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Can you be a leader or a manager if you are not really a people person?

drinking coffee

There’s a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is no. The long one is nooooooo. It’s just not possible, not in this current set of circumstances. People expect and need more from their leaders and managers. We are social beings; we rise or fall on our relationships with each other and great relationships at work can have a deeply positive impact on our mental health as well as our performance

Learning the skills of management and leadership can be difficult. It can be difficult even working out what the skills of management and leadership are.

In every organisation I have ever worked with, people new to leadership roles have said to me, and with a degree of exasperation, “I haven’t had any management training, you know!” They mean that no one has ever told them how to cope with and respond to the huge number of people-related issues that they face on a daily basis.

Many of us get promoted because we have excellent technical ability in an area. Once in the longed-for position of leadership, there’s an assumption that we will just ‘know’ how to deal with tricky people issues, such as a member of staff who is having a hard time in their personal life and is underperforming as a result.

Somehow, we ‘should’ have the magic formula for helping a talented but under confident person in our team reach their potential. Usually, we fall back on whatever we have seen other people do in these situations, our teachers, our parents, our previous managers.

And often, what we fall back on doesn’t fit what’s actually needed in the here and now, and sometimes in ‘being’ a manager, we forget to be a human being.

I think it would revolutionise the workplace (if not our wider society) for leaders and managers to be able to really listen and to see listening as the foundation for all effective leadership – to hear what’s going on and to read the nuances and patterns that are behind what sits on the surface. Over the last year of separation and isolation these skills and ways of being have become essential. As many of us venture back into the workplace, we face new realities. Teams who are no longer guaranteed to be physically together, will need to work extra hard at developing and maintaining good working relationships. In this future, any leader or manager would benefit from taking the time to listen to what’s going on and how people are as well as how they are performing.

For me, great leaders are those who have learned to develop the people around them to be more self-managing and more resilient. As a result, they will find themselves and their organisations ahead of some of the trickier learning curves we are facing now.

In my work with organisations and individuals, I have seen the magic that can occur in a manager’s experience of managing others when they learn the skills and attitudes that characterise great coaching and mentoring.

It doesn’t take much to take a significant first step in this journey. And the even better news is that it doesn’t take much to take the second and third steps either.

The trick is to recognise that it’s a lifelong journey – not something you can master in a weekend.

Talk to us about how you can take your first, second or third step. Find out more about our approach to developing coaching skills in the workplace HERE.