People Manager vs. People Developer

The other day I had a controverse about the difference between being  a people developer and being a people manager. More specifically, about how I dare to want both.

As a Human Resources person, I worked in the area of developing the organization. That kind of makes me tick the box near people developer.
But I’m also a manager, and I confront myself with the small issues of everyday people management life – the vacations, the career planning, the evaluation.

What does a People Manager do?

Mainly, being a People Manager means you have a team. You manage one or more individuals.

- you hire them
- you create their job description
- you create and advise on their career plan
- you evaluate their performance
- they come to you for everyday questions on their work
- you fire them (when the case)
- you get their resignation (when the case)

All in all, the People Manager job is a rather pragmatic, hands-on, results-oriented type of work.

And it has nothing to do with being a Human Resources person. Sure, basic HR knowledge helps (like knowing how much the legal maternity period is, or how many days of advance notice you should get). But other than that, “it’s nothing personal. It’s just business.”

What does a People Developer do?

A People Developer doesn’t need to directly manage the people he/she develops. An HR person who designs a talent management system is, for example, a People Developer. In most companies, the job description directly related to developing the organization goes into HR.

And if you’re not a direct manager, you need to be IN TOUCH with the people you grow. How else could you create valuable experiences for them?

- you design work evaluation processes (also known as Performance Evaluation)
- you implement Coaching systems in the organization
- you are a trainer or a coach yourself
- you are an advisor
- you define career plans and training plans

Yes, the two roles overlap. A Manager can be a People Developer.

But not the other way around. A People Developer by job description doesn’t have formal authority for all the people in the organization, unless you’re the GM, HR Manager and Project Manager all in one.

Ask yourself, how much of your job is to be a “People Manager”,
and how much of your job is devoted to actually developing the people around you?

Most managers forget the “People Developer” part of their job. It’s easy to get focused on performance and just leave the “coaching talk” for the yearly evaluation routine.

The best cases I know have weekly informal 1:1s.
They know their people’s expectations regarding their work content, their careers, work life balance and how much committed they are.
They know their people’s priorities and what skills they need to perform best.
They know what roles are needed for their people in order to have them succeed not in their next job, but even 2 jobs from now. They make 5 years + career plans.

What can you do more, as a People Developer, for your team?

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  • Mike Korner
    February 13, 2010


    I think the best people managers are people developers, too. Being a people developer makes them more successful as people managers, too, because their people perform more effectively when someone cares about them.

    I definitely agree that a people developer doesn’t need to directly manage the people he/she develops. In fact, I think developing people across a company — not just their team — is one of the key criteria for being a leader.

  • Maria
    February 14, 2010

    Thanks Mike! The subject is definitely controversial, as you can’t really put your finger on where managing ends and developing begins. But that’s exactly why I believe that they are both critical, and we should take the extra step to focus on both.

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