7 Effective ways to become a better manager
Being a manager can be challenging. It requires knowing how to align people and resources to achieve goals, navigating complex decisions, and giving and eliciting feedback.
A recent Gallup survey found that 70 percent of a team’s engagement depends on the manager, highlighting why professionals should know how to guide and coordinate the actions of their colleagues to achieve results.
If you want to take your career up a notch and reach your managerial potential, here are seven tips to help you become more confident and effective in your role.
HOW TO BE A BETTER MANAGER
1. Refine Your Decision-Making
The ability to exercise sound judgment and make decisions is paramount to being a manager. While many professionals focus on the outcomes of their choices, it’s far more important to examine the process that was followed to determine a particular course of action.
In the online course Management Essentials, Harvard Business School Professor David Garvin notes that a good decision-making process is comprised of three elements:
- Quality: It involves an in-depth analysis of a problem and a comparison of different options
- Executability: It requires buy-in from your team to increase the odds that the decision will be well executed
- Timeliness: It’s implemented at the right time—neither too early nor too late
By using this criteria to gauge the way you handle challenges in the workplace, you can refine your approach to decision-making and develop a process for guiding your team to success.
2. Set Clear Goals and Deliverables
Goal-setting is a foundational practice of management. According to research by Google, one of the top behaviors of great managers is having a clear vision and strategy for their teams.
Establishing goals can not only provide a roadmap for work that needs to be done but boost motivation among staff. It’s necessary that objectives be well-defined and linked to a set of deliverables—small, actionable tasks—so that employees have a clear view of how their individual contributions are tied to larger organizational outcomes.
Once goals and deliverables have been set, it’s imperative to reiterate them at every chance to monitor progress and ensure projects are staying on track.
By connecting your team’s work to greater strategic pursuits, you can instill a shared sense of purpose among your employees, help them understand the “why” behind their efforts, and improve their performance.
3. Delegate Tasks to the Right Team Members
At its core, management is about getting things done with and through others. The immense work that goes into implementing projects and plans shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of a single person. As a manager, it’s your job to assign tasks to team members that enable them to capitalize on their strengths.
“One of the leadership challenges is to set direction, to set that aspiration, and to recognize that you don’t have the answers yourself,” says HBS Professor Amy Edmondson in an interview for Management Essentials. “You have to empower and delegate to others the actual work of figuring out how to get things done and getting them done, and then they can come back to you and ask for help.”
Handing off tasks to the right people is key. Ensure that those you delegate to have the necessary resources, skill set, and bandwidth to complete the assigned work, and be available to answer questions and provide support along the way.
While it can be tempting to handle every aspect of a project yourself, becoming a better manager involves resisting the urge to micromanage, developing a sense of trust in your team, and determining how to use each individual’s talents to deliver work on time and on budget.
4. Keep Your Employees Engaged
Employee engagement is crucial for the long-term success and profitability of any business. Effective managers are able to successfully engage and motivate their employees, ultimately boosting employee satisfaction and positively impacting productivity levels.
Highly engaged business units experience 21 percent greater profitability, but, according to a Gallup survey, only 15 percent of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs. This presents a major obstacle for managers who rely on highly-motivated employees to work toward organizational goals.
To foster employee engagement, it’s important that you let their voices be heard. Ask members of your team for their input regarding any important decisions that you’re making.
Involving your team members in the decision-making process can help them contribute more directly to organizational success and empower them to make positive contributions in the future.
5. Give and Receive Feedback
Many professionals shy away from being honest and critical in conversations out of fear that they’ll hurt someone’s feelings or damage a working relationship. But knowing how to effectively get and give feedback is crucial to your team’s development and your own.
Make it a habit to provide regular, informal feedback to your employees instead of waiting for formal review periods. When giving feedback, make sure your comments are specific and actionable. Simply telling direct reports they did a good job isn’t enough—you need to note the areas where they excelled, and where they fell short, to help them grow.
In addition to giving feedback to your team members, you should be open to hearing opinions about your own performance. Find a trusted colleague who will be direct with you about your strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to listen to their ideas with an open mind and ask them to note specific cases where you showed good and bad managerial behavior. With those insights, you can develop a personal action plan for improvement.
Through consistently providing and receiving feedback, you and your team members can help each other grow and forge a deeper working relationship.
6. Allow Time for Reflection
Learning from past experiences is an essential part of becoming a capable manager. While many valuable lessons can be learned in real time, it’s through conscious reflection that successes and failures can be more deeply examined.
“You have to take the time to reflect on what you just experienced,” says Colonel Paul Reese, who’s featured in Management Essentials and is the former director of the Center for Army Lessons Learned. “If you don’t, and you continue to run from one event to the next event, you don’t necessarily have an opportunity to think about what went right and what went wrong.”
Reflection can be implemented at both the personal and organizational levels. To consider your own performance, schedule a weekly time to look back on the goals you set out to achieve over the previous week and analyze your progress. This process of self-review can help you determine where you made mistakes and see how certain decisions led to business wins, helping you map a game plan for the immediate future.
When examining team efforts, set aside time for reflection shortly after a task or initiative and encourage candor and polite debate. Don’t limit the conversation to certain people—encourage all members of your team to participate and identify practices that should either be continued or adjusted for upcoming projects.
Through instituting regular periods of reflection and review, you and your team can learn how to take corrective action and operate more efficiently.
7. Invest in a Management Training Program
Whether you’ve been a manager for two days or twenty years, a management training course can provide you with the hands-on training you need to become the best manager you can be.
A management training course can equip you with an understanding of leadership frameworks and improve your communication and decision-making skills. It can also help you become a more data-driven manager who uses business analytics to guide your strategy.
Management training programs come in a variety of formats, including convenient online options for busy professionals. One example is Management Essentials, which is fully online and allows you to complete coursework on your own time over an eight-week period. Throughout the course, you’ll learn management concepts and techniques by examining real-world business challenges faced by seasoned executives.
ELEVATING YOUR MANAGERIAL APPROACH
Becoming a better manager is an exercise in personal and professional growth. Through learning how to shape organizational processes to your advantage, you can develop the tools needed to bring out the best in yourself and others, and help your company thrive.
This post was updated on October 2, 2020. It was originally published on February 21, 2019 in Harvard Business School online