Managing people is Impossible: A different approach to leadership

May 21, 2019

Leadership can be complicated if you are trying to manage people.  When was the last time you have successfully managed another person?  Do you manage your team members to arrive to work on time?  There are many variables when working with people and they are practically unmanageable.  Instead an easier approach is to manage agreements made with each person on your team.

When you manage people it often turns into, “…a game of amateur psychology, featuring a wonder-wheel of personalities, emotions and misunderstandings.”  By managing people the leaders often assumes the role of a parent, displaying characteristics like being authoritative, demanding or condescending.  The team member accepts the role of a child, becoming more attention seeking, and shirking responsibilities.

Another issue with managing people is that often they try to manage emotions or expectations.  “Expectations are often unspoken. Things like what you thought she was going to do or what he should have said are often the source of gossip, low morale, and hidden job frustrations.”

These are the reasons that leaders should focus on managing agreements, not people.

“A leader creates agreements with team members and enters into those agreements on an adult-to-adult basis.” – Steve Chandler  An adult basis versus the child parent model will provide a more level playing field to the individuals and the circumstances within the team.  It is also beneficial to lead the agreements you make with your team because it will show that you are aiming to support their efforts and are engaged in their work and progress.

Here are some examples on how to have conversations that are agreement lead:

  • We need to work together to come up with an agreement on how this is going to get done.
  • I need an agreement on this from you, so that this thing can get done effectively and efficiently.
  • Are you willing to do this? Is this something you can make happen, and you can get others enrolled so that they follow up and make this happen?
  • Do you need my support?


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