5 ways to get the best out of your people
Managers wear many hats. You're a mediator, a teacher, a carer and a confidant. You need to steer your team, but at the same time, be able to delegate for the sake of efficiency. All this to say, there's no one secret to management success. But there are some very practical ways to get the best out of your people as their manager.
As a manager, you play a key role in determining how engaged and productive your people are. A study of TBS workers recorded their productivity stats under different leaders. Employees first recorded their performance under average managers. Then they would switch to one in the 90th percentile. That leadership change increased productivity by as much as 50%.
Just remember that what makes you a great manager in one workplace culture can make you a nightmare in another. And there's no shortage of ways that problematic managers can be a pain for their team. But for some more positive advice, here are five tips on how to be a better manager.
1. Deliver honest feedback regularly
Annual reviews alone are hectic and ineffective. The only nice thing we can say about them is that they contain all that chaos to a specific time of year. But feedback needs to be timely to be effective. It's no good critiquing someone more a mistake from eight months ago. It won't be fresh in anyone's mind.
And let's not forget, the feedback you give employees isn't the only kind that matters. You also need to be open to the feedback your people have for you. If not, then your management decisions risk coming off as tone-deaf.
Checking in regularly with employees with smaller, focused question sets is the way to go. You can personalise them to your people, and they take mere minutes. So, when you do run a proper performance review, you'll have full documentation on both sides.
2. Recognition and visibility go a long way
Recognition is an often-underappreciated step in how to be a better manager. Too many bosses think that pay is thanks enough. But taking the time to thank someone or highlight their achievement makes their work more tolerable. Even, perhaps, enjoyable.
Make no mistake. When employees aren't getting enough recognition, they notice its absence. A good example is this 2019 study from Reward Gateway, which surveyed 1,500 employees in the UK, US and Australia.
The study found that 63% of employees agreed their manager could be doing more to thank them in a timely and specific way. 75% agreed that morale and motivation would improve if managers said thank you more. Only a fifth of employees liked only getting recognition at a single event. And almost half of employees felt their manager unfairly rewarded certain people over others.
3. Empowering your people enables personal responsibility
It's important to know how to motivate your people in those key moments. But you can't be there to hold their hand all the time. When it comes to how to be a better manager, leading staff by the nose only gets you so far.
When you're not around, your people need to be able to motivate themselves. And whether they'll do this hinges on employee engagement. This is where OKRs can be especially useful. They show staff the impact of their work by connecting it to business objectives.
So, encourage your people to take ownership of their roles and pride in their work. Regular feedback is an essential part of this, for sure. But you can take things a step further by enabling job-crafting in your team. By giving your people a say in the parts of their work they want to focus on, you push them to take responsibility for those things.
4. Clear goal-setting builds focus and allows autonomy
We've touched on OKRs, but they're not your only option. OKRs channel individual efforts into company-wide pushes. But that's not always the biggest priority or best approach. Sometimes, the best thing is to take a complex project and break it down into its basic elements. That's where SMART Goals come in, which are the other major goal-tracking option we offer.
But either way, goal-setting helps you to set expectations for the work your people are doing. It's a tool for focusing, but it's also the thing that will enable you as a manager to take your hands off the wheel.
Once you've set a goal (be it from higher-ups or something of your own creation), employees can have the autonomy to approach it in their own way. Firstly, this frees up time for your other responsibilities. If you're worth your salt as a boss, chances are that you're keeping a lot of other plates spinning too.
But secondly, it motivates that wonderful sense of personal responsibility we talked about. Assuming it's feasible in your industry, employees generally appreciate personal autonomy. Giving it to them is a sign of trust, which they usually don't want to lose. But speaking of trust...
5. Building trust is the key to collaboration
Trust goes both ways. And earning it from your people can be the most difficult step in how to be a better manager. And there really aren't any shortcuts. But there are a few things you can bear in mind.
If you want to get trust from your staff, you've got to give it in return. If your employees are already working with autonomy and delivering good results, you're sorted. But if you're moving away from direct oversight for the first time, it can be a bit nerve-wracking. At the end of the day, though, you've got to curb those micromanaging tendencies.
Remember, communication is key. Keep them in the loop and be transparent about your decision-making. But don't just talk to your people about work issues. It's important to treat staff like people. A bit of small-talk and genuine interest is as important as recognising their work achievements.
You also need to be impartial. Word travels fast, and every employee will soon know if you're the type to play favourites. Managers should be above office politics. Otherwise, you'll be stirring the pot at best, or enabling workplace bullying at worst.
Learn how a weekly employee check-in is the foundation of moving to more transparent feedback practices. Download our latest guide: Embracing continuous performance management