No one wants to work for a bad manager. Likewise, no manager wants to be a bad manager. We share 9 ideas on how to improve manager effectiveness so your employees are happy and productive, and you can avoid building a toxic workplace.

Table of contents
  1. The Power of Good Managers
  2. How To Be a Better Manager: 7 Expert Tips
  3. Behaviors to Avoid as a Manager
  4. Don’t Be That Manager

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?

This article is for you. In it, our experts take a closer look at the skills and attributes of a good manager, as well as some actionable tips. If you’re a manager, you can start implementing these into your work immediately. If you’re an HR professional, you might identify what to tell your managers to improve on. 

The Power of Good Managers

Aside from the organizational functions managers perform, such as delegating work and overseeing a team, they also have a direct impact on some important, but perhaps less visible elements of the workplace.

  • 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 a relevant difference in the workplace. But what exactly makes a good manager? Our tips below show some great areas of improvement for managers—plus a few common mistakes. 

How To Be a Better Manager: 7 Expert Tips

Here are seven things you can start doing today to improve as a manager. 

Get to know your employees.

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. 

Knowing an employee at this level 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 to 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 one-to-ones with each employee in your team.

Communication is key.

Managers need to be effective communicators so they can set clear expectations about employees, tasks, and work performance. To perform their best, employees need to understand what is required of them and how their work fits into the bigger organizational picture. Rather than just telling your employees what to do, try to explain both the what—specific details—and why—how it fits into the bigger picture and why it matters. 

Open and honest communication also builds transparency and trust with your employees. These qualities are essential when it comes to more difficult situations such as navigating organizational change or understanding internal promotional pathways. Good communication from managers also encourages employees to do the same, meaning they’re more likely to raise issues or concerns so they can be addressed at an early stage. 

Remember, communication isn’t a one-way street. It involves actively listening to your employees and taking on board their opinions, views, and concerns.

Management researcher Marcus Buckingham says weekly check-ins are key to improving employee performance as a manager. He identifies two questions to ask during these check-ins.

  1. What are you working on this week? 
  2. How can I help?

At a practical level, good communication involves using a variety of methods to communicate. This could include instant messaging, emails, phone, and video calls, as well as in-person chats. When it’s not overdone, using multiple communication methods shows your employees that your door is always open. 

Takeaway tip: At the next check-in with an employee, ask them two questions—“What are you working on this week?” and “How can I help?”

Make internal comms quick and easy

Our leading communication app helps your deskless workers stay in touch, no matter where they are

Develop 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 self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Developing these can improve the way you interact with your employees, your communication, and your response 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. 

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 will also want to do so. 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.

As a manager, you should foster a culture of inclusivity and positivity in your team. An important aspect of this is celebrating employee differences and how they contribute to the team. This improves collaboration and creativity, leading to greater innovation. It also creates a positive working environment where your employees feel safe, valued, and supported. 

Another way to create a positive workplace is through rewards and recognition. When employees feel appreciated, their job satisfaction and productivity increase. A study by O.C. Tanner found that employee recognition alone increases the probability of great work by 18 times

A rewards and recognition strategy doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. Simply acknowledging or praising an employee’s contribution to the team lets them know their work is valued. You could also consider nominating employees for organizational awards or arranging a team lunch after the completion of a big project. 

Gestures like these often 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.

Be a leader as well as a manager.

The most successful managers are also great leaders. The subtle 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 to produce something of value. 

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.

Don’t stop learning.

Chances are, as the manager, you’re the most senior person in your team. But assuming you know everything leads to mistakes, missed opportunities, and low team morale. 

Gallup suggests that only one 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 best placed 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.

Behaviors to Avoid as a Manager

Do any of these sound too familiar? If so, they might help you to identify areas of improvement for you as a manager. 

  • Micromanagement. 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 for your team, you ultimately need to be able to give employees reasonable autonomy in their work while encouraging accountability. 

  • Dodging difficult conversations. Part of your role as a manager is guiding employees through challenging periods, both at the organizational and individual levels. This means you can’t shy away from the difficult conversations that need to be had. 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. It’s important to understand that you won’t succeed in management if you don’t have the time to do your job because you are doing everyone else’s as well. Delegating to your team helps you by freeing up your time to focus on your managerial responsibilities, while also empowering your employees

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 seven actionable tips, you should have some ideas on how to be a good leader and 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.