Congrats on your role as a manager! It’s a challenging job but can be extremely rewarding if well executed. My years as a manager certainly taught me more than I ever anticipated and I’m grateful for the opportunities I had as a result. Surprisingly, a lot of people in leadership roles at work don’t much how to effectively manage people because they were never formally trained. Sounds silly but it’s true. But don’t fret – you can learn how to be a better leader without having to go back to school. If you can practice the below 10 ways to be a better manager you’ll be light years ahead of most managers out there.
In my role as a senior manager, I had to experiment, evaluate myself, take on criticism, adapt, succeed, fail, and try again. I quickly learned there is no perfect way to manage people. Why? Because the people who work for you are not perfect. Sometimes they are very far from perfect and your patience and skills will be put to the test.
Leadership and management aren’t skills you can master in a day. It’s not that simple. Nothing beats practice and hands on experience. The below tips can help you be as prepared as possible to tackle the issues you’ll ultimately face I’m your career as a manager.
10 Ways To Be A Better Manager
1) Keep track of tardiness & absenteeism
Yay timecards…not. As a manager you gotta know the whereabouts of your team. It might be exiting in the beginning and make you feel important, but don’t be surprised if it becomes a bit of a drag over time. I didn’t mind it so much until I had to deal with constantly late employees.
It is important that everyone follows a clear, set schedule and arrives on time. Frequent tardiness must be addressed, documented, and taken seriously, especially if your department has strict deadlines. If your company has lax rules about start times, you’re lucky. Just make sure your employees don’t abuse flexible hours and that you keep track of overtime hours for eligible workers.
You may think people won’t cheat on their hours or claim overtime they didn’t work, but oh have I seen it happen many times. Make it clear to your team they need to get approval before changing their hours, leaving early or staying late, and scheduling vacations & appointments.
2) Relay Constructive Criticism & Motivate Your Employees
As a manager, it is your responsibility to track the progress & development of your team. Even the best employees have areas they can improve on, and weaker members will really need your guidance to get stronger. If you demonstrate to your team that their performance & contributions are important both to you & the firm, they are more likely to feel good about their contributions & respect your input.
I learned the hard way that some people are not in tune with their own flaws and have been thrown many a curveball. It can be hard to face the truth. Sometimes people react quite differently than you’d expect to criticism & suggestions too, so always be prepared for surprises.
Continually strive to keep your team motivated, happy, and performing well. Ask people one on one what motivates them and what they do and don’t like about their jobs. If you manage 5 people you will get 5 different answers. And you will need 5 different plans of action. Some examples of different incentives my employees like are free lunches, earning gift cards, bonus money, promotions, prizes, or extra time off. Everybody’s different so mix things up.
3) Don’t Overlook Documentation & Record Keeping
Even if you think you can remember everything in your head that your team has done, chances are very high you will start to lose track. I learned very quickly how hard it is to keep track when I had to write up performance appraisals for the first time.
Keep a detailed log for each member of your team on things like attendance, errors, special projects, achievements, performance problems, dates of meetings you’ve had, etc. Documentation is very useful when writing performance evaluations, and it’s critical to have docs on file if performance problems escalate & need to be addressed.
I’ve had to write up employees on numerous occasions, even fire a couple people, and you need evidence and notes for your records and HR. It’s not fun, but it’s a lot easier the more information you have.
4) Recognize That Confidentiality Isn’t Always Easy
The fourth of my management tips is to start paying a lot more attention to confidentiality. As a manager you will come across more and more issues that need to be kept confidential, and it may not always be stamped in red. When in doubt about something being confidential, err on the side of caution and get confirmation.
If you socialize with team members outside of work, remember that what is discussed during internal meetings shouldn’t be shared or discussed, especially in regards to staff performance issues. It can be hard to keep things under wraps sometimes, especially if you’re friends with subordinates or people in other departments. But it’s not worth getting yourself into trouble or making someone else look bad.
Gossip can get crazy at work if you’re not careful. Be very wary about trusting people with secrets and sensitive information. I’ve been burned before by someone leaking info I trusted them to keep quiet. It’s not worth it!
5) Remember Communication, Communication, Communication
It is important to have frequent communication with your team members. Make sure they know to keep you updated on any client or system issues. You’ll also want to check in with them regularly to see if they have any extra capacity for projects and helping others. I used to rely on people to tell me when they had extra time, but that rarely ever worked. Some people are not that strong at communicating, so make sure to check in at least once a month with quieter members and encourage them to give you regular feedback.
Communication with the other managers of your department and office is also critical. Provide them with frequent updates on the status of your group’s individuals, keep them up to speed on any client issues, and share ideas on ways to improve processes & operations. I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I am today if I hadn’t constantly collaborated and communicated with my fellow managers.
6) Get In The Habit Of Meeting, Tracking, & Planning
This category ties in with communication. Try not to rely on email communication 100% of the time. It’s not always easy. I myself get lazy at times and rely on email too much. So try and get in the habit of meeting regularly with your team face to face and also with your fellow managers to discuss performance, operations, & client issues.
Sitting down and letting people share their thoughts and concerns with you is beneficial, rewarding, and is a great way to brainstorm. Another large part of being a successful manager is being able to multi task and track multiple issues at once. I do a lot of project management at work, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to track and plan things out.
You gotta stay organized and plan ahead for projects, upgrades, backup coverage, and transitions.
7) Set Expectations, Guidelines, & Procedures
It is important that all teams in your department share the same guidelines and procedures. When there are exceptions, make sure your employees tell you before making any changes. It is critical that every member of your team knows to run things by you first because there could be steps or issues they might overlook.
I’ve had employees alter things without my approval on several occasions and boy is that frustrating as a manager. It’s really difficult to stop doing something for a client after an employee has made a change, which is why you have to let your team know early on to come and talk to you first. Employees don’t always think about down stream affects that can occur from making changes.
Another task you will need to remind your team about is to regularly update procedures when approved changes have been made. If procedures are widely standardized however, this responsibility may lie with you or with a more senior manager. Don’t forget to make sure disaster recovery procedures are kept up to date as well.
8) Monitor Your SLA’s and Profitability
Sticking to SLA’s (service level agreements) is really important as a manager. Make sure your team knows not to agree to or perform client requests outside of daily deliverables without proper authorization. This is something I’ve battled with for many years. Clients are always asking for more, and many of my employees just say “ok, sure” without thinking.
It is good practice for you to review any ad-hoc requests for clients before they are performed. It’s also important to start thinking about time management and how the amount of work you do for each of your clients directly impacts profitability. There are many ways we can utilize technology to improve efficiencies. You may be surprised with the number of great ideas your Millennial employees can brainstorm.
9) Stress Management Is More Important Now Than Ever
Oh man, stress. Boy do I know what it’s like to be stressed out as a manager. We have to take the heat when our employees make mistakes or when things go wrong and clients are mouthing off. It is also very stressful when you have to deal with turnover, corporate changes, office politics, and troublesome employees. I’ve had to deal with all of these things and more, and it can really take a toll on your career and personal life if you let things spiral out of control.
As a manager you may notice a change in the type of work related stress you encounter. I sure did! Everyone handles stress differently and with more responsibility comes greater pressures and expectations. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed or feeling anxious take the time to sit down with your own managers or HR. Chances are they’ve already experienced the same or similar issues and can help you come up with ways to better manage your work load and new responsibilities.
I’m no longer ashamed or too proud to admit when I’m stressed and have too much on my plate. I’ll adjust deadlines, get help, and just focus on priority items. If you have been having a lot of back, neck, or shoulder pain, please read my post How To Cure Back Pain And Other Ailments. The book Healing Back Pain changed my life and I wouldn’t be pain free today without it.
10) Build Authority, Trust, And Delegate Already!
Building trust with the individuals in your team takes time and patience. Sometimes, telling someone to do something once isn’t enough for the job to get done. Oh man this drives me crazy because I always have at least one person who can’t follow directions.
Encourage your team to give you updates on their work, but know that you may have to chase after them and check their work at times. There will always be cases where something was done incorrectly or forgotten even if they said they did it. As you get comfortable with people’s strengths & weaknesses you will develop trust in their work & can show them ways to continually improve.
A common mistake newer managers tend to make is doing their team’s work for them because it’s “easier & faster to do it correctly myself than to tell them how to do it.” Even if that works in the short term, this leads to a downward spiral – it takes time away from your managerial duties, your team members won’t learn necessary skills, and it gives them the impression that you will pick up their slack.
Take the time to coach your employees be very specific in your instructions. If they make a mistake, let them know immediately, document it, and also include a tip on how they can avoid making the same error later. It is also good practice to keep your employees active and delegate projects to help them learn new things.
Untemplaters, does your manager follow any of my manager tips? If you’re a manager, what’s the hardest part about your job? Were you formally trained on managerial skills? Do you have other manager tips to share?
Addy Brown says
The one thing you will probably have less of at work than money is time. The better you get at managing time, yours and others, the more effective you will be as a manager.
Folks wanting to dig further into details (such as how to actually prepare and give annual reviews), run over to the Manager Tools podcast and drink deeply from the fountain of wisdom.
I’m a long-time listener, and the hosts really know their stuff and how to pass it along.
Mike Collins says
There are great tips that any manager would be wise to listen to. One that jumped out at me is confidentiality not always being easy. As a manager you’re privy to information that not everyone has and sometimes it can put you in a tough spot.
For example, let’s say you have an employee with a performance problem. You may be having multiple discussions trying to get him back on track and maybe he’s going through some personal issues. Maybe you’ve even given him a written warning and you’re working on managing him out.
If the rest of the team sees him continuing to have problems, they might think you aren’t addressing the situation and hold it against you for letting him get away with it. But it isn’t appropriate for you to share his situation with everyone else, so unfortunately you may be seen as enabling the situation (until you can finally take definitive action).