As Steve Jobs was in the early stages of building Apple, he knew he needed effective managers on his team. This effort included hiring a professional management team to fulfill the manager’s job.
It wasn’t long before he fired them.
As Jobs described it, “Most of them were bozos. They knew how to manage, but they didn’t know how to do anything.” The manager position still needed someone, so Jobs selected Debi Coleman, who was already with the company but didn’t have any management experience. Despite this supposed disadvantage, Coleman excelled and would go on to become CFO of Apple at the age of 35. Jobs explained that the reason for Coleman’s success was that she had the passion to be a great manager.
Far too often, people treat management positions like a promotion. Executives feel placing people in manager roles is a way to reward good performance. As a result, organizations end up with a lot of people as managers who don’t know how to lead. This isn’t always their fault since they haven’t been equipped with the skills to manage others and grow the business.
That’s often how you get bad bosses. According to a Development Dimensions International report, 85 percent of executives lack confidence in their leadership pipelines because they feel their organizations poorly prepare people to take on manager responsibilities.
It should be your priority to develop A-players into great managers capable of leading others. Without proper leadership at every level of the organization, the company will lose productivity and direction, leading to frustrated workers.
This article will show you:
- How to define a manager’s job.
- What traits to look for as you select a manager.
- And the best ways to develop great managers.
What is a Manager’s Job?
A manager is a person in charge of a team or department in a company. They oversee the people who carry out essential functions and responsibilities that allow the organization to thrive. The workers on a manager’s team report directly to them, while the manager has superiors they report to as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 8 million management occupations in the United States alone.
Many executives see managers as people who only make sure others do their jobs correctly, but there are more critical answers to the question, “What does a manager do?”
Beyond simply overseeing others in their respective positions, the most important job for a manager is to turn the leader’s vision into a strategy that their coworkers carry out. The organization’s leader has a bird’s eye view of the goals and destination of the company, while managers act as the eyes and ears on the ground. They communicate that vision to their team members, creating effective strategies so that everyone reaches the end goal the leader has set.
Other manager responsibilities include:
- Tracking the progress of projects
- Overseeing team members
- Filling job openings
- Creating plans for their team to reach goals set by executives
- Firing underperforming employees
- Training team members
- Offering support and guidance when team members face difficulties
- Delegating responsibilities as needed
- Resolving conflicts whenever they happen
- Optimizing work processes to meet deadlines consistently
- Conducting performance reviews
- Helping team members improve in performance through feedback and coaching
- Providing motivation and inspiration for direct reports to keep them engaged and happy at work
- Promoting a safe and positive work environment
- Acting as the liaison between the team and the company executives
What Makes a Good Manager?
There’s a difference between being a decent manager and being a good manager. A decent manager should only be the baseline expectation. Executives should want good—and even great managers—as part of the organization. Here’s how to tell the difference between a decent manager and a good manager.
A decent manager:
- Does what is expected of them. No more. No less.
- Performs current responsibilities and tasks adequately. They make no efforts to improve.
- Clocks in at 9:00 a.m. and clocks out at 5:00 p.m. They spend no time outside of work developing their knowledge and skills.
- Keeps a checklist of tasks to complete.
A good manager:
- Goes above and beyond at every opportunity.
- Spends time outside of work learning how to be a better leader.
- Keeps teams engaged and productive.
- Is a team player who makes everyone around them better.
- Overdelivers on every task.
- Helps the company grow and improve.
- Reinforces the business’s core values.
- Fosters a healthy and inclusive company culture.
- Doesn’t try to do everything themselves. They use delegation effectively and responsibly.
- Recognizes team members’ strengths and plays them to the best of their abilities.
Who Should You Put Into Management Positions?
A manager’s job isn’t always an easy one. It requires having a diverse skillset and an inner desire to improve and help others. Picking the right people for a management position can be equally as challenging. Here are several characteristics you can look for as you search for your next great manager.
- Empathetic Communicator. An empathetic communicator understands how people feel and shows that understanding through their thoughts, words, and actions. They also display high levels of emotional intelligence.
- Inspirational Communicator. These are the people who know how to motivate and inspire their teams. They do it every day, creating an atmosphere of excitement that has coworkers eager to tackle the challenges they face.
- Effective Coach. A great manager will also be a coach at heart—someone who naturally brings out the best in others.
- Synergist. As Les McKeown describes in his book The Synergist, a synergist acts like an integrator. This role is focused on doing what is best for the team, not for themselves. They get everyone on the same page as they work toward a common goal with their unique skills and talents.
5 Skills All Executives Should Teach Their Managers
Not everyone knows how to be a good manager right off the bat. They require careful guidance and coaching as they grow into their new role. When you find a team player who shows tremendous promise in the manager’s job, make sure you teach them the following skills.
Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.Warren Bennis
Far too often, executives put people into management positions when they don’t know how to lead. But there’s a difference between leadership vs. management. Leadership requires skills and abilities which go beyond simply managing the day-to-day operations of personnel. That’s why executives need to teach their employees how to be leaders. In that way, when they’re called to lead, they can do so effectively.
Leadership training is an area where many companies are sorely lacking. According to a Society for Human Resources Management survey, 57 percent of workers say their managers would benefit from further training. Another 50 percent of workers say that they’d perform better if their managers had more training.
It’s clear that executives need to train people to become great managers and leaders. Take the opportunity whenever you can to teach. This can happen in one-on-one meetings, regular team meetings, having teams read books on leadership, performance reviews, and much more.
One of the best ways to train workers to be leaders is through a leadership development program.
Some of the best leadership development programs include the following methods:
- Emotional intelligence development. Training in this area helps workers manage their emotions and understand the emotions of others.
- Stretch assignments. These assignments aim to help people stretch beyond their comfort zone with new challenges designed to develop their leadership skills.
- Mentorship. A mentor can help workers by directly working with them to hone their talents and prepare them for future leadership positions.
- Group-based development. This type of development teaches whole groups leadership skills, particularly when it comes to cooperation and collaboration.
- Individual ownership. This training gives more freedom to each worker as they select what they want to work on. That also means they are accountable for what they learn, as well as their progress.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.Leo Buscaglia
Emotional intelligence in the workplace keeps employees engaged and happy, which is one of the main parts of a manager’s job. A manager with high emotional intelligence will have greater empathy and understanding, making them more approachable. Needless to say, if workers have more job satisfaction, they’ll have better performances.
Companies that have emphasized developing emotional intelligence have seen impressive results. A study of a Motorola manufacturing plant found that after the factory instituted emotional intelligence training and stress reduction programs, 93 percent of the employees became more productive. Not only does greater emotional intelligence lead to happy workers, but it also helps out the bottom line. For those wondering how to be a good manager, emotional intelligence needs to be at the top of the list.
To teach emotional intelligence to employees:
- Encourage meditation exercises to help with stress.
- List out how decisions will affect coworkers before making them.
- Focus on positive thoughts and eliminate the negative.
- Practice active listening at all times.
- Resolve conflicts quickly.
- Give recognition for the work other people do.
- Gain an understanding that many things are out of your control.
3. Effective Communication
Communication—the human connection—is the key to personal and career success.Paul J. Meyer
Few will argue the importance of clear communication in the workplace. One survey found that 89 percent of workers thought effective communication at work was extremely important. Unfortunately, poor communication is too often the norm. The same survey discovered that 8 out of 10 employees rated their company’s communication as average or poor.
A business suffering from poor communication will experience low productivity from workers, an inability to reach KPIs, and employees doing duplicate work. This type of situation is a manager’s worst nightmare. Part of a manager’s job is knowing and using the strategies listed below that do promote effective communication.
Teaching managers assertive communication means promoting communication that’s straightforward and full of confidence. With assertive communication, people share information and ideas in a direct and respectful manner. This strategy ensures that instances of misunderstandings and mistakes will decrease.
Executives should also teach managers the importance of open communication. This method encourages transparent and honest communication free of judgment and ridicule. A work environment with open communication allows people to express their feelings and thoughts clearly. It also encourages teamwork and collaboration.
How to fix poor communication:
- Examine the company culture. Some workplace cultures may unknowingly contribute to poor communication practices. Take the time to look at the organization’s culture and fix any policies that hurt communication.
- Confirm messages. To avoid misunderstandings, send follow-up messages confirming received communication.
- Set communication standards. Establish proper standards of communication at work. This can include recording them in the employee handbook. Regularly review these standards and hold workers accountable.
- Provide clear feedback. Let people know how they’re doing with their communication through effective feedback. Encourage people to improve when needed, and praise them when they do a good job.
4. Playing to Employees’ Strengths
I think one of the keys to leadership is recognizing that everybody has gifts and talents. A good leader will learn how to harness those gifts toward the same goal.Ben Carson
Part of a manager’s job is to get the most out of their teams, which is why executives should coach them on strengths-based leadership. This type of leadership teaches that leaders can’t be great at everything. Instead, leaders should surround themselves with people who possess various strengths.
In addition to this, they should play to each person’s strengths, developing them in these areas over time. Understand that some people may not be quite ready for new responsibilities based on their strengths. Help them embrace it, and provide the support they need for fulfilling new duties. Set clear expectations and check in with people regularly to see how they’re doing. Some people may need a lot of coaching, while others may only need an occasional word of advice.
Learn how to assess other people’s strengths by having teams take the CliftonStrengths assessment. Identify those strengths and determine where each person will thrive the most.
5. Time Management
Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.Stephen R. Covey
Another part of a manager’s responsibilities is effective time management. As noted above, a manager can’t do it all. They may feel tempted to take on more duties than they have the capacity for. Because of this, they need to learn the fine art of delegation. Delegating tasks and responsibilities isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s recognizing someone else can handle work that doesn’t require your attention just as well or better than you can.
At the same time, managers should learn time management strategies that will help them maximize their productivity. Some of these strategies include the following:
- Take needed breaks. Breaks can help you recharge and refocus. While it might sound counterproductive, taking breaks can actually increase your productivity. A break might be a five-minute pause in the day, a mental health day, or a week-long vacation.
- Priority management. Determine what your most important duties are and finish them first. This strategy also helps you say “no” to additional tasks that don’t align with your priorities.
- Schedule most productive times. Figure out when you are the most productive, and start taking advantage of those times. Block out all distractions, and tackle your work as much as possible.
Managers can also practice time management activities. These activities will teach them how best to use their time and work with others.
Some effective time management activities include:
- The 86,400 Dollar Bank Account. This activity looks at the 86,400 seconds in a day and how people spend them. It teaches them to prioritize the most important things.
- Find the Ace. Everyone on a team rummages through their own deck of cards to find the ace of spades—only one deck already has the ace on top. This activity teaches people to work on what matters most at the beginning of each day.
- What I Did Yesterday. Everyone in a group writes down a list of items they did yesterday. They then create a list of things they’ll discuss at the next performance review. They should compare those lists, and if things don’t match up, they should discuss if what they did yesterday was needed.
- The Desert Island. This classic activity has people list the essential items they would want if stranded on an island. Doing this puts them in the right frame of mind to think about what matters and ignore the inessential.
Start Preparing People for the Manager’s Job
As Julie Zhou, the Product Design VP at Facebook, once said, “Management isn’t some skill like drawing where you can just practice in isolation for hours and hours on end. You need to have the opportunity to be stretched in certain situations in order to learn and grow.” However, many people in the business world haven’t received that opportunity yet. Many managers start at a disadvantage, with little training or guidance in how to be great.
An executive must be able to identify raw talent in an individual—someone with the makeup of a good leader. From there, they can receive instruction on how to lead. This is the only way for someone to become an excellent manager for their organization.
Take the time today to look at each of your employees to determine who has the capability of becoming a boss vs. leader. From there, you can begin to craft a training program that will help them reach their potential in the manager’s job. Before long, you’ll have an entire company filled with influential leaders and managers.