Building a Reputation as an Effective People Manager

Building a Reputation as an Effective People Manager

March 20, 2013
Business Skills

Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA
RDBA Executive Director

Building a successful career in business includes a lot of managing  – managing upward, project management, and people management, the topic of today’s article.  Proving that you can be an effective people manager – in essence, meeting goals and objectives through others – is essential to climbing the corporate ladder.  It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career. 

What does it mean to be an effective people manager?  Here are some key people management lessons from masters of the trade.

Lesson #1:  Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it.  (David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising”)  There are really two messages embedded in this one lesson.  An essential element of managing people is understanding that the outcome is what’s most important.  Individuals have many ways of getting to the same endpoint, the outcome that needs to be accomplished— so clearly define it. Then, step out of the way and let your employees manage the work to that outcome.  It’s easy to get trapped in a mindset of how things get done, when what gets done should be the primary focus.  The second message in this quote is about hiring talent.  The greatest power is not in hiring people who are just like you but in bringing together a variety of skill sets, a multitude of viewpoints, and leveraging the synergistic power of these personalities and talents to accomplish your department or company goals.

Lesson #2:  Management by objectives works if you first think through your objectives. Ninety percent of the time you haven't.(Peter Drucker, management expert)  Nothing is as important as having clearly defined objectives.  You likely have a sense of your department’s fit into the overall company landscape and objectives to drive against the corporate mission.  Employees will have better buy-in to goals and objectives if they are part of the development process.   Engaging your team in a strategic planning process at least annually ensures strong objectives and team commitment to them.  Through this process, assess current goals and objectives and action against them.  Determine if these objectives are still appropriate or whether shifts in corporate direction or actions in the industry dictate a course correction.  Agree on the priorities.  At a department or team level as well as at the individual employee level, having clear objectives positions everyone for success.  

Lesson #3:  A good manager is a man who isn't worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him. (H. S. M. Burns, President of Shell Oil Company) The true sign of a good manager is a genuine interest in making their teams successful.  Think through how you showcase your employees’ skills and provide them with opportunity to thrive in their strongest talents as well as develop in areas of opportunity.  As a manager, your role is less about the work you do and more about building the talent pool under you.

Lesson #4:  Our mission statement about treating people with respect and dignity is not just words but a creed we live by every day. You can't expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don't exceed the employees' expectations of management. (Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks)  On a daily basis, consider how you treat your employees.  Do you schedule regular status meetings with them to engage with their work and provide support where needed?  Do you notice when they seem to be having an off day?  Do you seek their input?  Include them in decisions that impact their areas of responsibility?  Do you routinely provide positive feedback?  Commit random acts of kindness with them?  Be transparent about decisions that are made?  Treating employees as you would want to be treated is essential in effective people management.

Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA is the Executive Director of the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance (RDBA) and is President of Annette Maggi & Associates, Inc. (, a strategic nutrition marketing and communications consulting firm specializing in the interface between food manufacturers and retail grocers, and nutrition and regulatory issues.