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Learn To Manage People

Learn to Manage People
By Arthur Cooper
(c) Copyright 2004

If you are a manager you are by definition dealing with people. You are managing them. As such, to be successful you must be able to build up a rapport with those you are managing.

If you are to get the best from your staff you must be able to encourage them, cajole them, or otherwise persuade them. Of course ultimately you may have to discipline them, but this is a last resort.

Why is it then that so many managers are so bad at dealing with people?

For those who have risen up the ranks of a large company this can be a consequence of being appointed as a reward for competence or even excellence at their previous job, but of never having being trained in management. They may have been excellent at what they did before but need to be guided, mentored, and coached for their new people-oriented role.

A large company really has no excuse not to provide the training needed. It has the experience of others to draw on and it has (or should have) the dedicated resources and structures in place to train internally or to buy in training from specialists. The consequences of not training its staff can be disastrous to a company's future. If it does not appreciate the absolute necessity doing so then it deserves to fail. If your company won't train you, think hard about changing companies.

Some employees find themselves in another kind of situation. For those who's job and responsibilities have grown in line with the growth of their company the opportunities for training are not so obvious. Those who started in a company made up of just a handful of people find themselves in positions of authority and power in a company employing scores or even hundreds of people, simply by virtue of having been with the company from the start. What was a small concern has metamorphosed into a much larger set up with hierarchies and levels of authority that simply were not there at the outset.

What are they to do? Are they to learn their management skills by making mistakes, both costly to the company and disrupting and upsetting to the employees? Or is it better to try to learn from the previous mistakes and experience of others? After all, learning from the experience of others is what training is all about. Leadership and management skills are possibly the most important to get right first time because what you do directly affects all those you manage. You cannot manage in isolation. You cannot make your mistakes in secret.

So if you find yourself in this position, with no formal company training laid on, you must take your own training in hand yourself. Take advantage of what advice and guidance you can lay your hands on. If the experience is not available within your company you must seek it elsewhere 'from conversations with other businessmen, at seminars, and from the mentoring and coaching available from specialist organisations. Take advantage of books, self study courses, and the wealth of opportunity for learning that exists on the internet.

The internet is rich with possibilities to improve your knowledge and skills. This is true of so-called people skills just as much as for the more technical subjects. You will need to practice your skills with real people in real life, of course, but there are many good interactive training programs available with built-in coaching and feedback on a personal basis from real experts.

You must look after your personal skills training. You must do it. You must do it for your own sake if not for the sake of the company. You cannot afford to be left behind. Who knows the future of the company? You may be old friends of the owner, but what if he sells the business? Could you compete in a new environment being swept clean by new brooms? You may hold a senior role under the current regime, but would you be an overpriced anachronism under the new? You may have a long practical experience, but will that be valued in a new qualification oriented environment if you can't speak the language or don't know the specialist terms?

So if your management skills leave something to be desired or if your leadership skills are in need of a boost, don't wait for others to point it out. Take the lead. Manage your own life. Take charge of yourself and do something about it. Now.

About the Author
Arthur Cooper is a business consultant, writer and publisher.

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