How to be a likeable but effective people manager

I am a manager and I want to be liked but I find that my need to please is not making me the best leader

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I lead a finance team of six people.  We get on really well at work, so much so that we often socialise with each other outside of work too.  I like being liked and for my team to be able to speak to me freely but the trouble is that I think they see me as soft and I’m not sure that they respect me.

How do I become a more effective manager - without having a personality transplant?! 

It’s nice to be nice and human nature to want to be liked so no need for a personality transplant.

There is a fine balance between being over-friendly and not friendly enough with your team and it is tricky to get it right.  This can be especially difficult when your approach may need to vary with each individual member of the team. 

My top tips for effective leadership:

  • Be clear and fair – set your objectives to the team with reasonable timescales for implementation;
  • Be supportive – this should be the easy bit for you.  Check in and see if they need any additional clarification or support before the deadline that you set for completion of a task;
  • Follow up on delegated tasks – if you have assigned a task to a colleague, set a reminder to follow up on progress or completion so that things don’t get missed; and
  • Be brave – if the team have let you down, tell them, ask for solutions and set a new timescale for implementation.

I think that I generally do the first three but struggle with the fourth top tip.  I’m worried that it will come as a shock to my team if I do this.  It’s just not like me to make people feel bad, even if they have let me down. How do I overcome this?

Preparation can boost your confidence in this situation.  Keep a diary of when and what tasks you have assigned to your team as you go.  Make notes of your check-ins and set reminders for key dates for completion of those tasks.  If a difficult conversation becomes necessary, you will feel much better about having it if you refer to objective evidence rather than subjective feelings of being let down.

Having a process for managing tasks also sends a clear message to the team that they need to get stuff done because you are unlikely to let things slide.

I haven’t taken this approach before and so I am worried that it will damage my relationship with the team, they will not like it and treat me differently.  How do I minimise the risk of damaging my relationships with them?

You are out of your comfort zone and you might be taking them out of theirs too.  There is bound to be a shift in your relationship but it can be a really positive one. 

You can be professional, objective and still be kind.  You don’t have to get into the character of a ‘bossy accusing manager’.  Perhaps focus on the tasks that need to be done rather than the failings of the individuals.

For example:

“Today’s the day that we need the information for the quote. Is it ready?  Can you help me understand why not?  What shall we do about that now?“  

The key to making the shift is practice and consistency.  Have a process and use it and people management will soon become second nature. 

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Nickie Elenor

I have been an employment law solicitor for 15 years.

I set up Your HR Lawyer as I was fed up with the call centre models and poor service provided by the big HR support providers. So my mission is to provide the creditable alternative. I am passionate about helping employers navigate through the sometimes complex world of Employment law in a commercially savvy and straight talking way.