Do you remember when you led a team for the first time? Your job changed fundamentally because your role transitioned from an individual contributor into, well, a manager. The late Clay Christensen said it well: “Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.”
Poor management, however, can have devastating results on individuals and bottom lines. Companies with bad management have difficulty with employee retention, work burnout, productivity, and engagement. In one Gallup survey, researchers found that team leaders or managers alone are responsible for up to 70 percent of differences in employees’ engagement levels.
To avoid these problems, managers and team leaders need to display effective leadership skills. In other words, they need to be good managers. As just one example, in Marcus Buckingham’s First Break All the Rules, he explains that managers are the key to retaining your best employees.
However, that’s much easier said than done. Figuring out what skills and strategies you need to become a good manager take practice and insight. Read on to learn some of the most helpful tips on how to be a good manager, including some items you should avoid.
8 Tips on How to Be a Good Manager
1. Learn to Listen
When people think about good management, they often think about great communicators who can express their ideas clearly and persuasively. Yes, communication skills can be helpful in this way, but that’s only part of communication.
Genuinely great managers know how to listen. By listening, you will discover more about your team members and identify any potential problems that may arise. Good managers take the opportunity to listen at all times, not just in specific moments. They do it as a way to gather more information that will help them become better leaders. When listing out what makes a good manager, listening should be near the top.
2. Know Your Team Members
Who are your employees? Do you know what motivates them? What about the type of work they enjoy the most? What do they hope to accomplish in the future? If you can’t answer all these questions with concrete answers, it’s time to get to know your team members better. Start by getting familiar with what makes them tick.
As discussed in the point above, you need to really listen if you want these answers. Get to know them in a personal and professional fashion. By learning more about your team, you’ll discover the best ways to work with them and motivate them. You’ll also know what goals they want to achieve, allowing you to put them in a position to reach them. As a consequence, your team will have more employee engagement and higher job satisfaction.
3. Help Workers Grow Their Strengths
On that note, your team members have their own desire to develop their talents. Work with them to grow professionally by identifying their strengths, communicating what they are, and helping each person further increase them.
If you encounter instances of performance deficiencies, you also need to tackle them directly. Don’t skirt around the issue. If you try to avoid discussing poor performance, not only will it continue, but it may become worse. At the same time, you should use your management skills to help your team members develop into leaders.
4. Improve Yourself
When it comes to developing talents, don’t just focus on others. You should also develop yourself. Good managers always seek self-improvement. When you grow as a manager, you’ll help others grow too.
Just like with your team members, identify what your strengths are and decide how best to develop them. Note where you may be lacking and shore up those weaknesses. Create a plan that allows you to work on self-improvement every day, even if it’s only with small tasks. As you do so, you’ll continuously develop vital leadership qualities that help you reach the goals you set for yourself.
5. Recognize the Value of the Team’s Work
Your team members put in hard work and dedication to fulfill their responsibilities. Good managers make sure they recognize them for that work. Employees love to feel appreciated as long as that praise is genuine and sincere. Showing appreciation doesn’t have to be some grand gesture or added perks at work. A simple word of recognition can go a long way.
Go into detail on what workers did well. Show them that you notice the value of their efforts. Appreciating their work will keep team members with the company longer. However, if you fail to do so, they may decide to look for that appreciation elsewhere, like at another company.
6. Let Employees Find Their Way
When looking at how to be a manager, you may face the temptation to manage every aspect of an employee’s work. However, managing people isn’t always about outlining each step. Give your team members autonomy. Allow them to find their own manner of tackling their responsibilities.
In First Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham recommends that managers define the outcomes they’re seeking, but then give employees the autonomy to find their own route toward reaching those preferred outcomes. This means placing a high level of trust in your employees. If you trust them to make the right decisions, they’ll notice and perform accordingly.
7. Set the Example
One of the best ways to lead, whether for new managers or seasoned veterans, is to set an example for the whole team. People won’t want to follow someone who isn’t willing to put in the work themselves. Set the tone for how your team operates by performing large and small tasks to show that everything matters. Through your example, you can show the dedication, passion, and discipline required to reach your team’s goals.
For example, if you’re nearing the deadline for an important project and need to spend extra time on it, work those extra hours yourself. Then you can ask others to do it as well. If you merely delegate and expect others to take the brunt of the work, it could lead to added animosity.
8. Practice Servant Leadership
Another way to practice good management is to serve your team members. Through servant leadership, you will come to help those around you by being a positive influence. This requires a change in mindset where you look at your employees as people you work for, not people who work for you. Servant leadership encompasses many of the points listed above, creating a desire to help others grow and improve the community at large.
What Not to Do as a Manager
The above tips can help you become a great manager, but that also involves avoiding certain behaviors. Managing is a constant learning process, so don’t feel disheartened if you stumble from time to time. With that said, keep clear of the following as much as possible.
- Providing little feedback: Most employees want feedback from their managers. If you rarely offer it or only do so during performance reviews, they may become frustrated. Provide feedback regularly and make sure it includes positive and constructive suggestions.
- Micromanaging: Don’t meddle in every little part of your team members’ jobs. Give them space to breathe. People quickly grow tired of micromanagers and don’t want someone breathing down their neck the whole time.
- Setting unrealistic or unclear expectations: Employees want to know what you expect of them. If your expectations are vague or too out of reach, that can create conflict on the team. Make sure you’re specific in setting expectations for everyone.
- Avoiding conflict: Managers must have difficult conversations every so often. That might mean addressing bad performance or policy violations. Some managers may choose to avoid those situations for fear of causing conflict. However, letting those issues fester may lead to worse problems down the road.
Good Managers Lead to Good Results
Gallup found up to 75 percent of workers leave their jobs because of their managers. People don’t want to work for bad bosses. They want someone who appreciates their work and wants them to succeed. As you look at how to become a good manager, you’ll be able to retain the best employees and perform at a high level. Follow the tips listed above, and you can even go from being a good manager to a great one.
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