How to Become a Better Manager: Experts Share 5 Simple Tips
By Carrie Mesrobian on 02/21/2022
Becoming a manager is a big step in your professional career. While it’s certainly exciting to advance, there’s also much to learn about leading a team—and that’s true whether you’re just starting out in a management role or have years of experience. People are complex, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming an excellent leader.
That said, there are some foundational elements of being a good manager that are fairly universal—and those elements are the things you can seize on today. To help with that, we’ve asked experienced professionals to share some of their top advice for effective management. Whether they are big undertakings or small adjustments to your approach, these tips can help you become a more well-rounded and effective manager.
5 Simple tips for becoming a better manager
1. Build genuine relationships
Effective managers go into every meeting or conversation with the intention to build healthy, collaborative working relationships. Making time to understand and get to know your team members is just as important as sharing technical knowledge or running through what’s hot on an employee’s to-do list.
“Good managers show empathy,” says Adam Crossling, marketing manager at Zenzero. “Being emotionally detached and inattentive to your subordinates’ sentiments is one of the worst characteristics a boss can have.”
Putting energy into your relationships with your employees creates trust and promotes open communication as well. It’s important that your team sees your authentic self.
“Being genuine increases your chances of attracting people who value you for who are you and what you bring to the table, resulting in more cohesive teams,” says Steve Pogson, founder and e-commerce strategy lead at First Pier. “Authentic leaders attract and keep personnel who are compatible with their management style.”
The trust built on authenticity and empathy can go a long way when the time comes to have tough conversations with your direct reports. They may not love the message, but they will hopefully respect and understand where the messenger is coming from.
2. Communicate clearly and consistently
Successful managers establish good communication habits. But communication doesn’t mean just one person doing all the talking.
“Make active listening a habit,” advises William Westerlund, co-founder of Almvest. “By listening and responding to your team members, you may improve your relationship and make them more content with their work.
Communication can be a challenge, especially if you are managing a team of people working remotely or in different locations. Whatever it takes to make yourself available when your employees want to talk is crucial: email, phone, chat. Good managers use whatever tools and tech they can to keep in contact: Happy hours, one-on-one weekly meetings, regular phone calls, chats and emails are all ways to keep connected.
“Good managers focus on an open line of communication,” says Angela Blakenship, CEO and hiring executive at Best Neighborhood. “They ensure their doors are always open for their employees.”
3. Focus on your vision
A good manager isn’t just friendly and chatty with their employees. There’s a job to do, and that must be top of mind for anyone leading a team through any project or goal.
“Good managers focus not on the present, but on the future,” says Gennady Litvin, attorney at Moshes Law. “They are mostly interested not in the process but on the result of the work.”
Effective leadership requires steady focus on the direction you want to go. The best managers make this direction clear to their team.
“A good manager conducts themselves daily with a big picture in mind,” says Tina Hawk, senior vice president of human resources at GoodHire. “For that reason, they’re not out there reacting to every movement and micromanaging their staff.”
4. Practice delegation
When some individuals first become managers, they react by trying to do everything themselves and taking on more work. But this robs your employees of opportunities in which they can learn and grow.
“Many leaders are afraid to delegate tasks because they believe it would harm their image, portraying them as weak, uninterested or unskilled,” says Daniel Carter, SEO manager at LUCAS Products and Services.
But letting your team figure out things doesn’t imply any of that. You’re giving them space to problem-solve and connect with others on the team, while still offering coaching and assistance from the side. Even if it takes you an hour to teach someone something that takes you five minutes, it’s worth it in the long run. Don’t be afraid to flex your management muscles and start assigning duties. In the long run you’ll grow a stronger team and have more time to focus on higher-level challenges and initiatives.
5. Model the kind of work you seek
People respond to actions they see around them. Make sure you are actively modeling for your employees the type of work you value for the job you’re there to do.
Need people who can collaborate across teams? Collaborate with other team leaders and create opportunities for your employees to do the same. Need teams that can give you long hours when it’s time to launch a product? Roll up your own sleeves and hunker down beside them.
“Becoming a role model for your team can help them acquire the important abilities they need to succeed,” says Carl Panepinto, IT specialist at CloudTech24. “If you see a team member demonstrating a favorite trait, make sure to compliment them.”
Building strong leadership skills
Continuing to refine your management skills and improve as a manager is an important part of growing as a business leader. Being an effective manager is clearly important, but if you aim to continue growing in your career, you may need to round out the rest of your business leadership skills.
Completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program may be the perfect next step for achieving your professional goals. Could this be the right step for you? Our article “What I Wish I Knew Before Earning an MBA” highlights insight from those who’ve made the jump up into graduate education.