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The single hardest thing about managing people...

Anyone who moves into a management position will tell you that at some point, things change. Something clicks. A switch flips. Suddenly your job becomes much harder. The problem is, it is really hard to identify why that happens, exactly. After all, you have worked for managers before, and observed what they do (or didn't do)... it isn't that hard, right? Well, or so you thought...

Then you got the big promotion. Or a new job. Or you started your own company and now have your own employees.

Boom. It all changed. It all got WAY harder. (maybe not immediately, but eventually, it did...right?)

Why is this, exactly?

Simply put - because virtually nothing in managing people is black or white.

There is no simple formula for success as a manager.

Consider a few examples -

  1. A member of your team has lost all motivation and isn't performing his job well. A 'prescription' of how to cure this condition would be great. Even the standard processes (call them performance management, or progressive discipline, or whatever...) are not completely black and white most of the time. The most common answer becomes "it depends" - because there are so many reasons and factors and data points to consider. There's no magic switch to flip that will instantly motivate a person, unfortunately.

  2. Team meetings are a drag. Everyone arrives late, people are totally disinterested, check their phones, or even create reasons (excuses) not to go. But you know that an effective team meeting should be very important! (and I agree with you) So what do you do? Is there a magic structure for meetings, or agenda to follow that will suddenly make them brilliant? Sorry, nope.

...and the examples go on. So many things that seem daunting, overwhelming, and frustrating are simply that way because they aren't "black and white". There's no simple solution. Each will require a unique approach to solve them, completely different from what others may offer, and completely different from what you have done in the past.

So, what does this mean?

Well, it means that your success as a manager will depend on your ability to understand and evaluate each individual situation to decide on the best course of action. It is HARD work. It can be long, tedious, and frustrating. There's no magic bullet.

But understanding that there isn't an easy answer is the first step. You'll stop looking for easy solutions, or waiting for a magic date to arrive when it all becomes easier. It won't. You just need to roll up your sleeves and start doing work!

What do I do now?

If you are asking yourself this question, your head is already in the right place. You want to be better, you want to start navigating the difficult gray areas of leading a team. Good for you!

First rule: treat people as people.

Individual people have so many different qualities, characteristics, and stories, that the minute you start to understand each one, you are separating each one individually from the overall group. Thinking to yourself "I manage 5 individual people" instead of "I manage one team of 5" may be a simple mindset to adopt.

As you start to consistently have this mindset, you'll be able to start navigating the "gray areas" of managing a team more effectively, and more easily.

How do I do that?

I always start with trust. Build it.

Next, continue to build trust, and relationships, by listening. Listen a lot, in order to understand.

Only then will the shades of gray become a little less intimidating, and become a welcome challenge to help individuals - and yourself - truly reach their potential!

Are you a manager of people? What are your thoughts?

Have you found that understanding that things aren't 'black and white' has helped you manage your team?

Comment below!


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