Compassion, Competence, Consistency

I have been thinking about what is important when it comes to the people stuff.

Thoughts informed by work I have been doing of late. I have been focusing on the practical stuff.  Guidance.  How to guides.  Frequently asked questions.  Enabling people do the everyday basics.   But basic doesn’t mean less important.  It the foundation of everything else.

As Cary Cooper says in his book that I’ve recently read, management matters.

Leadership, visions, missions, purpose. These things are necessary for all organisations to some extent or another.

So too is the day to day, not so glamorous, routine, management stuff.

Management is about the day to day. Responding to a holiday request, promptly.  Delivering an effective induction for a new starter.  Signing off expenses.  Handling a flexible working request.  Conducting a return to work interview.  Talking about under performance.  Setting objectives.  Providing feedback.  Checking on wellbeing.  Communicating.  Conversations.

In a long HR career I have heard all too many stories of incompetence and ignorance. Managers who just don’t deal with this stuff well, or even at all.  Ignoring holiday requests and expenses forms.  Failing to support new starters or returners from sickness.  Doing the policy thing over the right thing.  No sign of a 121, an objective or two, or some performance feedback.

When you are a manager, you are inevitably judged by the people that work for you. They will look to how you treat people, how you deal with the difficult stuff, how you chair a meeting, the fairness of the decisions you make.  Whether it is failing to address poor team dynamics or individual behaviour,

There is oh so much reading material and advice about what makes a great people manager.  So hey, I might as well add my own.  In my experience, there are three things that people look to.

First and foremost, people want their manager to be competent. To know what they are doing.  To be able to do all of that basic but oh so important stuff – and they want them to be able to do it consistently and with compassion.  Occasionally there can be a tension between the latter two; for some consistency means treating everyone the same in every situation, but there are many times where this just isn’t the right thing to do. Following past precedent and compassion are not always easy bed fellows.   Compassion in management is about meeting people where they are, understanding, support for individual needs and circumstances.  It’s about doing the right thing and not the policy thing.  It is above all, taking a human approach.  Asking always, what would I want from my employer, my manager, if this was me.  It is about kindness. And to quote my friend Amanda Arrowsmith, it is about not being a dick.

Consistency isn’t about always following the policy and taking the same approach.  No one wants to be treated like someone else, just their individual self.  Consistency in this context is about being reliable, showing up as the same person every day, being fair in your approach – to everyone.  Not making decisions that are capricious, biased or unpredictable.

Does this sound obvious?  It should.  It is.  But that doesn’t mean that this is what many employees experience in the every day.

Basic, effective, competent everyday people management is the basis and the platform for everything else.  Competence together with consistency and compassion, are the building blocks for truly effective people management that matters.


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