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We’ve all encountered a bad manager at some stage of our career. Maybe it was the micromanager breathing down your neck, the absent manager who could never be found, or the workaholic who expected you to be available at all hours of the day and night just like them.
Now that you’re a manager yourself, you might wonder—how do I avoid becoming that manager?
If you’re wondering how to be a good leader and manager, then this article is for you. In it, we take a closer look at the skills and attributes of a good manager, examples of how to improve as a manager, as well as actionable tips and growth ideas for managers.
The Power of Good Managers
Aside from the organizational functions managers perform, such as delegating work and overseeing their teams, they also have a direct impact on:
- Employee engagement. According to Gallup, the quality of a manager accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement. So even a small improvement in your management skills can have a significant effect on your team’s engagement levels.
- Job satisfaction. McKinsey has identified that relationships with managers are the main factor in employee job satisfaction. As a manager, you can greatly impact your employee’s workplace experience.
- Employee retention. It’s often said that people leave managers, not companies. Given that both poor employee engagement and poor job satisfaction are factors in high employee turnover, it’s easy to see the connection. This was confirmed in a survey conducted by GoodHire, in which 82% of workers said they would consider leaving because of poor management.
These statistics prove that being a good manager makes an impactful difference in the workplace. But how can you improve as a manager? And how can you avoid common mistakes?
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How to Be a Good Manager in 2023: 10 Expert Tips
Get to know your employees at an individual level
No two employees are the same. They bring different backgrounds, professional experiences, skills, and personalities to a team. One of the most effective ways to become a better manager is by getting to know your employees at an individual level.
Identifying your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and preferred learning styles should be a key priority for a manager. With this information, you’ll know how to motivate them individually and match them with important tasks.
It also allows you to capitalize on their uniqueness. Rather than dwelling on weaknesses, emphasize working to employees’ strengths. When each person plays their part in a team, it naturally builds interdependence and strengthens team bonds.
Knowing your employees as individuals is also useful for career planning and development, an important ingredient for creating more engaged, more satisfied employees.
What’s more, with a closer relationship with employees, you’ll be able to identify signs of disengagement or job dissatisfaction at an early stage and develop strategies to address them.
Regular individual catch-ups, especially with new team members, are a great way to get to know your employees. Effective one-to-one meetings can increase the odds that an employee will be highly engaged by 430% while also reducing moderate-degree burnout by 58%.
Takeaway tip: Go through your schedule and set up weekly or bi-weekly one-to-ones with each employee in your team.
Communicate with your team members
There is perhaps nothing more important in life than effective communication, and this applies just as strongly to the workplace. Communication is key to conveying instruction, feedback, and setting clear expectations. It’s how managers relay information and develop relationships with their employees.
Open and honest communication with employees builds transparency and trust. These qualities are essential when it comes to more difficult situations such as navigating organizational change or understanding internal promotional pathways. It also encourages employees to communicate with their managers, making them more likely to raise concerns at an earlier stage.
If you manage non-desk workers, communication can be more challenging since you may not work in person with your team on a daily basis. Using an employee communication app is a great way to do this. That way, you can share updates, announcements, schedules, and communicate one-on-one with employees or in group chats directly in the app.
An all-in-one communication app, like Connecteam, also offers polls and surveys to gather employee feedback. Both tools allow you to collect responses directly from the field and make informed decisions based on real-time data. This can boost morale, increase productivity, and create a sense of equality amongst employees.
Whether or not you see your team every day, weekly check-ins with each employee are key to improving employee performance. Business consultant, Marcus Buckingham, identifies two questions to ask during these check-ins.
- What are you working on this week?
- How can I help?
Takeaway tip: If you don’t already have weekly check-ins with each member on your team, start scheduling them. Be sure to ask Buckingam’s two important questions during your meetings.
Employee productivity, performance, and engagement are 14% higher when employers have a recognition program. When employees feel appreciated, their job satisfaction and quality of work increase.
A large part of being a good manager is developing a rewards and recognition strategy that ensures your employees feel appreciated. It doesn’t have to be complex or expensive, but can be incredibly motivating for them.
Here are a few ways to positively acknowledge your employees:
- Take advantage of employee recognition software to reward employees with digital tokens that they can redeem at their favorite stores and restaurants
- Nominate employees for organizational awards
- Arrange a team lunch after the completion of a big project
- Give or mail employees handwritten notes to thank them for their hard work
Gestures like these can boost employee morale far more than a pay raise does.
Takeaway tip: Think of three different ways you can acknowledge your employees’ contributions at the next team meeting.
Improve your emotional intelligence
How do you express emotions in the workplace? Do you fly off the handle easily, or instead mask your real emotions and become hard to read? The ability to understand and manage your own and others’ emotions—emotional intelligence, or EQ—is one of the hallmarks of a truly effective manager.
EQ influences how you approach professional relationships. High EQ underpins many skills needed to effectively manage a team with empathy, such as:
- Navigating conflict
- Managing diversity
- Inspiring employees
- Giving feedback
- Encouraging collaboration
The four components of EQ are:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
Developing these can improve the way managers interact and communicate with your employees, how you respond to stressful situations, as well as your overall leadership quality.
Using EQ in your management approach requires an understanding of how you express emotions, especially in times of stress. Are you an over or under-emoter?
Being aware of how you react can help you adjust your behavior to become an “even-emoter.” This improves how you respond to difficult situations and also models the same for your team.
Most importantly, managing with emotional intelligence improves your employees’ well-being. They’ll feel supported and are less likely to experience burnout or leave the organization.
Takeaway tip: Seek feedback on your level of emotional intelligence from trusted colleagues. If you need to make any improvements, find some training, books, or articles about EQ.
Set clear goals and expectations
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure each employee understands not only what the team is trying to accomplish, but why. Setting clear goals and explaining the reasoning behind them allows teams to work toward a shared vision, provides direction, improves employee motivation, and enables better performance management.
A great time to share new goals or review older ones is during team meetings. Use this time to present them and also ask your employees for feedback. You can even offer a reward to incentivize your team to meet specific goals, like dinner out at a restaurant or gift cards.
Besides defining collective targets, work with your employees to set individual goals, too. Having personal objectives motivates employees to work hard to achieve them and highlights their individual value to the team.
Takeaway tip: Compile a list of team targets and goals. Generate a plan of how to meet and track each one, then share the list with your team and ask for feedback.
Lead by example
The best way to develop the qualities and behaviors you want to see in your team is to model them yourself. This includes both values—such as fairness, and honesty—and actions, such as creating quality output, communicating effectively, recovering gracefully from failure, or overcoming a setback.
Asking your employees to “do as I say, not as I do” is a surefire way to alienate them and lose their loyalty. Losing your employees’ trust is a quick path to low employee morale, which affects productivity.
If your employees can see that you’re working hard to contribute to the team, they are more likely to do so, too. Practicing what you preach demonstrates your authenticity as a manager and builds a company culture of accountability.
This builds trust and respect with your employees, strengthening your team and its performance.
Takeaway tip: Don’t hesitate to roll up your sleeves and show your employees you’re willing to do the same things you’re asking of them.
Build an inclusive and positive work environment
Inclusive companies are 120% more likely to hit financial goals, so it’s in your best interest to foster a culture of inclusivity and positivity. An important aspect of this is celebrating employee differences, such as their unique skill sets, and how they contribute to the team’s success.
This improves collaboration and creativity, leading to greater innovation. It also creates a positive working environment where your employees feel safe, valued, and supported.
Takeaway tip: Acknowledge your employees’ differences by recognizing holidays they celebrate, holding diversity trainings, and being open to new, out-of-the-box ideas that may benefit your business.
A good manager doesn’t try and do it all; they divide up the workload to maximize productivity while still maintaining accountability. This doesn’t mean handing out tasks to just any team member. Instead, good managers identify the best person for each specific job based on their skills and expertise.
Delegating also empowers team members by creating new opportunities so they can develop new skills. It promotes teamwork and collaboration and helps identify potential future leaders within the team.
If you’re using an employee task management app like Connecteam, you can quickly create and assign tasks with just a click and receive real-time updates on each project. That way, you can ensure tasks are distributed evenly and have ongoing oversight of their status without micromanaging.
Takeaway tip: Identify a few projects you can take off your plate and consider which team members are the best fit for them. Then, delegate accordingly.
Be a leader as well as a manager
The most successful managers are also great leaders, and the distinction between the two terms is an important one. While the role of a manager is to have oversight over tasks, a leader’s role involves bringing out the best in your team.
Leadership emphasizes the well-being and growth of employees, both professionally and personally. Leaders assist their employees to set individual and team goals and show them the pathway to success.
The most effective managers can align personal and team goals with the overall vision of an organization. Doing this helps employees to understand the value of their work and how it contributes to broader organizational goals.
A leader must motivate and inspire team members. Rather than micromanaging them, they coach their employees to become better at their work. At the same time, effective leaders aren’t afraid to make the tough decisions needed to steer a team through challenging times.
Takeaway tip: When you next meet with employees one-to-one, discuss their goals to understand how you can help them to achieve what they’re aiming for.
Continue improving your management skills
Chances are, as the manager, you’re the most senior person on your team. But assuming you know everything leads to mistakes, missed opportunities, and low team morale.
Gallup suggests that only 1 in 10 people have the necessary traits of a great manager. This means there are likely a few areas you need to work on. Reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses and work on developing the skills or attributes necessary to be a great manager.
Not only does this improve your effectiveness, but it also demonstrates to your team the importance of going through a lifelong learning process.
A good way to do this is by encouraging employees to give you feedback. After all, your team is in the best position to let you know what is and isn’t working. Take their feedback into genuine consideration, and if they identify an area of improvement, find a way to build up your skills in that area.
Takeaway tip: Identify three skills you want to learn or attributes you want to develop to become a better manager. Then, find the necessary resources to learn how to do so.
5 Behaviors to Avoid as a Manager
Do any of these sound familiar? If so, they might help you to identify how you can improve as a manager.
Controlling every aspect of an employee’s work is unrealistic and ineffective. Micromanagement can affect employees’ mental health, professional confidence, and productivity. It’s also a contributing factor to employee turnover, with 36% of employees changing jobs because of it.
While you should provide leadership and oversight, you ultimately need to be able to give employees reasonable autonomy while encouraging accountability.
Dodging difficult conversations
Part of your role as a manager is guiding employees through challenges and resolving conflicts, both at organizational and individual levels.
This means you can’t shy away from difficult conversations. Approach these conversations with empathy, while being direct and fair.
Trying to do everything yourself
Some managers—particularly new ones who are keen to make an impression—often fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves. This could be due to a lack of trust or wanting to take full credit for the team’s accomplishments – or a combination of the two.
But it’s important to remember that as a manager, you are responsible for the entire team’s achievements, whether you actually complete the tasks yourself or not. You’re better off delegating to your team members, which frees up your time to focus on your managerial responsibilities, while also empowering your employees.
Resistant to change
Managers who are resistant to change have a difficult time adapting to new technologies, processes, and ways of working.
As a result, teams may not be as competitive in their industries. To avoid this, stay on top of the latest industry trends and take advantage of digital tools that give you a competitive edge.
Not investing time to teach
Good managers not only lead their teams, but invest time to teach, mentor, and support employees in their career growth.
Taking the time to provide knowledge and guide employees in their roles can help improve their confidence, productivity, and improve retention rates.
Don’t Be That Manager
Poor management can be disastrous for employee well-being, morale, and productivity. But you don’t have to be that manager.
With these 10 actionable tips, you should have some ideas on how to be a better manager.
Getting to know your employees at an individual level, leading by example, and using effective communication and EQ will set you and your team up for success.
By focusing your efforts on building a team that embraces inclusivity and positivity while promoting lifelong learning, you can learn not just to be a good manager, but to be a great one.