How to become a better people manager.

Brought to you by TradeCareers, Waihanga Ara Rau Workforce Development Council and BCITO Te Pūkenga

“I want people to work for me and my business because they love to, not because they have to. I think that's the biggest thing for me... so, as long as you’re a good person and you care for them, they'll work pretty hard for you.” - Nathan Te Miha, Construction Director of Iconiq Group, He/Him

As a manager in the trades, it can be challenging to balance the needs of your team, your clients, and your business. Lots of us have come from being on the tools and moved into management with not much training to support us. Managing people is more than telling them what to do and making sure the job comes in on time and on budget, it all starts with the simple premise of treating people well.

“By nature of who I was and who I am, a lot of the people that I had employed were very kindhearted and I didn't tolerate hazing, which is when apprentices are bullied.”- Emma Brown, Director of Yellowhammer Services, She/They

Soft skills can sometimes be the hardest to master.

The job of a manager is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in their own way.

In this article, we will discuss some key strategies that you can use to improve your management skills in the trades.

Communicate clearly and regularly

One of the most important aspects of effective management is communication. You need to be able to communicate with your team members, clients, and other stakeholders in a clear and timely manner. This means setting expectations, providing feedback, and being responsive to questions and concerns. Move away from micromanaging them - this is one of the top peeves in our industry and just makes your job harder. If you are clear in your communication and have created a space where people can ask clarifying questions, you wont need to micromanage.

Make sure your team members know what is expected of them, and provide regular feedback on their performance. When issues arise, address them promptly and constructively.

Build relationships with your team

It's important to build strong relationships with your team members. Everyone wants to feel valued, safe and supported. You need to cut across the superficial variations of race, sex, and age and capture the essential uniqueness of each individual.

This means taking the time to get to know them as individuals, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and providing opportunities for them to grow and develop. As the manager there are three things you must know about each of your direct reports:

  • What are their strengths?
  • What are the triggers that activate those strengths?
  • What is their learning style?

To identify a person’s strengths, first ask, “What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?” Find out what the person was doing and why they enjoyed it so much.

To identify a person’s weaknesses, just invert the question: “What was the worst day you’ve had at work in the past three months?” And then probe for details about what they were doing and why it annoyed them so much.

There are three dominant learning styles.

  1. Analyzing. They understand a task by taking it apart, examining its elements, and reconstructing it piece by piece.
  2. Doing. While the most powerful learning moments for the analyzer occur prior to the performance, the doer’s most powerful moments occur during the performance. Trial and error are integral to this learning process.
  3. Watching. Watchers won’t learn much through role-playing. They won’t learn by doing, either. Watchers can learn a great deal when they are given the chance to see the total performance. If you’re trying to teach a watcher, by far the most effective technique is to get them out of the classroom. Take them away from the manuals, and make them ride shotgun with one of your most experienced performers.

It’s your job to make sure that you support each member of your team in a way that works best for them so that you can meet the needs of the business.

“Understand where people's strengths are and weaknesses are. Help them grow those strengths or understand where those weaknesses are and work on them, to learn from the mistakes and grow as people.” - Ethan Smith, Director of Golden Homes Southern Lakes, He/Him

Lead by example

You need to set the tone for your team. If you want your team members to be punctual, respectful, and hardworking, you need to model these behaviors yourself. This means being on time for meetings, treating everyone with respect, and putting in the effort to get the job done right. It means that you need to be clear about what you expect from your team and reward them for doing a great job.

It also means having great organizational skills and management of workflow.

Provide training and development opportunities

Investing in your team members' training and development is key to helping them grow and succeed. This may involve providing on-the-job training, sending them to conferences or workshops, or encouraging them to pursue additional certifications or licenses. When your team members feel like you are invested in their success, they will be more engaged and motivated.

“Allowing the talent that's available to you to actually perform to the very best of their abilities, with the resource you are providing…ensures that you're getting the very best out of your team.” - Samuelu Sefuiva, Mana Whakapai | AMPTI Manager, Māori & Pasifika Trades Training: Auckland, He/Him

Foster a positive work environment

Creating a positive work environment is essential to keeping your team members motivated and engaged. This means providing a safe and comfortable workspace, recognizing and rewarding good performance, and fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. When your team members feel valued and supported, they will be more likely to go the extra mile to ensure that your clients are satisfied.

Try working on one of the above tactics over the next month and see how it affects your team and productivity. And for more free resources check out the Building Belonging Podcast Series and Interactive Training modules.