How to Become a Better Manager: 6 Tips to Help You Lead
Earning a promotion is always an exciting accomplishment, but after realizing the reality of the role and the added responsibilities, you might be feeling a little stressed. Becoming a manager is a big step in your professional career. But if it’s your first time supervising employees, there are a few things you want to know before taking the management stage.
There couldn’t be a better time to hone your management skills, especially with great leaders in short supply. If you are feeling a little self-conscious about your management skills and experience, there are things you can do to gain more confidence and become the leader you know you can be.
We enlisted business management experts to get their advice on how to become a better manager. Here’s what they have to say.
6 tips to help you become a better manager
1. Focus on results & relationships
“Most managers drive their people to produce results or they spend time trying to be liked,” says David Dye, author, speaker and leadership and employee engagement specialist at Trail Blaze, Inc. He says this shouldn’t be an either/or situation. Effective managers should go into every meeting or conversation not only focused on achieving results, but also on building healthy relationships.
Even though results and relationships are equally important, it’s clear that building healthy relationships can go a long way, which often starts with looking inwards as a manager.
“Recognize your dark side,” says Stephanie Taylor-Dillard, CEO of Pathways LLC. Are you stubborn or narcissistic? Do you have a hair-trigger temper? It’s important to be self-aware and self-disciplined. “No one likes a self-indulgent leader,” Taylor-Dillard adds.
2. Empower your employees to be problem solvers
You’ll likely have to face the following dilemma at some point in your management career: Someone you are supervising walks into your office with a problem, they tell you about it and leave without a problem on their shoulders. Now the problem is on you.
As a manager, you should encourage your team to come up with solutions instead of simply identifying problems for you to solve, according to Marc Prosser, co-founder of Fit Small Business Fit Small Business. This means giving them the freedom, responsibility and tools to fix those problems.
“Bad managers end up doing the work of their employees, where good managers teach their employees to be problem solvers,” Prosser says. Part of becoming a better manager is increasing efficiency, rather than just adding more work to your plate.
3. Concentrate on communication
In order to increase results, build relationships and teach employees to be better problem solvers, managers must establish effective communication habits within their team. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the one doing all of the talking.
“The best managers are really good listeners. But listening is too often waiting to talk,” says Michael Johnson, director of content management at Proformative. “A good manager is trying hard to really understand what their co-worker is saying before responding.”
Communication doesn’t have to be all business or work-based, either. Instead, grab a coffee or try to spend 10 minutes with one team member on a daily basis, suggests Matt Rissell, CEO and co-founder of TSheets. In his experience, this builds stronger and trust-based relationships. Showing a genuine interest in their lives outside of the office can go a long way in building trust and open communication.
4. Figure out what motivates your team
At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility as a manager to make sure the job is getting done. But the truth is that you can only control so much. At a certain point, your fate comes at the hand of your employees. So what can you do to improve their performance?
You need to provide incentives, according to Khalan Bridges, co-founder and CEO of The unFactory. “They’ll have more commitment to the tasks at hand and feel a greater attachment to the company’s successes,” he says.
Everyone is driven by different things. Taking the time to learn those unique quirks and showing you’re willing to give and take can help your team buy in to the greater goals of the group.
“Perhaps someone wants to leave a little early to pick their kids up from school. Let them and they'll love you for it,” says Travis Bennett, managing director at Studio Digita. Make it clear that you value your employees’ well being, and they will be motivated to do their best work.
5. Learn to delegate duties
When some individuals first become managers, they react by trying to do everything themselves and taking on more work. To combat this, you need to utilize your team, says Dr. Patricia Thompson, management consultant and founding president of Silver Lining Psychology.
“Managers should be intentional about delegating to others, making sure to communicate expectations,” Thompson explains. She suggests letting others figure out the process and making sure to build in time to coach them in areas of improvement.
You may think it’s a hassle taking the time to teach someone something you can do in your sleep, but your time is probably better spent on more important tasks. Even if it takes you an hour to teach someone something that takes you five minutes each day, it’s worth it in the long run. Don’t be afraid to flex your management muscles and start assigning duties.
6. Don’t be shy about giving feedback
It is hard for employees to improve without hearing feedback from supervisors. As a manager, you should make sure to give specific feedback for a job well done, while also coaching those who need to improve in a given area, according to Thompson.
“Instead of seeing corrective feedback as negative, it can be helpful to view it as coaching—like a basketball coach would help someone to develop better form on a jump shot,” Thompson explains.
When constructive criticism is given with care, your employees can develop their skills and your entire team becomes more effective. One uncomfortable conversation could help permanently correct an issue so you never have to encounter it again.
Get out and manage!
There are a lot of ways to become a better manager. Countless books have been published on the subject and there are thousands of resources online. But there’s no better teacher than experience. Take your position seriously and use your power for good.
“Don’t treat your employees like employees. Treat them as leaders of their position or department”, says Khalan Bridges, co-founder and CEO of The unFactory. In this way, your management can positively influence everyone you lead.
If you feel like you have the chops to advance your management career, check out our article: 5 Business Management Facts That Will Make You a Believer.