British Council-People management

British Council

British Council-People management



Transcript of the podcast

Q: Learn English Professionals talk to Marie Russell, who is a freelance HR consultant and management trainer. Marie, we hear you’re an expert on people management

A: Well, that’s kind of you to say so – I’ve certainly got a lot of experience in the field, and I regularly run inhouse training courses on people management

?Q: So can you tell us exactly what “people management” is

A: That’s a good question…let me start at the beginning I’ve always disliked the term “human resources,” to be honest, as it makes ‘people’ sound like ‘resources’ – as if they were no different to the products we make and the services we offer. I think the best way of understanding what people management is about is to stop thinking of people as resources, and start thinking of them as human beings, if that doesn’t sound too grandiose! One large company I know have recently renamed their HR department “talent” – which may be a bit extreme, but does give an idea of some of the principles of people management

…Q: Ok, but that sounds a bit vague to me

A: Sure, I see that… let me tell you a story: a couple of months ago I was running a course in people management, and one of the course participants (who wasn’t entirely convinced about what I was saying) said, “So, basically, the message is ‘Be nice to people’”! And, you know, I couldn’t disagree with him – he was absolutely right, the message I was trying to get across during this course really was nothing more complicated than be nice to people

?Q: Isn’t that obvious

A: Yes – of course it is it seems so obvious, but the thing is, when we walk into work, we’re often thinking about lots of problems – big problems, like worrying about the state of the global economy and your company’s share prices, or long term problems, like worrying if you’ll ever get that promotion, or short term ones, like worrying about the project you’re working on right now, or even tiny little problems, like having a slow internet connection or an uncomfortable chair or a noisy office…there are so many things, that it’s easy to forget just how important that simple message – be nice to people – is

…Q: It’s a starting point

A: Exactly! Then remember that the people you work with are suffering from similar problems to you, and it will start to change the way you interact with other people…and you’re on your way to becoming a good people manager

?Q: So do you see yourself as a kind of counsellor

A: Not exactly, no. I think there are some important distinctions to be made here. I certainly would see myself as a kind of ‘work’ or ‘career’ counsellor – I help people to perform better professionally – but there are some areas into which managers should not go. People you work with may have personal problems (be it with a relationship, or their family, or debt, for example) – I’m not trained to deal with those things, so I will not offer advice on them (and I think it is quite wrong for any manager to do so). If I realise someone I work with is having those kinds of problems, I will point them in the direction of a trained counsellor. That’s as far as we should go

Q: That’s all fair enough, but what about when you have to deal with people who – to put it bluntly – simply aren’t ‘nice’ – people who refuse to cooperate, or share your point of view, or respect a company’s policy

A: That’s a really good point, and a very important one. Of course it happens – it’s a less pleasant part of the job, but every manager has to face up to that time when an employee is, say, habitually late, or underperforming

?Q: How do you deal with those cases

A: Well, most companies and organisations have disciplinary codes – a series of verbal and written warnings, for example – which can eventually lead to a sacking. These have to be carefully followed – while taking into account as many of the employee’s personal circumstances as possible

!Q: A lot to think about there – Marie, thanks very much


N1. c
N2. d
N3. c
N4. a
N5. c
N6. b
N7. a

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