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C Mahalingam (Mali)
Saturday, July 1, 2006

Smart and successful managers have believed and realized that being a People Manager is a great honor conferred on them by their organizations. They know that they can make a difference to the people they manage in ways that their team members appreciate and remember for long. Best People Managers also meet & answer one of what is globally known as the Gallup Q12 questions: Do you have a best friend at work? Great Managers are often viewed as the best friend at work by their team members.

Now, does it come easy to be a good People Manager? Far from it. It takes tremendous efforts and learning to become one. Experience tells us that

  • For some, it comes naturally and with training & efforts, they excel at being a People Manager;
  • For many others, it can be coached and they can do a pretty decent job as People Manager;
  • But for some, yes, it is a kind of Core Incompetence! Coaching does not help them, nor does preaching! They are just meant to be good individual contributors and thrusting them with People Management proves a futile exercise on one extreme and a disaster for the team on the other extreme.
    Ask yourself the following sample list of questions and if your answer to most of them is ‘unsure, no or rarely,’ then you better be an individual contributor. It would be a great service to yourself and of course to your organization!
  • Do you believe individuals can have their own style and acceptable ways of delivering results and your style is not necessarily the right one or the best one?
  • Do you believe disagreement is a legitimate behavior and is not necessarily disobedience or disloyalty?
  • Do you believe setting expectations is key to superior performance ahead of evaluating performance?
  • Do you believe making mistakes is genuinely part of the learning process?
  • Do you believe being a role model is key to winning team’s respect and following?
  • Do you believe areas where you criticize your people most are the areas they deteriorate most?
  • Do you believe people value feedback when supported by data and given with a helping attitude?
  • Do you believe differentiating performance and rewards to recognize top talent is the right thing for managers to do?
  • Do you believe not checking marginal performers but letting them go unquestioned demoralizes the good performers?
  • Do you believe you can be tough and demanding without being nasty and hurting?
  • Do you believe you are no exception to making mistakes and acknowledging and apologizing actually enhances the trust your people have in you?
  • Do you believe your key task, as People Manager is to continuously provide opportunities to your team members for development even if means letting them go and grab opportunities outside of your team?

    These are, of course, illustrative questions and should set in motion a process of reflection before you select to be a People Manager. Remember being a People Manager is an Honor that an organization confers and not a position to feel heavy-headed about.
    Engaging People with an organization, with its purpose, vision and values requires a carefully cultivated cadre of People Managers at all levels. And it calls for investment both on the part of the organization in selecting and grooming and on the part of the People Manager in recognizing the demands of the role and living up to it.

    Given the importance of People Managers as ‘linking pin’ to any organization, some of the world class organizations go to the extent of identifying the ‘bottom 10 percent’ of people managers and helping them acquire the people management competence or asking them to step down from the role of People Manager while leaving their ‘pocket book’ entitlements such as pay, perquisites and titles untouched!
    In the forthcoming issues, we will examine the making and breaking of People Managers who in turn make or break the organizations.

    C Mahalingam (Mali) is the Sr. Vice President - HR at Symphony Services Corp.

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