HR Tool Managing People

Download: A manager’s guide to becoming a better manager

See the mistakes bad managers make. Discover how great managers do it. And learn three clear actions you can work towards today to be a better boss by powering up your own management skills.

How this guide helps you to become a better manager

For too long managers have taken second fiddle to the trendier role of leaders. While we’ve been focussed on the Bezos-type leaders of the world, great people managers have been left out of the spotlight. The allure of focussing on leaders, particularly champions of business is understandable but ill-advised and quite simply unfair. And it must stop now.

Research shows time and time again the huge importance of managers in the workplace, particularly to individual employees. Managers can have a massive impact both positive and not so. Gallup says that 70% of employee engagement is impacted by managers and how they lead their teams.

This one finding alone is huge. With employee engagement linked to a host of business success factors such as profitability, employee turnover, innovation and customer satisfaction. Never mind the countless number of other studies that show the importance of managers.

So as you read on, ask yourself one simple question: Am I the best manager I can be?

Five mistakes to avoid to be a better boss

Amid gruelling schedules, extra duties and pressures, it can be easy for managers to commit mistakes that have a negative influence on their people. The wrong sort of approach or attitude can kill engagement, depress performance, cause wellbeing issues, and lead to employees walking out the door for good.

If you spot yourself doing any of these, don’t panic. Simply jump to the section: 3 ways to power up your management skills. You'll find practical tips on how you can start to improve your own management style today.

  1. Micro management
  2. Spoon-feeding solutions
  3. Failing to define goals
  4. Managing through power or ego
  5. Not listening to your people
How to be a better boss

1. Micromanagement

Remember how annoyed you used to get when your manager always used to peek over your shoulders at work? Now, remember all the “nice” things that you uttered in your mouth as they did?

79% of employees have been micromanaged at some point in their career. Of those, a staggering 94% said it had negative impacts on their attitudes, behaviour and performance at work.

The point here is that no employee likes to be micromanaged and a good manager must bear this in mind.  Employees want a certain degree of freedom. Autonomy is a key element of motivational theory and employees want managers to feel confident in their skills and abilities to perform a given task.

Intrusive observations, manipulations and exhaustive communication send a clear message to employees that managers do not back their capabilities, which can make them feel defeated, paranoid, and unappreciated. No employee can develop their skills when managers do not show complete faith in their teams and people.

2. Bad managers spoon-feed solutions

Related to that idea of employee autonomy leading to better development, good managers don’t serve everything to their employees on plates. Instead, great managers help develop and fine-tune employee skills in a way that they can resolve the trickiest of situations on their own.

Many managers have a tendency of over-providing solutions for their teams. They are quick when it comes to offering solutions that their employees can find themselves with more effort than usual.

This habit of spoon-feeding solutions prevents employees from doing all the hard work of seeking the best solution themselves. By always helping employees with the solutions, managers aren't allowing their team members to put their thinking caps on and take ownership of the problem at hand.

3. Failing to define goals

Poor planning and inability to define goals is a killer of great work. Some managers fail to define goals for their employees who struggle with their work throughout the day. Those employees have no idea why they’re doing work, or what their work means for themselves and the organisation they’re working for.

People can’t be productive when they do not have a direction or vision for work. Everyone needs visibility and a purpose. Employees without clearly defined targets also fail to prioritise work, which means they complete projects and tasks in the wrong order.

4. Managing through power or ego

Hubris is the cause of much conflict and grief. When managers put themselves on a pedestal as the source for all the answers and best ideas, and use it to wield power or control over their people, it destroys morale and turns people against you.

We all have some level of selfishness residing within us, but too much focus on our own pride and ego in a team atmosphere influences our decisions, usually to a bad ending.

"If we're focused inwardly on our pride and own brilliance... we become preoccupied with what we want and the things we think we need to protect us or to advance our personal agendas," writes Walt Rakowich, author of Transfluence: How to Lead With Transformative Influence in Today's Climates of Change.

5. Not listening to your people

Listening has become a lost art. The lack of active and respectful listening, and two-way communication - sending without receiving - is a clear shortcoming found in many managers.

Perhaps it's because they're running in high gear trying to meet deadlines and hit their marks, and simply don't take the time to slow down and truly listen to what's going on around them.

This can be risky, because it could mean missing out on vital cues that impact performance, and even their own effectiveness and career growth. It also erodes or squashes trust, one of the most valuable commodities any manager can possess. After all, would you really put your faith in someone who doesn’t have time to listen to you experiences, ideas and opinions?

Seven things that great managers do

So you’ve seen what to avoid. Now, we’ll show you the things that great managers do to get the very best from their team.

  1. Align team goals with company purpose
  2. Set clear goals and expectations
  3. Demonstrate empathy
  4. Delegate effectively
  5. Prioritise two-way communication
  6. Bring out the best in their people
  7. Leverage the benefits of technology
how to be a better manager

1. Great managers align team goals with company purpose

Organisations need to be dynamic to adjust and adapt. Goal-setting and frequent management of these is key here. Good managers don’t just tell their employees to do tasks; they also tell them why they need to do what they are assigned to do.

Employees who connect their work with the mission of their organisation feel their job is more important and their work more significant. However, research shows that most employees are still unsure about how their work contributes to the “big picture”.

Good managers help staff understand the value of their work and how it’s vital to achieve organisational goals. Remember, visibility and purpose are vital elements of motivation, so make sure your people have both.

2. Great managers set clear goals and expectations

Clarity is the pathway to solid results, but a recent survey shows that 42% of employees have cited having unclear goals as their biggest source of workplace stress.

Good managers are direct and specific about their expectations from employees, leaving no room for ambiguity. No matter the work good managers have a clear idea of what they expect from every employee, based on their ability and capacity, and communicate that clearly.

Many good managers use either OKRs or SMART goals to set expectations. They also validate expectations with specific reasons as to how these will positively affect both the employee and organisation.

When employees understand the reasoning behind the task, they’ll be more compliant, eager to take the required steps to meet expectations and generally more productive.

3. The best managers show empathy

Studies show that empathy is one of the main drivers of overall performance amongst managers.

In fact, a study by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCI) shows that managers that display empathetic behaviour toward their team are viewed as good performers by their bosses and better managers by their teams.

Empathetic managers understand how team members are feeling and this quality enables them to communicate clearly and solve problems effectively and quickly. As a result, their employees trust them more and managers can build rapport, which fuels better team success.

Being empathic towards employees empowers good managers to form personal bonds with employees and foster long-term relationships with them.

4. Great managers delegate and they do it well

They demonstrate faith in their employees’ abilities and allow them to learn new skills and develop strengths that they might not otherwise know they have.

Good managers don’t delegate tasks randomly though; they identify potential within their teams and assign work to the right people using the right methods and tools at the right time.

They delegate tasks and split responsibilities according to the potential and talent within teams. This helps to significantly improve overall organisational efficiency as well as time management.

Assigning important tasks also helps team members develop confidence in their abilities, which motivates them further to put in their best efforts.

5. Great managers prioritise two-way communication

Effective communication is vital to maintain amicable relationships in the workplace and also delivering great work successfully. That’s more true than ever with the explosion of remote working meaning communication can sometimes be asynchronous.

Good managers are the first ones to recognise this, and therefore, invest their time and energy in ensuring a smooth flow of communication throughout the working week.

From navigating team meetings with poise to providing people with the right direction in the project – a great manager ensures that things never slip through the cracks. And great managers recognise that good communication is a two-way street.

It’s no good simply talking at your employees all the time. You must engage with them. Canvas your people for their feedback, listen to it and most importantly act upon it.

6. Great managers bring out the best in their people

Only 45% of employees are satisfied with the amount of recognition they receive. Poor managers are biased. But good managers identify and understand the differences that every individual brings. And can evaluate performance fairly, without prejudice.

The best managers always recognise good performance and give credit where it’s due. Even when they identify weaknesses or faults, they criticise constructively so employees understand how to correct their mistakes. 

Good managers make sure they have an effective review process in place to evaluate performance fairly. Thanking your employees for their contributions and rewarding them for a job well done goes a long way in improving morale and engagement. Good managers respect their employees and show them that they are valuable assets to the organisation.

7. Great managers leverage the benefits of technology

Smart managers know that technology has a solution for everything. Right from efficient task management and simplified collaboration to employee feedback and effective performance review tools. This is the reason they never hesitate to invest in the right tools for the job.

In fact, good managers are the first ones to look for tech solutions to make life easy for their teams and make them more productive. Bad managers often see tech as something of an enemy, designed to replace them. Great managers understand that the right tech makes them better.

Three ways to power up your management skills today

  1. Introduce a way to collect and give frequent feedback
  2. Build rapport and trust by listening more and taking action
  3. Set and manage team goals aligned to company purpose
becoming a better manager

1. Collect and give feedback frequently

Canvassing the thoughts and opinions of your people is something you might likely only do a few times a year currently. At least in an official capacity. But research shows that frequent rounds of feedback with your people is one of the most impactful weapons in a manager’s arsenal. Ensuring your people have a channel for sharing or requesting feedback, both at predefined times and ad-hoc when they simply need to share something, is essential.

Always-on employee feedback empowers employees and managers - and has an immediate impact on employee engagement, motivation and ultimately productivity.

Here's 3 ways things to help you collect and give feedback

  • Research shows the optimal time for delivering feedback is within 72 hours of an event happening. Failing that, you have about 10 days post event to deliver really effective feedback. After this it becomes harder for people to remember what happened, why they did things a certain way etc.
  • Anonymity reduces the effectiveness of feedback. With anonymity, there is no way to know who said what, why they said it and what can be done to address their points. Keeping things anonymous might feel easier, but it doesn’t empower managers to be great.
  • Studies show that if feedback is recorded when given it is likely to have a longer and more significant impact on an employee’s performance, particularly when that employee can access the feedback at a later date.

💡 Weekly10 is built on the check-in. A 10-minute update that your people send to their manager each week, opening up two-way feedback. 

2. Build rapport and trust with action

You can collect as much feedback as you want but without paying attention to what your people are saying, and acting, you will never be more than a distinctly average manager. What’s more, your team will stop sharing feedback with you if they fail to see tangible benefits from doing so.

It’s vital that when your people share feedback, you take note and where required, act. That can be a as simple as acknowledging a piece of feedback has been received, booking in a 1:1 meeting to discuss the topic in more detail or getting senior leadership involved.

3 things to help you build rapport and trust with action

  • Introduce a feedback process that helps you to know when it lands and take action quickly. An email inbox that is only checked sporadically or post-it notes on your desk are unlikely to be effective.
  • Link actions and outcomes to the feedback that was received. If you are fixing an issue, make it clear to the team that this is because someone raised it. If you are sharing a success story with senior leadership, tell the person who told you about it.
  • Encourage your people to recognise the hard work of others and share some kudos publicly. It doesn’t just have to be the manager’s job to celebrate great work on their team. And adding a social aspect to this has been shown to drive grater engagement.

💡 Weekly10 makes performance conversations and 1:1s more meaningful because they’re focused on reflection and progress rather than day-to-day tasks.

3. Set and manage goals for your team

A lack of purpose or unattainable goals can kill the motivation, engagement and productivity of your people. However, using goal-setting processes like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) or SMART goals will keep your people in the know. They see how their work is impacting the organisation and those around them. Goals also help shine a light on exactly what is expected. As well as the parameters for success and the priority of all tasks.

3 things to help you set and manage goals for your team

  • Research SMART goals and OKRs. They are uniquely different and what works for one company might not work for yours.
  • Speak to your manager and leaders. Find out what your organisational goals are. You'll be able to chunk them up so everyone can be accountable for achieving them.
  • Speak to your team. Find out how they feel about their work and the projects they spend their time on. Discuss whether they fully appreciate why they're doing the task and how big of an impact it has.

💡 Weekly10 provides the framework to set, align and track goals and OKRs.

Get your free copy today and become a better manager now.