The Challenge of Managing People is People

| | Leading Organizations

There is no doubt working with people is a lot less predictable and messy than working with things. When I asked the question “What is your biggest challenge in managing people?” on twitter one of the first responses I got was from @LeeJCarey who said “the biggest challenge in managing people is people”.  So true!

Managing people is challenging even when you are really good at it.  Yet if you are committed to increasing the impact you can have, your level of success or even the amount of money you make at some point you need to rely on other people.  Doing it all yourself is inherently limiting.  Success is never a solo endeavor.

Now of course managing people is only one aspect of learning to effectively produce results with others.  And in the end it isn’t just about getting things done or even the result.  You can get a whole lot done and still not feel particularly satisfied with the outcome.  You can also get the job done in a way that costs your relationships rather than build them, especially when the pressure is really on!  If you are the boss you can command people do what you need them to do, but does that approach really get you the outcomes you want for the long term?

The ultimate goal when it comes to working with others to make things happen that matter is to BOTH produce satisfying results and develop stronger relationships in the process.

Here are the responses I received to the question “What is your biggest challenge in managing people?” Thank you to my twitter friends who both shared (@CEO_INGDIRECT, @JCMcintyre, @ MarianMadonia @myTIMEFORCE) and responded to my question (listed below)!


  • @LeeJCarey: Biggest challenge when it comes to managing people = people!  Why? other management challenges have logic, people do not.
  • @Gorpdc You LEAD people and MANAGE things.
  • @Geoff_Barbaro: For most, I’d suggest it’s not managing, but leading. People thrive with leadership but stifle with management.


  • @HilaryBilbrey: TRUST; trusting other’s follow thru. Sometimes easier to “do it ur self” but then no growth for others.
  • @Pulee Lack of confidence & passion
  • @Edlee:   Biggest challenge when managing people is managing oneself. Need to set great standards.


  • @Rjtarr Providing clear direction for work and resources in absence of same from above.
  • @BiancaV Ensuring that everyone understands objectives & expectations clearly. Communication has 2 B concise.
  • @Ljoneslcsw How they manage life stressors while still having to work.  AND [In response to a follow up tweet, do you find people use personal issues as reasons why they don’t deliver results?]  Directly and indirectly. Sometimes you can simply tell something external is going on without them saying it.
  • @CamGoede: Alignment of goals across the team and ensuring they support the corporate vision.

Now I would love to hear from you!

  • What is YOUR biggest challenge when it comes to managing people?

  • And what do YOU think the secret is to working with others in a way that BOTH produces satisfying results and develops stronger relationships in the process?


Enter A Comment

Jennifer V. Miller   |   09 September 2010   |   Reply


As always, you’ve got me thinking! I coined the following #BeOriginal (thanks to @JKWLeadership):

“Take shortcuts with process, not with people”. It’s similar to @Gorpdc ‘s tweet. People are not “things” to be “managed”, they’re fellow humans to engage.

Susan Mazza   |   09 September 2010   |   Reply

I love the #BeOriginal tag and did not know you were behind it – awesome!

And well said. We seem to feel compelled to apply the rule of efficiency in relationships – it rarely works!

Thanks for coming by and sharing your wisdom Jennifer!

Jennifer V. Miller   |   09 September 2010   |   Reply


Hi! Just to clarify– the #BeOriginal tag was started by Joan Koerber-Walker (Twitter’s @JKWleadership) She has a site that captures many of her favorite Be Originals:


heather   |   10 September 2010   |   Reply

The balance between directing efficiently and remaining OPEN to ways that may improve a process/task.

Susan Mazza   |   10 September 2010   |   Reply

That is a big challenge for many Heather. Thanks for spotlighting it here.

Shawn Murphy   |   11 September 2010   |   Reply

One of my biggest challenges managing people is to determine if my preference for direct, honest conversations is appropriate for the person or situation.

Secret to working with others that is both satisfying and fosters stronger relationships is the know when to have honest, direct, and thoughtful conversations even if they are awkward or uncomfortable.

Susan Mazza   |   13 September 2010   |   Reply

That you face this particular challenge Shawn is to me a sign that you are totally committed to satisfying results and great relationships in working with others.

The immediate thought that comes to mind here is that the key to knowing when and with whom those kinds of conversations will be fruitful has to do with how aligned you are in terms of the commitments you share. The bigger and more compelling the commitment, the more these kinds of conversations are essential.

Thanks for providing some great food for thought!

Gwyn Teatro   |   12 September 2010   |   Reply

My biggest challenge was, and is, managing myself well enough to lead others. That means developing the discipline to listen before I speak; to hold my judgements long enough to get a clear picture and in general, to get out of my own way.
Another thought-provoking post, Susan. Thanks!

Susan Mazza   |   13 September 2010   |   Reply

Thanks Gwyn. In expressing your challenge I think you also hit the “nail on the head” of what it takes to empower the people you manage.

emt training   |   28 September 2010   |   Reply

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

Susan Mazza   |   30 September 2010   |   Reply

Thank you for stopping by. Look forward to seeing you again.

Steve Prothero   |   30 July 2011   |   Reply

To me it is about not trying to “see through people” but rather to see into people. To do this you need to stop making so many statements and start asking some questions. In your conversations with your team use a lot of broad what and how questions. The impact of asking these types of questions is that it creates a flow of information and conversation, builds rapport, safety and trust, shares control, eliminates disagreement and increases choices and options.

Susan Mazza   |   05 August 2011   |   Reply

I love this distinction of trying to see into people vs trying to see through them Steve. Thanks for sharing it. the former is honoring while the latter carries an element of suspicion that is more likely to bring protective behaviors rather than productive ones.