How to spot the right people skills in line managers and functional heads

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How to spot the right people skills in line managers and functional heads

HR leaders tell us what skills can be considered as the right indicators of a great manager.

In today’s changing business scenario, companies treat their line managers and functional heads as entrepreneurs, who are responsible for delivering results and possess the freedom to make their own decisions. For this, they clearly need the support of their team members, and to garner that support, they need to have a fair idea of what their team needs and how to best run it to achieve good results. In short, they need good people skills.

Every manager needs a thorough understanding of HR to operate with efficiency. It is up to the HR leaders and business-unit heads to make the correct choice in terms of appointing the right people with the necessary people skills.

So what kinds of skills are sought after? We spoke to HR leaders to understand what skills they look for as indicators of a great manager.

Anant Garg, director-human resources, India and South Asia, BD, says, “As a people leader, you should be able to engage the team and develop them for higher levels of performance and bigger future roles. Many leaders are able to demonstrate one of these skills at a time, but what can make them great is the combination.”

Babu Thomas, CHRO, Shalby, say, “Teams which have lower attrition, high engagement, team work and have a positive business outcome reflect people skills in managers leading such teams.”

Striking a core balance between developing a team and engaging with them for effective performance is a clear requirement. Doing one at the cost of the other can give lopsided results.

There are a few other indicators of great people managers.

Proactiveness: This is a big factor, capable of making or breaking leaders. Functional heads and line managers need to think proactively about their people, instead of being reactive and trying to solve an issue only when it crops up. A reactive policy will only ensure that one is busy putting out fires rather than focussing on building a great team. Building people starts from day one.

Babu Thomas

Teams which have lower attrition, high engagement, team work and have a positive business outcome reflect people skills in managers leading such teams

Inclusiveness: How inclusive they are in their approach in dealing with people makes a  big difference. Every manager will have a particular way of doing things, which then applies to everybody they work with. However, people are different everywhere and have varying needs. Some may require more empowerment to carry out a task, while others may require more direction. Having a one-size-fits-all managerial approach will not sit well with every employee.

Approach to under-performance: The manner in which managers deal with under-performance and tough situations speaks volumes about their capabilities. It is a known fact that teams do fail at some point, and one cannot expect the best results all the time. It is up to the managers to understand this and take appropriate steps, such as provide feedback, and do it in a way that actually helps the person to grow. Managers often have to make the hard choice when an employee is constantly under-performing. Instead of shying away from a difficult conversation, they should be able to make the difficult choice of either letting the employee go or setting up a performance improvement plan (PIP).

“Ability to tackle under/mediocre performance is a big differentiator. Leaders sometimes boast of zero attrition in their teams over many years. But that may not always be good, as one needs to constantly upgrade the team and raise the performance bar,” says Garg.

Reaction to feedback:  Just as it is incumbent upon the employees to improve their performance, it is up to the managers to constructively use feedback and work on it. It is the managers’ responsibility to be self-aware and provide an environment where their team members can give genuine feedback, knowing that they will be heard.

Possessing these essential skills is what differentiates a people manager from a supervisor. People managers see themselves as leaders of their teams, responsible for the growth and the development of the members. On the other hand, supervisors will see their job as one that entails getting things done by the team.

Anant Garg

As a people leader, you should be able to engage the team and develop them for higher levels of performance and bigger future roles. Many leaders are able to demonstrate one of these skills at a time, but what can make them great is the combination

Although having the right skills is essential, managers cannot be expected to come equipped with them or understand how to acquire them. For those managers, it may be more fruitful to organise a training programme. This will provide them with the knowledge required to gather good people skills.

“Most companies focus on supervisory skill development after someone takes a team leader role. But that’s slightly late, as these skills take time to develop and in the meantime, we are risking the team performance and engagement. People aspiring for team-management roles often feel they need to be given a team first to display their people skills. That’s not always true. Those with leadership talent can start displaying their influencing, mentoring and collaborating skills in individual contributor roles too. This then provides the confidence to the organisation to trust them with a management responsibility. And organisations need to start investing in this skill ahead of the curve for their potential team leaders”, adds Garg.

Thomas presenting a different view of the matter says,”It is not correct to assume that non-HR professional cannot effectively deal with employees. We can train and skill professional on people skills and to handle difficult people situations.”

At the end of the day, it is about getting results through people. This makes it extremely urgent for managers to possess adequate knowledge of HR to become effective in their work, in any industry and across functions. Naturally, HR can play a significant role here by guiding the first-time managers and those that need help to achieve the strategic vision of the organisation.

1 COMMENT

  1. Very good article. The problem most company, especially, medium size, face or have ; training is given little or no importance. Even if a training program is organised, there is no follow up by the training team to assess improvement because there is no available data. Another cause for giving no training, is the cost of hiring trainers.
    I find that companies in IT sector or related fields, invest a lot on training their personnel.

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