Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.
One of my biggest discoveries as a new people manager was that managing people was much harder than it looked! I was 25 years old, HR Manager for a national retail chain and I had no supervisory experience at all. So after hiring my first HR Advisor, I set about managing her. How hard could it be? I’d been advising managers for several years on how to manage their team (even though I’d never done it myself) so I was sure to be fine.
I wasn’t and she wasn’t.
I had read some books on managing – but they were all written by US or Australian authors. They all said to give feedback and make it specific about what the person had done wrong. And my HR Advisor was making a lot of mistakes including things like getting people’s pay rates wrong. I knew this because I was micro-managing her and checking everything she did.
And I bit the bullet and raised the mistakes with her. Several times. I was specific. I was to the point. And it ended up with her in tears and me feeling like complete shit.
What I realised was that I hadn’t been praising her for all the stuff she had been getting right. She was newish to HR and was trying, but I’d completely undermined her confidence.
And so I started looking for other ways to give feedback and manage a team – New Zealand style. Over the next few years I talked to over 100 of our Store Managers, our Area Managers, Warehouse and Head Office Managers, and I learned from them and I also learned from myself.
That led me to writing Management Bites so that I could share these new methods of managing that suited an indirect culture like New Zealand and the UK. The Management Bites programme has modules based on each chapter of the book and the workshop on managing poor performance (or managing for success as we call it!) has become one of the most popular. When managers learn methods like ‘It Concerns Me’ ‘Turn it Around’ or ‘Feed Forward’ – they suddenly find they can discuss performance with their teams and not have anyone in tears! The trick to giving feedback in NZ and the UK is to make it a conversation, not a telling off (and even my lovely husband now uses some of these methods on me – not something I thought of when writing the book!!).
As well as learning how to raise performance issues, you should also make sure that you are giving positive reinforcement and praising what your team do well. This sounds easy but it’s something that is easily forgotten. I read a great parenting article the other week about how to do this with your kids and thought that it could also work if you manage a team! You put 5 elastic bands around your wrist at the start of the day. If you tell your child off or say no to them, then one of the bands comes off and to put it back on, you have to give FIVE pieces of positive praise or five times you say yes to something. The aim is to finish the day with the 5 bands back on.
For managing a team I would suggest that you want to end up with more bands on than you started with but I like the idea of 5 pieces of praise for every piece of constructive feedback. The thing is if you make the constructive feedback like a conversation – it doesn’t even feel like a negative!!
Being a people manager is hard. I’m always really pleased when managers tell me that Management Bites has helped them. I’m also really pleased that I’ve never again made one of my team cry.
Angela Atkins is People & Learning Director of Elephant Group and speaks on HR and management at conferences and events around the world. She is the best-selling author of the bites books and writes more on her blog. She splits her time between New Zealand, California and the UK.