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How to Be a Good Manager

Management is overseeing a group, project, process or other entity to ensure its success. While there are many different ways to be a successful manager, there are a few key characteristics and skills you can build that will help you manage well. While learning leadership skills and becoming a great manager is a long-term process, you can set shorter-term milestones today that will begin to develop your management capabilities.

In this article, we will discuss several traits and skills you should focus on when setting management goals including the following:

  1. Build and encourage communication skills
  2. Support collaboration
  3. Provide clarity
  4. Offer and receive consistent feedback
  5. Practice active listening
  6. Acknowledge others
  7. Set a positive example
  8. Set achievable goals
  9. Provide training
  10. Improve your leadership skills
  11. Understand your role

Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements and how you can apply them to your own management goals.

1. Build and encourage communication skills

Communication skills are arguably the most important to use and build as a manager. Establishing and maintaining open lines of communication with your team can help you understand their needs, work with them on achieving tasks or goals, decrease misunderstanding, exchange expectations of one another and more.

Here are several examples of communication opportunities you should consider to improve your communication skills as a manager:

  • Do you encourage employees to share ideas and opinions at meetings?
  • Are employees welcome to share their concerns or ideas?
  • Do you ask for positive or critical feedback?
  • Are you interested in what your employees have to say about how a project is progressing?
  • Do you acknowledge each employee's contribution to the job?
  • Are you approachable and easy to work with?

While it is important to have strong communication skills as a manager, you should also support your team in building their skills in this area.

2. Support collaboration

Collaboration is working effectively with others towards a shared goal. Encouraging a collaborative team and workspace should be a priority for managers as it creates a better, more enjoyable place to work. The more people enjoy working together, the more efficient and quality their work will likely be.

Establishing a collaborative environment starts with providing individual expectations and clear team goals. Each team member should be clear on what they are responsible for, who they should be working with and the organizational impact they are working towards. When employees have been assigned a task or project, a supportive manager trusts them to complete the job. Creating a relationship with employees based on trust goes a long way in promoting a healthy workplace.

3. Provide clarity

Managers should be clear about their expectations of everyone on the team. A team is successful when its members work well together. To achieve this, a manager should either creates new processes or consistently streamline and organize existing processes to improve the workflow. An organizational chart should clearly outline the department's goals and define an individual or team's task assignments. Part of an efficient manager's agenda is to delegate work to team members and then oversee, not micromanage, the results.

The manager must create a chain of command that includes assigning "a point of contact" person or persons. These employees may be considered team leaders who work closely with the group and keep the manager updated. A point of contact will consolidate information and give the manager a clear, concise summary of updates. As changes to the work process are added or updated, the manager should encourage communication among the employees as to how the updates are working and then request feedback so it is a collaborative effort.

4. Offer and receive consistent feedback

To understand your managerial strengths and areas for improvement, ask for consistent feedback from your team. You should also provide feedback to your team as it arises so they are consistently aware of where they stand, what their strengths are and what they need to work on to achieve their goals. Consider scheduling regular opportunities to both give and receive formal feedback.

Managers have several options for receiving feedback. It can be achieved through one-on-one meetings, team meetings, brainstorming sessions or surveys. Each option allows you to set the tone for a team-driven working environment where employees are encouraged to participate and be heard without repercussions. Managers should strive toward making individuals feel they are part of the team and have a stake in the company's success.

5. Practice active listening

When a manager listen and respond to their team, it fosters a sense of confidence and an honest, open workplace. One way to ensure everyone feels heard is to schedule weekly or monthly team meetings. In some cases, a quick meeting each morning may be a better option to jumpstart the day and take care of any questions, concerns or unfinished business. In these meetings or stand-ups, managers should listen, take notes, ask direct questions, encourage participation and close each meeting on a positive note to let employees know they've been heard. Be sensitive towards people’s schedules and adjust meetings as needed if they are not productive or take up too much time in your team’s schedule without providing value.

6. Acknowledge others

An essential part of a manager's responsibilities is knowing the role of each employee, the skills they possess and how well they do their job. Consider preparing suggestions, programs and resources for your team to feel supported in achieving their goals. An informed manager will also know when an employee has exceeded company expectations and should personally acknowledge them for their efforts. Employees who are supported, acknowledged and appreciated by their manager often feel compelled to continue growing and stay at the company for longer periods of time.

Good managers should take the time to establish strong relationships with their team and understand their personal career goals as well as their progress toward them. This is beneficial to everyone involved when promotions are available for those interested in career advancement.

7. Set a positive example

As a manager, it's vital that you set an example of the type of work environment you expect your employees to support. This means you must communicate, collaborate, provide feedback, display work ethic, show appreciation for a job well done, support other team members and be willing to step in and help when needed. Pay attention to the way you present yourself and interact with your staff. Managers should be approachable, supportive, attentive to an employee's concerns and trustworthy. They should encourage employees to treat each other in the same way. Building and supporting trust and confidence within the team is a key factor in becoming a successful manager.

8. Set achievable goals

A manager must set clear and achievable goals that are in line with the larger organizational goals, mission and vision. There are many options for how you might approach goal setting including OKRs and SMART goals. Establish a specific measurement of success so your team knows exactly what they should be working towards. Keep an open line of communication about how your team is progressing towards their goals and advocate for them when roadblocks arise.

9. Provide training

Managers who want to improve their management skills will be aware of how employees are performing assigned tasks. This awareness is accomplished by assessing all aspects of the operation and determining where improvements are needed, then implementing changes to streamline the process. An effective way to do this is through employee training.

Be aware that everyone does not learn at the same pace or in the same manner, and you need to plan accordingly by using a variety of training options that support each individual. For example, opportunities such as on the job training, mentoring through one-on-one instruction and team training sessions are tailored to provide employees with a structured and organized program. It is up to the manager to create the right training environment and material for each employee that will ultimately benefit the employee, the company and the manager.

10. Improve your leadership skills

Developing your leadership skills should be a constant goal you work towards throughout your career. Focus on key soft skills that will help you be a great leader. For example, active listening helps leaders bring projects to completion by hearing the ideas and concerns of the team. Empathy helps leaders understand how their team feels about their workload, environment and workplace relationships.

Here is a list of must-have leadership skills that may prove valuable to anyone applying for work or looking to advance in a career:

  • Ability to teach and mentor
  • Decisiveness
  • Dependability
  • Integrity
  • Problem solving
  • Relationship building (or team building)
11. Understand your role

To be an effective manager, you must understand your role and how it fits within the larger organization. If you’re a new manager or you've been in the position for a while and are focused on becoming a better manager, evaluate your strengths and which areas you should focus on improving. Remember, managers also have supervisors. If you need to gain more understanding of the nature of your role and how to grow in it, you can turn to them for direction and support.

Regardless of how long you have been in a managerial position, continuing to learn, educate, refresh and hone your skills is an ongoing process. Take advantage of management training opportunities that provide comprehensive development skills in the areas of time management, planning and organization, employee management and leadership skills.