Once you’ve got the right players on the field, you’re off to a great start. Now, they need to work together, steadily improve their performance, stay motivated, continue with the company and grow as leaders. In other words, they need to be managed.
There are library shelves stacked with books on people management, not to mention plenty of courses in business schools. There are training programmes, magazines and websites, many offering sound advice. And then there is experience. Mine shows that people management covers a wide range of activities, but it really comes down to six fundamental practices.
Power to the HR
Elevate human resources to a position of power and primacy in the organization, and make sure that the human resources (HR) people have the special qualities needed to help managers build leaders and careers.
HR should be as important as any other function in a company. After all, as the director of personnel, the head of HR knows just how good each employee is.
Unfortunately, at a lot of companies, HR isn’t granted the stature it deserves.
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A winning HR team will listen to people vent, broker internal differences and help managers develop leaders and build careers. That’s why the best HR staffers are one part pastor, who hears all sins and complaints without recrimination, and one part parent, who loves and nurtures, but gives it to you fast and straight when you’re off track.
Right evaluation system
Use a rigorous, non-bureaucratic evaluation system. There is no one right way to evaluate people, but any good evaluation system should: be clear and simple; measure people on relevant, agreed-upon criteria that relate directly to an individual’s performance; ensure that managers evaluate their people at least once a year, and preferably twice, in formal, face-to-face sessions; and, include a professional development component.
In addition, someone has to have the responsibility—and the accountability—to ask whether the evaluation system is capturing the truth, just as a good audit team does with the numbers.
Motivate and retain
It is important to create effective mechanisms—money, recognition and training—to motivate and retain staff.
There is hardly anything more frustrating than working hard, meeting or exceeding expectations, and then discovering that it doesn’t matter to your company. You get nothing special, or you get what everyone else does.
People need to get differentiated rewards and recognition to be motivated. It’s that simple.
Another key to motivate and retain is through training. If you’ve hired the right people, they will want to grow. Like rewards and recognition, training motivates people by showing them how to grow, that the company cares and that they have a future there.
Tackle bad relationships
Like families, companies have relationships filled with history or fraught with tension. Managing people well means paying special attention to these hard relationships, not just letting them fester—an approach that often ends in a mess.
Good people management requires companies to address their charged relationships with candour and action.
For example, let’s look at one such charged relationship: managing stars. I have always advocated identifying your stars—that top 20%—and stroking and rewarding them in an outsize way. But a star’s ego can be a dangerous thing. The minute a star seems to be getting arrogant or out of control, someone has to call the person in to have a candid conversation about values and behaviours.
Now, sometimes stars surprise you and get up and leave. Ideally, that person will be replaced within eight hours. That’s right, eight hours. This immediate reaction sends the message to the organization that no one is indispensable.
The only way to be able to replace a star swiftly is to have a slate of people ready to do so. That’s where good evaluation systems come in. Just don’t wait until the star leaves to start the replacement process. By then, it’s too late to make the point.
Be good to the 70%
Treat the middle 70% like the heart and soul of the organization.
Managers often devote most of their people-management energy on charged relationships. While that’s natural, well-managed companies fight that pull and make sure managers spend at least 50% of their people time evaluating and coaching their biggest constituency: the middle 70%. Further, they don’t forget the middle 70 when it comes to rewards, recognition and training.
After all, if you’re going to manage people well, you simply cannot forget the majority of them.
Flat organization chart
Design the organization chart to be as flat as possible, with blindingly clear reporting relationships and responsibilities.
Layers only add interpretation and buzz as information travels up and down the ladder. They also add cost and complexity to everything. They slow things down because they increase the number of approvals and meetings required for anything to move forward.
They have an odious way of burying new businesses, or small units in big companies, in honeycombs of bureaucracy. They tend to make little generals out of perfectly normal people who find themselves in hierarchies that respond only to rank.
After you’ve hired great people, your job becomes managing them into a winning team.
These six practices take time, that’s true. But companies are not the buildings they own, or their machines or technologies. They are their people. Besides managing those people, what work matters more?
Adapted from Winning (HarperBusiness Publishers 2005), by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch.
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller, Winning. Their latest book is Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today. Mint readers can email them questions at email@example.com. Please include your name, occupation and city. Only select questions will be answered.
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