in Leadership, Leading People, Leading Projects, Team Building

Leading People? A Few Core Lessons

Yesterday, I met an experienced technologist who is also an aspiring project manager. He is getting an opportunity within his company to independently manage projects and teams. During our interaction over a cup of hot basil tea, he asked a simple question, “How should people be managed?”.

In my response, and our discussion further, a few core lessons came to the fore. If you are leading people and managing a team, you should remember that:

People have self-esteem: Each person carries a perception of his/her self worth. When leading them and dealing with performance/other issues, give important messages firmly without hurting their self-esteem.

People want to go somewhere: Team members are ambitious and they want reach a worthwhile destination. They want to work with a team that has a vision and has a roadmap of how to achieve that vision.

People want to grow: People work in a team for long time and don’t grow. Such situation demands a lot of introspection because inherently, each individual wants to expand. Are you creating right situation for individuals to expand?

People want independence: They are intellectual beings who seek fulfillment in their work. Fulfillment is only possible when they get their own space to perform and shared authority. Independence to execute their ideas and ask questions is very crucial for people to grow. Micro management is a thing of past.

Inspiration is their fuel: Once people buy in the vision, they need to see progress to remain inspired. They look for inspiration in how leaders operate, what actions they perform and how well they handle difficult situations.

Feedback is their compass: In their journey, they want to know how they are doing and what value they are adding. Periodic one-on-ones, interim reviews and casual communication done regularly goes a long way in building a high-performance team.

Trust is a currency: Trust fosters self-esteem. They way you manage people and communicate tells a lot about how much you trust them.

At the end of our conversation, we agreed that working with people, guiding a team and helping them in their quest for peak potential is one of the noblest things we can do as leaders. It is an opportunity and an obligation as well.

He looked very optimistic when we parted. I wished him all the best!

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Join in the conversation: What lessons would you share with this aspiring leader? What works for you when you lead your team? What doesn’t?

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  1. All of your points are well written and well taken. Seems like if you pare it down to its essence, treat people like adults, not children under your supervision. Give them plenty of room to be the adults they are. Like all human beings, if you treat them with dignity they will have the opportunity to grow and evolve. Offer useful feedback in support of that and you will have a committed and engaged team that will offer their best.
    What would I add? Learn about what motivates each individual on your team. Different people are motivated by different things and have different needs. Ask and take action. Some people prefer a flexible schedule due to child or elderly care, some want to take longer vacations, some want to be able to work from home from time to time. As long as they deliver quality work and you hold them accountable, offering whatever flexibility you can will go a long way towards high performance and retention.

    • Wendy, you nailed it. I will share this advice with my friend.
      Thanks for adding your thoughts here!

  2. For me, the problem comes in when someone says that people need to be ‘managed’. When the word ‘managed’ is used, it implies control. And often, in the quest to ‘manage’ their employees, bosses go to far end up micro-managing.
    But the fact is, people don’t need to be managed; they need to inspired and be kept focused. And going in to lead with this mindset makes a world of difference, cause afterall, it is your thoughts that dictate your actions.

    – Sindoora (

  3. Excellent points and I commend you for taking the time to mentor a new manager. It’s a fact of life that people will never care about you until they know you care about them. And when you go through life with your attention on yourself, you send a powerful message to the people that you manage that you don’t care about them. So don’t be surprised that they don’t do a good job for you.

    Stop thinking about yourself and what you need to do and what you want others to do for you and start spending all or most of your time thinking about how you can support and empower your people to have what they want. It’s one of life’s ironies that as long as you’re in life for what’s in it for you, there’s nothing in it for you. It’s only when you are in life for what you can do for others that all of life’s riches come your way.

    • Thanks for adding your ideas here Scott. It is a journey from “self” to “serve”. I loved the point you made, “It’s one of life’s ironies that as long as you’re in life for what’s in it for you, there’s nothing in it for you. It’s only when you are in life for what you can do for others that all of life’s riches come your way.”.

  4. Thanks for sharing this story. It’s simple yet informative. I believe that, as managers we must always remember that our team members mostly need direction in their efforts and enough motivation to keep them moving. Once they know that they are treading the right path, their confidence and skills along with your guidance will make it easy for you to achieve business goals and personal growth. If one has to move on to a higher level in the hierarchy, then it’s our team members who we need to train and develop to assume the current manager’s position.

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