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How to develop people management skills

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Developing your people management skills can help boost your firm’s bottom line.

People management is a skill, made up of several other skills. Managers of people – which include owners of accounting firms – are challenged with guiding and motivating teams compromised of different personalities and work styles, to achieve a common goal.

To help facilitate the process, we’ve written this article on how to develop people management skills.

What are people management skills?

Soft skills are the skills that fall under people management. They’re the skills that enable you to communicate, collaborate, mediate, and motivate others – in other words, to effectively work with people in different situations.

So you can see how good people management skills are the difference between having an efficient, productive and engaged team, or a disorganized, disconnected and inefficient team.

Now let’s dig into more specific people management skills and how you can develop them.

Establishing trust

Trust is important in any relationship, and the manager-team member relationship is no exception.

Managers can show their team members they trust them in several ways: by giving them autonomy, by not micro-managing, and by asking for their input.

When you show your team members you trust them, they’ll take greater ownership of their work and, with your encouragement, will come to you for guidance when they need it.

When team members are able to work without interference (i.e., micromanagement), they can complete their assignments more quickly and efficiently. Allow them to make mistakes, too, because this is how they will learn and improve.

At the end of the day, team members should believe their manager supports them, and managers should be able to trust their team members to complete quality work on time.

Maintaining eye contact is one way to show someone you’re listening to what they have to say.


Communication skills include both speaking and active listening. Managers need to be able to convey ideas, objectives, and constructive feedback. They also have to highlight important tasks, direct and redirect team members, and inspire them to do their best work by using clear and simple language.

Sometimes this involves addressing conflicts and developing team members’ abilities to solve their own problems.

When it comes to listening, give your team member your full attention. Maintain eye contact, eliminate distractions, and ask questions, if and when appropriate. Repeat to your team member what they’ve just told you, to not only demonstrate you’ve heard them but to ensure you’ve fully understood them. “So, as I understand, you … is that right?” or “It sounds like x happened and … is that correct?”

Good communication also goes a long way to maintaining trust. By being transparent and engaged with your team members, you’re increasing the likelihood they’ll be the same with you.


Team members may find some tasks more exciting than others, and motivation ebbs and flows. People management skills come into play when it’s time to rally and motivate your team members to forge ahead.

One way to do this is by tapping into what matters to your team members. For example, if you believe a particular team member isn’t really looking forward to working on a particular project but you know he or she is motivated by career advancement, frame the new project as an opportunity to acquire new skills that will help progress his or her career.


It’s the nature of work to have problems crop up now and then. To improve your problem-solving skills, suggests the following:

  • Clearly define the problem. You can’t generate a solution unless you know just what it is you’re trying to solve.
  • Focus on the solution (this may require you to think outside the box). “Shifting your focus away from the current problem to possible outcomes and solutions can give you a more positive outlook and open your eyes to new solutions,” says. 
  • Agree on a process. If you’re problem-solving as part of a team, agreeing on procedures will streamline the process and prevent conflicts from arising.
  • Listen actively. Problem-solving may require you to gather information from several people.


Empathy is probably one of the most underrated people management skills, but don’t underestimate its importance in terms of how it makes your team feel heard and validated.

Empathy involves putting yourself in another person’s position and understating or sharing their feelings. It’s a critical component of emotional intelligence.

You can sharpen your empathy skills by asking yourself questions such as:

  • How would you feel in a similar situation?
  • What would you do in a similar situation?
  • What would you want or expect from your manager?
  • What would you not want from your manager?

You can then use these insights to shape your management style.

People management skills have a huge impact on a team’s performance.


Trust, communication, motivation, problem-solving and empathy all make up people management skills.

Effective people managers result in effective team members who achieve a company’s objectives efficiently and productively, and who are motivated and engaged in their work. Developing your people management skills can, therefore, help boost your firm’s bottom line.

TOA Global has been helping accounting firms boost their bottom lines by supplying them with highly skilled people in accounting, bookkeeping, and other specialist roles. Find out more by signing up to receive a free outsourcing strategy and plan.