People Management is Easy, Right?

October 31, 2013



What is People Management?

by: Andy Bradbury | Managing Partner

I was recently asked to speak at a very insightful conference in Dubai that was kindly organized by a leading international solutions provider. The conference was to bring to the fore and address the many challenges that the region is currently facing and what needed to be done to specifically combat the shortage of skills and experience that a very high percentage of organizations are currently facing.

During the panel discussion one gentleman asked me what was needed to stop staff attrition and my response was, simply put, effective People Management.

Post the conference I reflected on this particular question and my corresponding answer and realized that I had incorrectly assumed that everyone in the audience had understood what I meant by this single statement so thought it would be prudent to elaborate in more detail via this blog.

Throughout my own career as a senior leader I have had the privilege of working in some of the world’s most challenging markets, which has provided me with a very insightful view of People Management skills as a whole and it is fair to say that one never stops learning in this area of expertise.

People Management Skills summarized is nothing more and nothing less than respect, empathy and absolute commitment to coaching and development of functional teams that you, as leaders, are privileged to lead. Emotional Intelligence is not taught in colleague or university but it is an attribute that all successful business leaders must have and continue to fine tune.

People Management is Easy, Right? Wrong! On the contrary, it is probably the most difficult skill in the world to master.

Many years ago I recall a very good friend that had just established his own dental technician practice calling me late at night in a state of desperation. His problem wasn’t related to his products or services they were related to his people. My friend could make fantastic teeth and was well respected in his industry but the thing that was keeping him awake at night was how to manage/lead his team of junior technicians because he was growing his business. My single piece of sleepy advice to him back then was to listen to his greatest assets and then act/lead accordingly.

Effective listening skills is just one of the core skills to master as a successful leader but the good news is that the other required ingredient skills can also be mastered with the right coaching and development.

As I mentioned during the conference products don’t move or make themselves it is people that make this happen so the challenge of the regional staff attrition should focus on core Management competencies rather than trying to recruit or steal skilled people from competitors. Work with the People you have and not the People that somebody else has is my single piece of advice.

Believe me you will be surprised at the raw people talent that you already have in your respective organizations if you just stop for a moment and open your eyes/ears

Corporate Culture also has a significant effect on staff attrition because if a corporation has an all controlling ‘my way or the highway’ ‘Zeus’ culture then chances are that people will not feel that they are valued and subsequently leave. There are countless academic studies that prove this fact over and over again.

Staff attrition also breeds staff attrition so if you are a business owner or senior Manager reading this blog and don’t believe it is an important issue to focus on right now and always then just think for a moment how much money you are losing in lost time, recruitment, poor productivity, lost sales, lost customers etc.

Again, throughout my own career I have managed large groups of people in functional teams in excess of 500 people and for me Management failure is defined by losing good people; ie. the organization’s greatest assets.

My last corporate role was as the Managing Director of a strategic Business Unit based in the Philippines. I certainly made some wrong decisions in this role but one thing is for sure that during the exponential growth period we experienced (from 79 people to 500 people) I continued to ensure that every single person in the organization were of the fundamental belief that they were part of a very large global team all pushing in the same direction of success.

I initially came to the United Arab Emirates in 1998 and one thing that shocked me when I returned again post a 4 year assignment in Asia Pacific was the fact that the greatest assets have either gone altogether or they are not not where they were before I left? To some degree this is just the product of a predominantly expatriate business community and the recent financial crisis however it also reflects a distinct lack of effective People Management Skills.

It is a given fact that People will/do move on but it is how they move on that really matters to your business success. If people move on in a negative way then it is a sure fire way to the slow death of any corporation. It is not what you do that defines any organization it is how you do it that matters most and this all starts with your greatest assets, which are People!

The above nicely leads on to the topic of Tomorrow and the subject topic of the conference.

If large Multi-National Corporations are currently facing the people attrition challenge then what chance do tomorrows commercial ‘life blood’ Small to Medium Enterprises have? The answer is to focus on tomorrow’s leaders and equip them with the skills to effectively build and lead functional teams to success. The United Arab Emirates is a wonderful multi-cultural and diverse business community and as such tomorrow’s leaders must have a high degree of Emotional Intelligence.

As a seasoned management professional (old man as my children nicely put it) I believe it is my duty to try and impart my years of Senior People Management experience on to today’s and tomorrow’s leaders, which is the main reason why we have established Accelerate Evolution.