How to Get the Best Out of Your People

how to get the best out of your people

A Year in the Life of a Manager Development Programme | Part Ten

Do you know how to get the best out of your people? It’s a challenge for most managers in organisations.

Typical questions I get asked include:

  1. How do I get people to go beyond their current level of knowledge and understanding?
  2. How do I develop them for the long-term rather than just react in the short-term?

That’s why it was the focus of the fifth workshop on the Manager Development Programme. Our aim was to give managers the conversational skills to coach their employees. That, in turn, would help employees:

1) Take greater ownership and responsibility for their work

2) Work towards solving problems encountered in their roles

Problem-solving – the right way

When managers get the best out of their people it has a positive effect on every layer of an organisation. It means that people are working to the best of their ability.  It means they’re effective in their work.  And it’s usually a sign that they’re happy and fulfilled in their role.

But all too often, managers take on their employees’ problems as their own rather than helping them take ownership and responsibility for their work challenges.

They do this for many reasons, the most common being a misguided attempt to be helpful. Managers can find it hard to see their employees struggling.  They feel they’re being helpful by solving problems and bringing about a resolution.

But it’s misguided because it means:

  1. Managers get weighed down with problems that are not their own
  2. Employees never learn the skills they need to work out the answers for themselves

Why rescuing employees isn’t helpful

Frustratingly this can lead to a double bind. And it’s a double bind that’s not helpful for anyone. Not for the manager, for his or her employee or, for that matter, for the organisation.

If a manager ‘rescues’ an employee from a problem, they’re likely to come back to their manager next time they have difficulty.

We all like to be needed, we all want to know we’re nice people and we’re helpful. But by removing every opportunity an employee has to develop their skills, managers aren’t helping their employees to grow.  And they’re not helping them develop their own resilience in the face of difficulties.

This is where a coaching style of leadership can help. It can build employee confidence by enabling employees to find solutions on their own. And it can free managers from a workload that isn’t theirs to handle.

So, if you’re trying to get the best out of your people, what’s the best way to do it?

Stop rescuing your people

Employees often think that because managers and leaders are more senior and more highly paid, it’s their job to solve problems and make decisions. But employees have been hired for a reason. Because it is believed that they can do their job. 

One way for managers to encourage employees to take responsibility for their work is to stop giving them the answers.  On the workshop, I told the story of a manager who got their employees thinking by simply asking the question: “What would you do if I wasn’t here?”

This gave the employee space to think about how they might respond, how they might approach the situation and how they could solve it.

In my experience, nine times out of ten the answer the employee gives will be a perfectly sensible and acceptable solution. Many times, they have come to their manager for reassurance, rather than for the answer.

Use coaching tools and skills

Managers need practical conversational tools and strong coaching skills to support their people.   The OSKAR toolkit helps and empowers employees to find their own solutions.

OSKAR is a solution-focused coaching model developed by Paul Z. Jackson and Mark McKergow.  You can find out more about it in their book, The Solutions Focus.

OSKAR stands for:

Outcome – What difference does the employee want to see and create?

Scale – On a scale of 1-10, what’s working already?

Know-how – What’s already in place and working well and what has worked in the past?

Affirm & Action – What positive qualities and skills do you see in the employee that will help them?  What small steps can they take to make progress?

Review – What’s better? What progress has been made?

OSKAR is a set of tools that you can use in order as a process or just as a set of questions to choose from.  The tools help employees think for themselves.  And they help them recognise the skills and knowledge they have to address a difficult situation.   I shared OSKAR with the managers on the programme and gave them the opportunity to practice coaching each other.  That resulted in two outcomes.  Not only did they develop new skills but they also solved real workplace challenges.

The managers got a lot out of the practice sessions and conversations and they loved the structure of OSKAR. Their comments included:

“Although there is a structure, it can be used in natural, fluid conversations”

“It was good to change the way of thinking to picture the solution and beyond rather than looking back and wasting time on the negatives”

“It encourages the employee to think about the challenge in greater detail than they would normally.”

“Small steps are good.”

Coming up next

In the next instalment of the Manager Development Programme, we’ll explore how the organisation’s culture may need to shift to support the managers’ developmental changes.

In the meantime, you can read the full Manager Development Programme blog post series at




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