The Secrets to Being an Effective Manager
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To become a good manager, you should work on developing these five habits.
A good leader sets a good example and knows how to use their strengths to help their team reach their goals. Managers who are good at their jobs get to know their employees and find ways to help them do their best work. It’s important to make sure your team always knows what the goals, expectations, and feedback are. This article is for small business owners and managers who want to learn more about how to be good leaders.
A manager and a leader are not the same thing. A manager’s duties might include assigning tasks and keeping track of time, but a leader is more concerned with the growth and well-being of their team members. The best managers know how to do both jobs and can use the strengths of each employee in a strategic way to build a successful business. Deborah Sweeney, vice president and general manager of business acquisitions at Deluxe Corp., says that good managers do this by using emotional intelligence and “soft skills.”
“Traditionally, we have been taught to believe that the person with the highest IQ in the room is the smartest,” Sweeney said. “However, science is increasingly proving that individuals with emotional intelligence and its four core skills – which include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management – are actually the top performers within any company.”
Below, you’ll find what you need to do to be a good leader and how to handle the most common types of employees.
1. Work with your team, not above them.
Ora Shtull, an executive coach with credentials from the International Coach Federation, said that when you become a boss, you will have to give up some control over your work and give some tasks to other people.
“If you don’t break the addiction to doing it all, you won’t have the capacity to step up and do more senior stuff,” she said. “Letting go involves delegating. But it’s important to note that delegating doesn’t mean deserting the team or sacrificing accountability.”
As a manager, you have different responsibilities than your entry-level team members, but you should still get your hands dirty. You should also involve your team in the decision-making process. According to Kimble’s Boss Barometer Report, 74% of American workers who were polled said they would rather work in an environment where everyone works together than in one where the boss makes most of the decisions.
“By choosing to lead by example and demonstrating that [you] are an expert at what [you] are asking employees to do, it will often result in more respect and productivity,” said Sacha Ferrandi, founding partner of Source Capital Funding Inc. “It’s impossible to deny that the work ethic of a boss is contagious.” If you work hard for them, they are more likely to return the favor and work hard for you.”
2. Get to know your employees.
Every worker has different strengths, weaknesses, and ways of learning. As a manager, it’s your job to really understand each person’s traits so you can lead them well and build a good relationship with them. This can be done by just looking at the work they do, or by asking them simple questions from time to time.
Harvard Business Review suggests asking an employee, “What was the best day you had at work in the last three months?” to get them to think about the tasks and projects they like doing. Based on their answers, you can then change how you give this employee tasks so that you get the best results.
You could also ask, “What was the worst day at work you had in the last three months?” Conversations like these can help you figure out what isn’t working so you can fix it.
3. Create a positive and inclusive work environment.
Your actions in the office can have a big effect on how well your organization does. It’s important to make the workplace a happy, fun place where everyone feels included and valued. A worker who is happy is more likely to do their job well. You can create a diverse and welcoming work environment by setting a good example every day and doing team-building activities from time to time.
You should often give credit to your team, even for small accomplishments. Great leaders appreciate their workers and let them know whenever they can. Employees want to know that their work is valued and that it is noticed. When you tell someone they did a good job, it makes them want to keep working hard.
“Simply put, great bosses pause frequently to praise others and promote the positive, rather than harping on shortcomings and mistakes,” Shtull said.
Giving praise can boost the morale of a team and make the workplace a better place to be. If you don’t praise and thank your employees for their work, they might think it’s not being noticed and stop caring as much. Leah de Souza, a leadership communication coach and the managing director of Trainmar Consulting, says that people can be motivated through team building and celebrations as well as daily praise.
“Set aside time for team bonding – pure fun – and team celebration – reward for a milestone team achievement,” she said. “Each of these team events are important to the cohesiveness and element of fun in the team. What is fun can differ culturally and from team to team, so make sure to get feedback on ideas.”
Ask your team how they would like to be recognized and how often team events should happen. These events can be work-related, volunteer-related, or just for fun, but you should take care to make sure that everyone is welcome and that they are appropriate for your workplace.
4. Communicate goals, expectations and feedback.
One of the most important parts of being a good manager is being able to set goals and tell team members what is expected of them. Managers should focus on setting SMART goals for their teams, which are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and have a deadline. De Souza said that the organization-wide goals should also be broken down into goals for each department and for each person.
“There needs to be a clear link between all of the organization’s goals,” she said. “Team members must agree on the goals before they can be set.”
After setting goals, good managers are clear about what they expect from their team members. De Souza suggests having a set plan for reviewing goals. You can check in with team members often to make sure they are happy and find their jobs challenging. Communication is not one-sided, though. You have to listen as much as you talk.
“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say, nothing to add,” Shtull said. “In addition to giving up control of all the work, as a boss, you’ll also have to break the addiction to being right all of the time. Don’t always promote your own view. If your own ideas sound set in stone, your team members won’t want to offer theirs.”
Xan Raskin, founder and CEO of Artixan Consulting Group LLC, added that great leaders don’t just listen; they listen to understand. “Making sure your employees know you not only heard them, but you understand – even if you disagree – goes a long way to building a long-term rapport with employees.”
5. Coach your team members.
You’ll have to speak up for your team if you want them to be useful and committed. Like a good coach, a boss should keep his or her workers excited and motivated about their work. This will keep your team from getting too tired and help them enjoy doing their best work.
“Effective managers coach by asking questions, empowering their team members to think deeply and generate solutions,” Shtull said. “In turn, team members gain confidence and grow, and ultimately become amazing bosses themselves.”
Show your employees that you care about them and their careers. Give them the training and information they need to do well on the job. Good managers don’t feel threatened when their employees grow and get better at what they do. Instead, they welcome and encourage change.
“I believe a great manager knows how to tap into the strengths of their team members and turn their unique abilities into strong performances,” Sweeney said. “A good manager is not threatened by change in the workplace – whether it’s a change in how certain processes are done or new leadership – and embraces and encourages new ideas and ways of doing things.”
6. Practice self-awareness and grow your leadership skills.
Leaders who are good at what they do know that being in charge doesn’t mean they know everything. Managers should always be growing and learning alongside their team. You can get better at being a leader by getting better at things like managing your time and giving people tasks. Raskin said that managers can do this by learning how to save their energy for the most important tasks.
“Figuring out exactly how much effort, time and attention an issue needs before moving on to the next is a critical skill to get you through a workday and also make sure you have enough left for your personal life,” she said.
As the leader of the group, you should know yourself well and know how you relate to other people. Be aware of how you act and what that says to your employees. Raskin said that if you want to be a good manager, you need to be aware of both the intentional and unintentional effects you have on others. This is because you set a lot of the tone and culture for the organization.
“It will definitely take time and energy to get it right, even something as simple as how a manager conducts themselves at a meeting,” she said. “Do they pull out their phone during a presentation and start reviewing emails? Knowing the message that it sends to employees is critical – e.g., ‘if the meeting isn’t important to the boss, why should it be important to me?’ Even these small things carry big meanings.”
There are many moving parts to managing a team well, and you have to change and think about yourself all the time. Learn something new every day to get better at being a leader.
“It’s OK not to know everything; that’s actually not your job,” de Souza said. “Show your team that you are a normal human being who can mess up sometimes and laugh at a silly joke. Being a manager is not about becoming a faraway figure. Your job is to engage and guide.”