement.


Here’s some guidance from us on setting goals


Give good and difficult feedback


Giving feedback should be a routine part of every manager’s role but giving difficult feedback can feel overwhelming.


It’s common for people to avoid taking action in the hope that the issue will be resolved without them having to say something. However, it is much more likely the problem will escalate and become even more difficult to resolve. It is far healthier to deal with issues early and avoid them getting any worse.


You need to be equipped to work with colleagues in challenging situations to maintain positive and productive relationships. If an individual makes sure they prepare for these conversations, develop the right skills and take the best approach, it is possible to achieve positive outcomes.  Learn how here.


Use coaching


Using coaching techniques can be a very effective means for managers to deal with the issues people bring at work.  It doesn’t require a formal structured coaching approach and can work well when used by itself or alongside other approaches such as giving feedback.  The main coaching skills of question-making and listening are valuable in many work situations whether you call it coaching or not.


Here’s some more guidance on how to use coaching in your management practice.

Build teams


High performing teams are essential elements of most successful organisations.


Ensuring team leaders have the skills and behaviours to build stronger should be a major focus in organisations where teamwork is important.  The influence of digital technology means even experienced team leaders have to continually develop their leadership skills as work is increasingly done remotely, organisational boundaries are more permeable, and more flexible working arrangements become commonplace.


Here is our short guide to the most important aspects of leading high performing teams.


Here’s a presentation on the 5 Steps


You can watch our webinar on 5 steps to become an outstanding people manager below.





I’ve worked with Norman for nearly seven years and have seen first hand his ability to think and act strategically while at the same time setting high standards for operational delivery.  He fully understands how to support the development of a high performing board and get the best out of people in the workforce.  We’ve worked together on some difficult issues and Norman has always impressed by his ability to find practical, viable and successful outcomes.

Bryan Portman – Non Executive Director, Moss Bros & Chair, Family Action