Treating People Like Adults

As a manager of people, I’d rate myself a solid 8 out of 10, maybe, dare I say, even as high as a 9.  It’s a bold claim and normally I’m pretty humble, but when it comes to managing staff, it is something that I’m generally very good at.

In fact, that vast majority of the people who have worked for me over the years will say that they achieved more and did things that they never thought possible while working for me.  They will talk about being challenged to be better and having tasks put in front of them that they thought were impossible but somehow still getting there in the end.

I could wax poetically about how awesome I am for hours, but we’ll draw it to a close right there and get on with the point.

If I had to sum up, in one statement, why I think I’m actually pretty good at managing people, it’s because I treat them like adults and I have always endeavoured to put people in positions where they can be successful.

For example, if I need something to be done I’ll say to the person I need to do it, “Here’s what I require… Can you do it?  If you can, how long will it take you and what do you need to be successful?”

That seems pretty straightforward, but if you’ve ever worked for someone, ask yourself, how many times has my boss asked me those questions when asking me to do something?

I’m going to say, probably not often.  And further to that, I bet if you have had a manager who treated you like that, you probably remember them fondly.

But then, the secret is to take that one step further… You need to let the person do the work without hovering over them.

I check in with people regularly to ask them if they’re on track and if there’s anything they need help with or impediments that I can knock over, but that’s it.

Out the back of that, I expect them to finish on time.  They’ve said they can do the work, they’ve more or less set their own deadline, I’ve tried to put them in a position to succeed and I’ve made sure along the way to check in and be available so that I can remove any roadblocks they encounter along the way.

And I am absolutely FIERCE about people achieving those deadlines.

That’s the agreement we’ve made – I’ll let you manage yourself, but you need to get the result in the timeframe you’ve suggested.

Sometimes things come up or people discover unexpected complexities, that’s why I do regular check-ins.  People who work for me have multiple opportunities to tell me when there’s a problem with the deadline.

Here’s what I mean…

I’ve been parachuted into a project at work to provide some adult supervision on a big tender response.  Last week the team started to spin their wheels, so I needed to get a bit more hands-on with overseeing the staff.

First thing I did was have a checkpoint meeting with everyone individually, reconfirmed their deadlines and deliverables and asked how I could help them be successful.

Their initial delivery date was last Friday evening because Monday morning we needed to start the next phase of work that was dependent on this previous deliverable.  On Friday lunchtime, it became clear one or two people were behind.  I sent out an email and basically said, “Monday at 9am, we start the next phase, I expect everyone’s deliverable will be completed and uploaded prior to that.”

The subtly was, if they had to work the weekend, that’s on them, I gave them every chance to have the weekend off, but they didn’t do what they said they were going to do and didn’t raise an issue – too bad.

By 9am this morning, everything was done.

The secret to all of this is accountability.  You involve people in the process, you let them be party to the outcome and then you make them own the deliverable.

People’s brains work that way – if they commit to something, we’re hardwired not to let other people in our group down.

If you give people the opportunity to own something and give them every chance to succeed, they will, the vast majority of the time, work like crazy to meet your expectations and they’ll be happy doing it.

So how does this apply to your business?

The obvious way is when dealing with your staff and suppliers.  You can treat them like adults and hold them accountable for delivering results.  It will take time to get used to this kind of behavioural pattern, especially if that’s not the norm for your team.

I’d also venture a guess and say it might even be harder for you.  Most online business owners and side hustlers I know are control freaks – they are used to working on their own, so the idea that they aren’t micromanaging everything can be hard.

The less obvious application is for yourself.

Do you set realistic targets for yourself and do you hold yourself accountable?

This is something I’ve talked about a few times recently and it requires a special kind of radical transparency.  You need to know your own limitations, find ways to step outside yourself to look for help and have the ability to hold yourself fully accountable.

If you can do this, I guarantee you will be more successful.

You’re an adult, treat yourself and the people who work for you in your business like adults and you’ll see a massive transformative effect in a very short time.

And that’s what good managers can deliver.

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