How to Turn Managers into People Leaders 

 How to Turn Managers into People Leaders 


Level Up: Developing Managers into People Leaders

Good managers manage tasks and projects efficiently, but great managers also lead people effectively. Being a people leader means more than just telling people what to do — it involves inspiring and motivating your team, building strong relationships, and nurturing individual growth.

In today’s workplace, people leadership skills are more important than ever, so consider adding them to your managers’ career development plans. Let’s explore some practical tips and strategies to help managers become better people leaders, so they can create a positive workplace culture, develop their team members, and achieve their goals.


Understanding the Role of a People Leader

People leaders guide, support, and inspire their team to achieve their goals and reach their full potential. People leaders are responsible for not only managing the day-to-day operations of a team or department but also developing and nurturing individual members of their team.

The key responsibilities of a people leader include:

  • Creating a positive and inclusive workplace culture
  • Building strong relationships within their teams
  • Encouraging open communication and feedback
  • Empowering employees through delegation
  • Providing mentorship and coaching to help team members develop new skills and grow professionally

A good people leader should be able to inspire and motivate their team. They should set clear goals and expectations, communicate a compelling vision for the team’s future, and align team members around a shared mission.

Ultimately a people leader creates an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered to do their best work. They help each person reach their full potential by both “managing” and “coaching” employees.


Managers vs Coaches

Modern workers don’t just want to be managed — they also want to be coached.

But what is the difference between managing and coaching? While “managers” focus primarily on authority and directing, “coaches” focus on teaching and facilitating, wrote Holly Green for Forbes. “In business, we have to be both coaches and managers. To lead effectively, we need to know when to wear which hat.”

Think of coaches and managers as two sides of the same coin: both drive employee efficiency, efficacy, and ultimately performance both on an individual and team level. And the best people leaders have the traits of both.

With five active generations in the workforce — including millennials, the largest slice of the workforce, and Gen Z, the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce — much more is expected of today’s leaders, including training and development opportunities. Coaching is a key piece of career development, and it’s a win-win for employees and managers because both parties gain valuable skills in the process.

A recent LinkedIn Learning report showed 94% of employees would stay with their companies longer if they felt the organization was invested in their career development.


The Impact of Leadership on Employee Engagement

Leaders can foster a supportive environment and create a culture of peer recognition by using employee experience tools to aid their practices and improve employee engagement. Paylocity’s Data Science team reviewed client utilization data on Community, our software’s social collaboration hub — specifically the use of announcements, posts, peer recognition, comments, reactions, and groups. During that period, we recorded everything from interactions to company-wide announcements that centralize critical and timely information.

The team then compared executive utilization data against engagement scores, measured by our patent-pending Modern Workforce Index (MWI), which provides an overall score of an organization’s health, performance benchmarks to peers, and prescriptive recommendations to improve efficiency and employee engagement.


The story was consistent: when executive leaders are active in Community, their respective employee engagement scores are higher.

The rules of employee engagement are fluid and unique to each company. But one thing is clear: leaders at every organization must keep engagement high on their priority list. And to do so, they must stay engaged themselves. Leadership engagement also goes a long way in helping employees feel validated and recognized for their hard work. This is critical, as lack of recognition is a top reason for voluntary turnover.

Leadership Best Practices to Improve Employee Engagement

Impactful executive engagement pays off. Small gestures can make executives approachable and accessible. Executives can maximize their influence through quick, easy, approachable, and accessible efforts:

  • Showcase your employee-centered culture during recruiting and onboarding.
  • Broadcast critical information to employee devices for a consumer-like experience.
  • Make personal and professional connections across organizational levels.

Leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves to work (and communicate) with those in the trenches stand to position their organization for success through increased engagement and loyalty.

When executives take the time to engage via social collaboration tools, recognize the wins of their employees, and encourage professional growth, it makes a huge difference in the overall employee experience – and employees’ willingness to stick around.


3 Skills That Make Managers Better People Leaders

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for people leaders because it enables them to connect with and understand their fellow team members on a deeper level. By being emotionally intelligent, people leaders can recognize and manage their own emotions effectively, as well as read and respond to the emotions of others. This allows them to communicate more effectively, build stronger relationships, and create a positive work environment.

Emotionally intelligent leaders can also acknowledge the needs and concerns of their team members and respond to them in an empathetic and supportive way. By developing emotional intelligence, people leaders can create a more inclusive workplace culture that values and supports the diverse needs of their team.


Team Building

Team building is another essential skill for people leaders because it helps them create a sense of unity and cohesion within their teams. When everyone feels connected to each other, they’re more likely to collaborate effectively and work toward shared goals. People leaders who are skilled in team building can create opportunities for their team members to get to know each other better, build trust and rapport, and develop a sense of camaraderie.

Team-building activities, open communication, and recognition of team members’ contributions all create and strengthen these connections. By building a strong team, people leaders can not only improve the overall performance of their team but also create a more enjoyable and fulfilling work environment for everyone.


Leading With Purpose

Finally, leading with purpose is a key skill because it enables leaders to articulate a clear vision and direction for their team and align their team members around a common goal. By leading with purpose, people leaders can create a sense of meaning and purpose in their team’s work, and foster a culture of excellence and achievement.

When team members understand the purpose and value of their work, they’re more likely to feel engaged and motivated, and work toward achieving their goals.

People leaders who lead with purpose can inspire their team members by communicating a compelling vision and demonstrating how their work contributes to the bigger picture. They can also encourage creativity and innovation and empower their team members to take ownership of their work to make a meaningful impact.


Coach and Manage Employees More Effectively With The Right HR Tech

With an up-and-coming workforce that wants always-on access to more frequent guidance, feedback, and development, it’s critical for organizational leadership to take both the relational and technological realities into account when creating talent development strategies.

New generations of workers are soon to dominate the workforce, and they expect a lot more than an annual performance review when it comes to their personal and professional development. They want their managers to be personally involved in their professional development and to provide frequent feedback that relates to their goals and sets a clear path forward.

The best way to achieve this? An HR solution that houses responsive, accessible, tailored, and on-demand tools and learning opportunities reflecting the consumer technology your employees are accustomed to.

Alma Pinedo