Managing people and accentuating their strengths can be one of the most challenging tasks in business, even with years of experience.
People are unpredictable and thrive in different work environments. Some prefer close guidance, others prefer control. Some require a mentorship, others need resources to teach themselves. Even the type of feedback given to each employee plays a role in their success with the company.
Because of the unpredictability that comes with managing people, good managers are constantly sharpening their hard and soft skills, learning new techniques, and staying in-tune with their teams. So, regardless of where you are in your management career, there is always room for improvement.
If you’re a manager, you’ve likely heard the perilous stat that 60 percent of employees have or would consider leaving their jobs because of poor management. The math is difficult, but on average, high turnover rates could cost companies at least $15,000 per employee. The development of good managers could save companies from hemorrhaging money and lead to higher-performing, happier employees.
We asked 12 business experts with all levels of experience to provide tips on how to be a good manager and what companies can do to foster better management. Here’s what they said.
Good managers are great listeners
1. Reuben Yonatan, Founder & CEO of GetVoip, says “The most important lesson I've learned is to actively listen to the people who work for me. That means having regular one-on-one meetings with them where they have dedicated time to talk about anything that's happening in their life or their work. I'm there to listen and do my best to understand their perspective, and then to work with them to figure out how to remove any roadblocks they face. It was really difficult to learn this lesson at first because we managers like to control meetings. But the impact of that dedicated time for active listening has been tremendous.”
Good managers are effective communicators
2.Dr. Mike Golpa, Director of G4 by Golpa, says “Miscommunication causes more issues – issues between staff, issues between patients and staff, issues between patient and practitioner, issues between the practice and its vendors – that eat up valuable time, energy, and other resources. Clear, concise, and usually multiple means of communication can eliminate a lot of headaches and unfortunate events. Whether it's a whiteboard and sticky notes, or emails, texts, and phone calls, having a system in place to ensure that everyone who needs to get the message does. It’s vital to a happy, healthy, thriving business. We save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year simply by effectively communicating with each other and our patients.”
Good managers encourage innovation
3.Haley Anhut, Marketing Manager at Clean Origin, says “As with many other startups, everyone on our team has to wear many different hats. I think the key to becoming a good manager with a smaller team is figuring out skillsets that your co-workers might not have known they possessed. If your social media guru also has a knack for image editing, then you can tackle two big projects at once. Figuring out, encouraging, and nurturing hidden talents is instrumental for our team.”
Good managers seek honest feedback
4.Jessica Miller-Merrell, Founder & CEO of Workology, says “For myself, the best manager development I received was by surrounding myself with great managers, seeking feedback from them, and doing the things that you wished your managers did now and from managers past. Above all, is to have empathy. The best leaders and managers have empathy and focus on building relationships, building trust, and are not afraid to have tough yet candid conversations with their employees. These are things that no podcast or leadership book can teach you. You have to practice them and seek feedback.”
Good managers have trust in their teams
5.Olga Mykhoparkina, Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty, says “Accept that there are different ways to get a job done. Everyone has their own style and method to do their job. There are countless ways to write an article, prepare a marketing campaign, etc. Don’t micromanage. Instead, give employees a goal to achieve and let them worry about how they’re going to do it.”
Good managers know how to delegate
6. Nina Krol, Community Manager at Zety, says “If you’re a first-time manager, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything by yourself. This can lead to very poor time management for you and your team, leading to nothing getting done at all, or focusing on low impact tasks. It is, therefore, important to learn to delegate intelligently, and as soon as possible. Delegating responsibilities can be quite challenging as it involves many aspects such as individual strengths, explanation, time allocation, reporting, etc. Balancing all these components is tricky but gets easier with time and experience.”
Good managers deliver on expectations
7. Justin Barlow, Marketing Director at Nigel Wright Group, says “Ultimately, a good manager is judged and valued upon how effective they are in delivering on their responsibilities. This is why they need the support of everyone around them and they need clear priorities on what needs to be delivered. In today's highly-competitive market, it's important to stand out. That means managers should consider doing fewer tasks and achieving them brilliantly, rather than doing many different things averagely.”
Good managers are able to get buy-in
8. Jenny Wells, HR Manager at High Speed Training, says “A tip that I have found incredibly useful for gaining backing for top-level ideas is to approach people individually. Say you have to present your idea to the board; I would identify key individuals before the presentation and arrange to talk through some of the ideas with them beforehand. This way, you can preempt concerns and address any issues that they may have. I have found this personable approach goes a long way to gaining trust and support when seeking buy-in for an idea that requires sign off.”
Good managers are constantly learning
9. Andrew Sumitani, Senior Director of Marketing at TINYpulse, says “If I had to judge a manager with zero working history I would look at one thing. Their bookshelf. No manager is completely self-taught but I sincerely believe the best managers teach themselves. That starts with reading. A lot.”
John Thomas Lang, a Content Marketing Manager at G2, recommends that aspiring managers read Adam Grant’s Give and Take if they're looking to learn more about people interaction.
"Give and Take paves a pathway to cultivating better relationships — personal and professional," he said. "The book asserts that most people operate as givers, takers, and matchers and provides a playbook to leaders across the experience spectrum.”
Final tips on becoming a good manager
10. Karen Leonard, Ph.D., Professor of Management at University of Arkansas Little Rock, says “The first thing is to establish trust. Trust is needed so that people trust that the communication is true, that you have their best interests at heart, and that you are willing to listen. Trust is the underpinning of management and leadership. Without it, you fail.”
11. Shaan Patel, Founder & CEO of Prep Expert, says “One of the best habits every good manager and leader should practice is leading from in front. What I mean is, every manager worth their value needs to be ready to get into the mix with work and help out when necessary. When employees see that you're with them as much as in charge of them, it inspires loyalty.”
12. Karen Dawson, VP of Brand Marketing at Lionbridge, says “Managing looked simple from the outside. But being a good manager is not about getting people to do what the company needs. It's about giving your team the tools, the time, and the trust they need to excel. Every person is different. It's your job to understand what every member of your team requires to excel. Honest feedback, effusive encouragement, ideas on how to pitch – and pivot – are all elements in my good manager toolkit.”
Manage with more confidence
Good managers will inspire their teams, strengthen their own skill-sets, and embody the company culture. Mastering those three focuses can be challenging, so don’t hesitate to ask for advice from fellow managers, directors, and executives. Learn with your team, grow with your team, and have a lasting impact on your company.
Take this article anywhere you go. Download our TLDR infographic summarizing each point from our 12 business experts.
Devin is a former Content Marketing Specialist at G2, who wrote about data, analytics, and digital marketing. Prior to G2, he helped scale early-stage startups out of Chicago's booming tech scene. Outside of work, he enjoys watching his beloved Cubs, playing baseball, and gaming. (he/him/his)