As a business coach, trainer and consultant, I am often asked by bosses if there really are time-tested ways to manage people. 

What works for one company may not work for another. Similarly, what works for one person will not work for another. For example, monetary incentives often fail to motivate people who are sick and tired of work.

Within a company, there is no one-size-fits-all method of managing people. This is because human beings are complex creatures and the complexity intensifies in different situations. 

At the end of the day, effective people management is about making the best use of what you have got and get the most out of your team. This basically involves inspiring your people to want to do better. Here are some ways to do it:

Coach, don’t tell

The easiest way to coach people is to ask questions. So instead of telling a habitually unpunctual employee not to be late, ask him if he prefers to be late or on time. He will, of course, say that he wants to be on time, and that his lateness is due to a reason like getting stuck in a traffic jam.

Next, ask him questions on how he can resolve the traffic jam situation, and offer suggestions like waking up earlier.

Finally, get his commitment to resolve the problem by asking him to articulate his solution. He is likely to say: “I will wake up earlier tomorrow morning so that I will be on time.”

Coaching people is about following this formula:

* Ask questions that assume people want to be good;

* Ask questions that seek reasons for the shortfall in behaviour;

* Ask questions on how the employee can resolve the shortfall in behaviour;

* Ask questions to prompt the employee to state his commitment to the resolution.

Give high fliers room to excel

Top performers in your organisation want to achieve more but they often need people to tell them so. So, as a leader, you can do the following:

* Praise them for their high performance;

* Ask them how they think they can move beyond the current boundaries;

* Ask them to share with you what specific behaviours are needed to move their teams to achieve success sooner than later; and

* Assure them that they will get the resources they need to meet the organisational goals discussed.

Help low fliers fly higher

In dealing with below-par performers, encouragement and guidance are key factors. Let them know that they can become high fliers if they follow these five steps: 

* Identify the main reason for their low performance. If they put the blame on others, let them know that they must take ownership of their behaviour. For example, if a perpetually late employee blames the bus schedule, tell him that if he can see this as his own problem and adjust his behaviour, he need not be at the mercy of the transport system. 

* Help them resolve the issue by stating the problem, finding a solution and making the necessary changes to their behaviour.

* Identify one trait or behaviour that they have in common with high flyers. For example, an employee may say that he has as good inter-personal skills;

* Help the employee to understand that an easy way to improve his performance is to emulate the high flier’s behaviour; and

* Give the low fliers a lot of encouragement. Praise them when they make small, tangible improvements. These little victories will motivate them to achieve greater things.

If you too want to get the most from your team, practise these steps and you will reap the rewards of having more engaged and productive employees.