Managerial prowess may seem like it’s one of those things you’re born with, but, as the top leaders will tell you, it’s a skill that you have to develop over years of practice. The best managers aren’t perfect, but they’re aware of this fact. They have humility, self-awareness — and, most importantly, a desire to do better. We’ve taken the guesswork out to bring together tips on how to be a better manager too.
Anyone can learn how to be a better manager with time, research, and a little practice. Starting today, pick one of these to work on each week, and you’ll be there in no time.
Motivate your team
First, you need to know how to motivate your team. To know this, you need to know what motivates them.
You may be tempted to think a pay raise is the best way forward. While this might perk people up for a week, it won’t last. A recent study found that money and benefits aren’t the most motivating factors. Instead, some of the most important factors tended to be peer motivation (20%), a desire to do a good job (17%), and feeling encouraged and recognized (13%). While having a good manager as a motivating factor is near the bottom, the top three motivating factors are in the hands of the manager.
Make your team feel recognized
Millennials (aged 22-38), who comprise most of the UK and US workforce, cited thank-you notes as their preferred form of recognition. Proof that recognizing good work doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. A little gratitude goes a long way! Plus, if you add a personal element, then your team will be all the more appreciative of it.
Lead by example
You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ Unfortunately, this won’t work in a professional setting: Employees will do what you do. If they see you goofing off and taking extra-long lunch breaks, they’ll follow your lead and do the same. If you want your team to be productive, focused, and collaborative, you need to nurture these behaviors in yourself.
As the chart shows, employees are motivated by a desire to do their job well. One way to nurture that ethos is to do your job well by showing a good work ethic. This means being organized, communicating well, and holding your work to a high standard.
The same goes for having integrity and good morals. Not only will ethical practice lower your chances of being embroiled in a scandal, but it’s also generally good practice. Malpractice makes you look bad, which in turn, will make your employees lose respect for you. Even worse, they could copy your bad example, leaving the company vulnerable to fines, court cases, or bad press.
Even something as insignificant-seeming as negative chatter on forums and social media could be enough to tar your reputation. In the long run, that could mean turning off potential candidates and customers.
‘We rise by lifting others.’ A good manager understands that it’s their job to support the team rather than the other way around. If employees see you being competitive and taking the credit where it’s not due, they may follow your lead. Conversely, if they see you being supportive and encouraging, they’ll be more likely to do the same themselves.
While a little friendly competition can be fun in sales teams, it often encourages negativity and rivalry. It’s also been proven to be more ineffective with women, who find competition stressful and hindering to motivation and creativity. So the next time you pit two team members against each other, reconsider it. It might work better to encourage teamwork as opposed to individual competition.
Be a strong communicator
Being able to get your message across is vital as a leader. After all, how will people know what to do if you can’t explain it properly?
Talking only makes up a small part of communication. There’s also active listening, awareness of communication styles, and overcoming barriers to communication the team may face. It’s also about knowing how to communicate effectively over different media, whether that’s the phone, email, or team chat app.
Communication is arguably the most important skill you can have as a manager. The good news is it’s something you can improve over time.
It’s not enough to motivate people individually. You must look at the bigger picture and help people work together to achieve their goals. When dishing out praise (which you should do without reserve), remember to praise the wider team on its collective achievements. Similarly, if there are failures, approach the issue from a team-wide perspective before honing in on specific issues.
It’s also important to get team members to collaborate without your direct encouragement. Project management software makes it easier for team members to stay up-to-date with each other’s work. Use tools, including breakout areas, to help employees socialize throughout the working day. You could also spend 10 minutes at the start of your weekly catchup allowing everyone to talk about their weekends. It’s proven that we work better with people we get along with. So the more you can do to encourage inter-team bonding, the stronger the teamwork.
Investing in tools and tech that aid open communication is another must. Chat apps are especially useful for casual talk. If you offer teleworking in your company or work with remote workers of any kind, it’s a must. Not only does it allow instant communication, but you can also create non-work groups for general chit-chat, which helps those who aren’t there in person feel like they’re part of the team.
Monitor time and budgets
We’ve all had a manager who’s relaxed with the schedule. While it’s nice to give employees some autonomy over their deadlines and workload, it’s important to provide at least some structure. It gives team members a sense of purpose and keeps unnecessary spending and time-wasting to a minimum.
The same goes for budgets. The better you manage money, the better you’ll be as a manager. This could range from knowing and understanding your share of the budget to actively researching ways to bring more money into the business. The healthier the cash flow, the less stress you’ll place on the business (and, by default, your team). It also means you’re more likely to have spare funds to spend on things like Friday pizza, team-building activities, or training/coaching opportunities.
Make the best of what you have
You’ll never have all the time, money, or resources you want. And there will always be days when your team isn’t performing so well. This is where you need to be realistic and work with what you have. Keeping a firm grip on things like time and money is essential. The same goes for managing your team’s schedule and dishing out the work effectively. It’s also about being a leader and motivating your team to their peak performance through encouragement, goals, and a sense of purpose. If motivation is low, spend some time thinking about the root cause of the issue and consider team-building opportunities, coaching, and specialist tools to help remedy the situation.
When you’re a manager, you’re often being pulled from pillar to post, with barely a moment to stop and breathe. But reflection is a vital part of self-evaluation and growth. It can take many forms — ranging from a formal post-mortem meeting to simply keeping notes along the way. When you stop and think, you’ll typically be able to calm down and figure out an action or actions that address the situation most effectively.
The best managers are humble and self-reflective, so if you nurture these behaviors in yourself, you’ll have a good foundation to build the rest.