How to manage people?

Psychology of influence, power and authority: how to manage people

Successful work requires consistency of all its participants. This is only possible with a unified leadership, subjection of all employees to a single will. However, this unity can not occur by accident: it must be organized, to activate and support the activities of individual employees and the group.

The manager must know the forces and means by which this can be done.

Every time the leader gives instructions to an executor or a group of executors, he or she assumes that his or her instructions will be fully reflected in the minds of people and the desired actions will immediately follow. But this is not always the case in life. Even when a person is more or less fully aware of his/her tasks and functions, the expected actions may not follow. This requires certain efforts of the head, which are able to influence the behavior of people.

1. Influence .

Influence is the use of specific means by which one person makes a change in the behavior, attitude, etc. of another person. The means can range from a whispered request to a knife held to the throat; from the expression of ideas to violence.

The leader must imagine the effect of his or her influence on the behavior of the future performer. As a result, the leader and the doer internalize similar or dissimilar behaviors for the future.

Common sense dictates that in order to have influence you must be able to keep something that matters to the doer under your control. Something that creates his dependence on you and makes him act the way you want him to act. This “something” is the basic need of the doer.

Influencing is based on appealing to the active needs of the doer.

No one can influence people in all situations. Influencing depends on the specific situation, on the abilities of the executive, and on the person being influenced. The supervisor depends on his immediate supervisor, his subordinates, and his colleagues. Without the assistance of these people, who are part of the supervisor’s environment, the supervisor cannot influence and carry out his or her functions.

The supervisor must influence his subordinates in a way that motivates them to act, to actually work, to obey in order to achieve the firm’s goals. In order for influence to be effective, the supervisor must be aware of the interests of the firm and his or her role capabilities, exercise willpower, and use power. In order to influence, one must have the basis of influence – power.

2. Power

Power is the ability to influence the behavior of other people, the ability to influence their activities through any means: will, coercion, encouragement, suggestion, intrigue, etc.

Usually a supervisor has power over his subordinates because they depend on him for such things as work assignments, pay raises, promotions, etc. However, in some cases, subordinates have power over the supervisor because the supervisor depends on them for such things as cooperation, obtaining reliable information, etc.

A successful leader will always maintain a balance of power over his subordinates and his dependence on them. In exercising power, he will take care to realize group goals and to assist the group in the means of achieving them.

3. Forms of power

Power can take a variety of forms. The basis of power can be presented as four main forms:

  1. Power based on coercion;
  2. Power based on rewards;
  3. Official (traditional) power;
  4. The power of authority.

3.1 Power based on coercion

It is influence through fear. The doer believes that the influencer can punish by taking away a need, or generally make some kind of trouble. Therefore, through fear, people consciously or unconsciously allow themselves to be influenced.

Fear is usually associated with violence, with physical pain. But this is not the only mechanism of fear. For example, the fear of losing an interesting and well-paid job seems to be inherent in everyone.

In certain circumstances, fear can be used so easily and successfully: a hint of dismissal or demotion usually yields immediate results.

But for a competent subordinate, such crude techniques are not so scary. More often than not, the fear cast on such a subordinate is aimed not at his material interests, but at his ego. For example, a casually thrown remark that someone else would have coped with such a task long ago is humiliating and may instill fear.

Influence through fear works only if the person breaks the regulated behavior. Therefore, in order to use such a tool as fear, it is necessary to have a system of control.

Research shows that a workforce where coercive power is used is likely to be characterized by lower productivity and lower product quality.

3.2 Reward-Based Power

The promise of a reward is one of the oldest and often most effective ways to influence others. The doer believes that the influencer has the ability to satisfy a pressing need or give pleasure.

Reward-based authority influences through positive reinforcement of the subordinate’s expectations. He does not resist this influence, and the supervisor gets him to behave as desired.

To influence behavior, the reward must be perceived as sufficiently valuable, that is, it must be adequate to consent to the influence. This perceived adequacy is a major advantage of reward-based power.

The supervisor must correctly assess what is a reward in the eyes of the subordinate and actually offer it to him. In practice, however, the supervisor has many limitations on his ability to give out rewards. The firm has limited resources for rewards. Therefore, a successful manager must learn to use other means of influence.

3.3 The Power of Duty

Official power is determined by the existing system of subordination (subordination) and the totality of functions, rights and responsibilities in the management structure. It is determined by giving the head the authority to make and implement management decisions, to issue normative acts, to force subordinates to implement them.

All managers enjoy legitimate power because they have been delegated the authority to manage other people. These bases of power are the tools by which a manager can get subordinates to do the work to achieve the goals of the firm.

The executive believes that the influencer has the right to give orders and that it is his duty to obey them. This influence has become a tradition whereby obedience will result in the fulfillment of the needs of the performer.

The smooth functioning of the firm is directly dependent upon the willingness of the subordinates, by tradition, to recognize the legitimate authority of the executive. But such influence is possible as long as the supervisor is able to satisfy the needs of the subordinate. A system based on tradition will collapse if it does not give its loyal supporters warmth and security.

Tradition is especially important for formal work teams. The ability to reward and punish strengthens the manager’s authority to give orders. With tradition, it increases the speed and predictability of influence and makes many decisions much easier to make.

Tradition has the great advantage of being impersonal. The executive does not react to the person, but to the position. This increases stability because the functioning of the firm does not depend on the life or abilities of any one individual.

3.4 Power Based on Authority

One form of the exercise of power is authority – the positive evaluation of the merits of the manager and the conviction of subordinates in the correctness and accuracy of his decisions.

The characteristics of the influencer are so attractive to the doer that he or she wants to be like the influencer. The performer believes that the influencer has the knowledge and experience to meet the need.

Authority is based on two sources:

  1. On belief in the person’s personality traits, their prestige;
  2. on the belief in a person’s abilities, his or her business qualities.

Without authority there is no worthy leader. Absence or lack of authority causes a lot of difficulties in the relationship of the head with his subordinates.

The authority of the head is based on the trust of subordinates:

  1. On the conviction of benevolent attitude to subordinates;
  2. on the belief that the head has a broad outlook;
  3. on the belief that the supervisor makes decisions in some cases because he knows the issue better than subordinates, and in other cases he engages subordinates to do so.

The characteristics of the influencer are so attractive to the doer that he wants to be like the influencer. On a subconscious level, the subordinate identifies with the influencer. This satisfies his need for belonging and respect.

Here are some characteristics of charismatic personalities:

  1. Exchange of energy. It seems that these personalities radiate energy and charge the people around them with it;
  2. Impressive appearance. The leader is not necessarily handsome, but he or she is attractive, has good posture and holds himself or herself well;
  3. Independence of character. These people do not rely on others in their quest for well-being and respect;
  4. Good rhetorical ability. They have the ability to speak and the capacity for interpersonal communication;
  5. The perception of admiration for one’s personality. They feel comfortable when others express admiration for them without falling into arrogance and self-love;
  6. A dignified, confident demeanor. They appear collected and in control of the situation.

Obedience is deliberate and logical because the influencer has the knowledge and experience to meet their needs. The influencer is influenced by the supervisor’s visible accomplishments. Reasonable faith in the supervisor compels obedience because of a belief in the correctness and accuracy of his instructions.

The increasing complexity of technology has accelerated and intensified the use of reasonable faith as a mechanism of influence in modern enterprises. Some studies have shown that if a group of people are only told that one of them is a specialist (an expert) in a certain field of activity, the group is more likely to follow that person’s recommendations.

By taking on faith the opinions of specialists, the line manager thus frees up his or her time. Refusal to take expert advice on faith may mean that the line manager cares more about protecting his or her own person than he or she does about satisfying the higher needs of his or her subordinates.

In some cases, the influence of reasonable belief can shift the balance of power between the supervisor and the subordinate because the supervisor needs the information and advice of the subordinate. At least temporarily, the subordinate may have more power than the supervisor would have in a similar situation. The supervisor himself may also be strongly influenced by the reasonable belief of the authority of specialists in the early days of the position and will take on faith much of what his subordinates will tell him.

4. Influence by cooperation

The increasingly higher educational level of performers has in many cases bridged the intellectual gap between supervisor and subordinates. Over the years, social and financial differences between people have also diminished. Consequently, it has become increasingly difficult to base power solely on coercion, reward, tradition, or authority.

The two forms of influence that can induce a subordinate to actively cooperate are persuasion and participation. Today’s leaders can become more successful leaders if they improve their skills in these two forms of influence.

4.1 Influencing by Persuasion

Persuasion is the effective communication of one’s point of view to another. The supervisor makes the subordinate believe that he or she needs to do the job himself or herself. He recognizes the subordinate’s qualifications, trusts him as an expert, and expresses confidence that everything will be done on time and with quality.

By using persuasion, the supervisor tacitly admits that the subordinate has some degree of power, which may reduce the supervisor’s ability to act. In other words, the supervisor acknowledges his dependence on the subordinate.

Persuasion influences by bringing to the subordinate’s consciousness the fact that by fulfilling the supervisor’s desire, he is satisfying his own need as a specialist. To persuade, the supervisor uses logic and emotion depending on the situation and the subordinate’s disposition.

Some methods of influence through persuasion can be schematically presented as follows:

  • Try to pinpoint the subordinate’s needs and appeal to those needs;
  • Speak in terms of the subordinate’s interests, not your own;
  • Try to convey trust and a sense of reliability in conversations.

4.2 Influencing through Participation

Influencing through participation goes even further than convincing a subordinate to recognize power and ability. Here the supervisor simply directs the effort to work together. This facilitates the exchange of information and the joining together of efforts into a unified position that both will sincerely believe in.

Influencing through participation is successful because people inspired by high-level needs tend to work hardest for the goal that has been articulated with their participation.

Participation clearly appeals to higher-level needs – the needs of power, competence, success, self-expression.

Therefore, this approach should be used only when such needs are active motivating factors, and on the condition that one can rely on the subordinate to work for the task he or she has chosen.

Unfortunately, research has shown that participation in management is not appropriate for all situations. Performers who dislike ambiguity, are not very prone to individualism, and prefer well-regulated tasks work best in more controlled environments. One reason why participation in management is not as widespread may also be the fact that executives do not want to give up their traditional authority and prerogatives.

5. Practical Use of Influence

In order to motivate others to work (especially creative and inspired work), it may not be enough for a manager to have power alone. In order for influence through power to be strong enough, the following conditions must be present:

Learning to manage people before the team burns out: 21 concepts

Geekfactor together with holds a job preparation program for foreign startups (we help you prepare for interviews for free and show your resume to great companies) – read more about it and register here.

Most newly minted team leaders drive their employees to burnout while they learn how to manage a team. If these tips can help avoid these situations, it’s worth writing them.

I wrote this article for team leaders of small teams and startups. They may not be useful to managers in large companies and corporations.

What I am.

A manager of several small and medium-sized project teams;

a technical director at OnDeck;

remote work manager at AngelList;

and a technical director at Product Hunt.

Let’s get started.

If you’re a manager – the blame is always on you

I know – a very positive start. But there’s no point in getting mad at your team – ever . You are responsible for people and processes, and you always know more than they do. So:

Either you orchestrated the processes that led to this result;

or you hired (or didn’t fire) the wrong people.

Either way, you are roundly at fault.

You manage the processes and you direct the people.

For some reason, for many people, “managing people” means controlling them. Such people end up micromanaging employees: making sure not only what they do and when, but how they do it. If you have the time to do that, you can safely hire easier and cheaper people.

I think the root of the problem is a misunderstanding of the manager’s role in the process:

your job is not to manage people ,

but to manage processes and to direct people.

You define the processes, everyone’s areas of responsibility, how their careers are built, and how to discuss and/or change all of this. In addition, you have to inspire people by your own example and through empathy. They have their own goals, fears, and concerns. More than likely, there are problems outside of work, too.

Behave the way you would like them to behave in your position.

Processes are clearly defined expectations.

Many people perceive the concept of “processes” negatively. “We don’t need that many processes,” and so on. This, imho, is again a misunderstanding.

Processes are not complex chains of actors leading to catastrophic costs. Processes are concrete expectations. The wording can be simple, along the lines of “every morning we all do X so that the rest of us can do Y without any problems.”

Formulate a couple of very clear processes and set them as a rule.

Decisions vs. opinions

In any discussion/project/problem/situation, it’s important to understand who makes the decisions. The rest of us are simply expressing our opinions.

Ideally, the decision is made by the one who will take all of the further work. The others – I repeat – only share their opinions. This also applies to managers.

The manager is left with the right to pull the stop-cock to block the project. Treat this as a real stopcock. If you pull it in time, you can save the train from disaster. And if you don’t yank it – or yank it at the wrong time – expect problems. So use it as a last resort, and then discuss how to fix the situation.

Hire people who know how to make decisions, and fire those who don’t. Good decision-making skills include listening to the opinions of others.

When in doubt, see if you can trust the decision maker by default.

Personal responsibility.

It’s hard to get people to take full responsibility for problems. But you have to. And if you can’t, you can always fire them.

Give employees feedback, help them, trust them. And let them make mistakes (within reason). Think of them as an increase in competence.

The worst that can happen is that you’ll get too involved in work processes, and employees will stop seeing the work as their business. Instead of taking responsibility, they will follow orders like droids.

If that’s what you’re aiming for, hire people who are simpler and cheaper.

Avoid the shuttle run.

When you line up processes, avoid shuttle running. For example, when you give feedback, you should expect the person to either follow instructions or explain why they won’t.

Don’t assume that they have to come back to you for an uproar. No one has time for that fuss.


Always understand when you’re nervous about employee performance and when you’re nervous about insecurity. Should other people deal with your emotions for you?

It’s also always easy to trust when things are going well. It’s much harder when things aren’t going well. Distinguish when a situation stresses you out and when a person stresses you out.

I’m not saying you need to stay on the sidelines. Keep your finger on the pulse, talk about your expectations, voice your opinions, but let the staff solve the problems themselves. If necessary, yank the stopcock.

Trust through openness

The easiest way to get people to trust your work is to share it openly without reminders. All information should be in plain sight. Don’t force them to ask, because most won’t.

Trust is not categorical.

We often think of trust in a binary way – I either trust someone or I don’t. But that’s not the case. We trust different people differently over time, depending on the situation.

Think of trust as material to systematize. For example, what level of trust will you give a new employee? What do you expect from him or her in the first few weeks of employment? In the first month?

And in general, a crisis of trust is worth working with. Perhaps with a specialist.

Don’t confuse autonomy with indifference.

I often run into people who hire new employees and “don’t get in the way of their work.” This is true in principle, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them succeed.

Tapping into decisions.

Employees at different grades at different levels rely on each other to do their jobs. A salesperson can’t do their job if the CEO doesn’t know what the priority is right now.

Don’t discount your work to other people. But also don’t interfere with someone else’s work just because it’s more interesting to you.

Avoid managing “on the run.”

Here’s an example. A group is standing around, quietly discussing something. The manager runs by on his own business and as if in passing throws in demands, throws in ideas, redistributes authority, creates confusion, and withdraws into the sunset. The scene is a mess. This is what I call management on the run.

Don’t throw around opinions and ideas at every meeting. Chances are, you don’t have the context. And you’re probably not the one who will have to follow through.

Make it clear that this is just an opinion, not a solution. But keep in mind how employees perceive the opinion of the company founder (or manager) . Use the FYI tag in the newsletter – it’s usually hard to convey a nuanced tone there.


people x context = results

I’ve seen great employees get into a bad startup and the bottom line is so-so. And I’ve seen mediocre employees at cool startups bring more results than an entire team.

It’s easier to objectively discuss the context of the situation than the employee in the feedback. What exactly led to the current problems? What has changed? What needs to be done now?

The rookie broke everything – but maybe someone gave him the wrong instructions?

June isn’t doing a good job. Is it his fault? Or can’t the team explain to him what’s what now? It’s a common problem, but you have to admit it exists and solve it. Perhaps through firing him.

Someone broke production. How could this happen? Where was the team looking? Were there instructions for this case? Shouldn’t they be drawn up now?

The person who broke everything was not to blame. The whole team was focused on other tasks. Was it for the right reason (like unloading the backlog)? Or for the wrong reason (lack of skill)?

Always assume that the people you hired are motivated and want to do better. And for those who don’t, fire them.

Firing should never be a surprise.

Firing should never be a surprise. The context has changed and new demands should have been voiced.

When you fire someone, you usually do it because of the context:

the expectations of the employee’s role have changed;

you realized that you hired someone with the wrong qualifications.

And it’s probably mostly your fault, not his.

The employees may have hoped that their efforts would be enough. But at least this way they will understand why they were fired.

Never delay in firing them.

Often employees are kept in a zombie state in the company. Everyone thinks, “We need to fire them. But you don’t. And you don’t do it for them. They’re probably not happy with the situation-they’re not valued, they don’t have the ability to do a good job.

No, you’re doing it for yourself. Because you don’t like to fire people.

They deserve you to be more concerned about them, not yourself and your feelings. So fire the person as soon as you make the decision.

You can do that, but it’s better not to.

Make an appointment and fire them. Don’t babble on distracted topics at the beginning of the conversation – get straight to the point and follow these rules clearly:

1. Clearly convey the message that they are fired;

2. Remember, it’s not about your feelings or concerns right now.

In some countries, it takes a couple of days to get fired, and in others, it takes months. In any case, engage in the process with respect for the people. They trusted you and trusted your team with their careers. It’s probably not their fault they got fired – it’s just that the context has changed. Remember that – and help these people find a better role for themselves.

Чётко > Fuzzy

You need clear decisions after meetings. No clear decision? Raise the issue.

Need a clear understanding of who is responsible for what. No clear allocation of responsibility? Raise the issue.

Identify who makes the decision, and what decision is ultimately made.

Best Practices: Identify what’s already there.

When you’re looking for best practices or want to change things about your team/processes, look first at what’s already working.

If you hire good people, they start looking for solutions themselves. Is that a good thing? If yes, articulate it clearly – and communicate it to the team. If not, discuss how this can be changed.

Be prepared to have to rebuild the company every few months

Fast-growing startups have to rebuild their internal structure every 3-6 months. So make the minimal changes you need right now. You will never reach perfection: – you will always be dissatisfied with the company processes; – it will be hard and painful to grow until you reach stagnation.

Be guided by the same principles you would use when refactoring code:

do testing in an isolated area;

assess what’s going on with your peers;

don’t change everything at once;


There is a stereotype that burnout comes when you work too hard. In fact, it comes when you lose a sense of control and/or don’t see results from your work.

Remember, you can drive yourself/employees to burnout by not working/smallly working.

How can you give people a sense of control over the outcome of their work? How can you define boundaries that contain the chaos that surrounds them?

Chaos is not felt by those who create it

Business founders are often frustrated that the team doesn’t keep up with the change in course.

As a founder, you likely understand the context of change better, you learn about it before anyone else and, most importantly, you control it.

Employees don’t have that.

Expect more from managers in a subordinate position.

By default, they, not their teams, are responsible for mistakes. Honestly share your opinions with them in private.

By default, always trust them to make necessary decisions.

They are responsible for the outcome. They are responsible for failures, but not for success. It is the achievement of the team.

They should also, where possible, let their team shine in the spotlight instead of directing them to themselves. It’s simple: they have more authority-the team has more ways to prove itself.

We started on a happy note and ended on the same note.

Geekfactor together with holds a job preparation program for foreign startups (we help you prepare for interviews for free and show your resume to great companies) – read more about it and register here.

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