A lot of young professionals entering the workforce for the first time peg themselves as a workhorse that doesn’t need to focus on anything about people management. Whether you want to climb the corporate ladder or ultimately want to start your own business, constantly managing up, down and sideways will accelerate your success and ensure that you’ll always have people that want to work with, and potentially for, you.
There’s a stigma that people management is a manipulative and tricky behavior. The fact of the matter is that you are doing it in your everyday lives with your family, friends, colleagues and basically everyone around you. It’s just a fact of life, and when people are good at it, like everything else, it’s a talent and skill that can take you really far.
The common mistake that people make is that management is a unidirectional flow that goes from top to bottom, with more senior people managing their employees, hence the title ‘manager’. It’s true that ‘managers’ are specifically tasked with responsibility over a group of employees or people and ensuring that the job at hand is completed. However, on a daily basis we need to manage up as well. When you have managers that you are working for, it’s important that you communicate your personal career goals as well as expectations on a regular basis. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of complaining when managers are often too busy to be able to fully appreciate each and every employee’s desires.
Now we talked about managing up and down, but sideways? What does that really mean exactly? How can you go about managing your peers that are sometimes your friends as well? Exactly how you would go about managing your friends. That doesn’t mean that you should lose the professionalism that should always be maintained between co-workers, but there is a way to create a balance of maintaining respect while ensuring a certain level of transparency. Amongst peers, this goes a long way in creating a work place environment that’s driven by a team mindset and trust. It’s hard sometimes when there’s that one bad apple that isn’t shy about using sharp elbows to get where they want to be. But generally speaking, most people aren’t like that, and in the long term continuing this habit of mutual respect will ensure that you are a better manager as well when you are managing down.
So what does this all mean for you? Whether or not you’re an employee at a large company or a startup, at every phase of leadership there is a triumvirate of parties that need to be managed around you. When done well you can ensure your own personal success, but more importantly create an environment where people will always want to come work with and for you.
Sang Lee is the CEO and Founder of Return on Change, the next generation of equity crowdfunding platforms for high impact startups. You can follow him or his company @rocSang or @rocSpeaks, respectively.