When employees are well managed, it becomes infectious. They feel valued and look forward to coming to work, and they tend to focus better and demonstrate higher levels of engagement, conscientiousness, and productivity.
Today, effective managers must possess a good mix of hard and soft skills. They need to know their way around spreadsheets, technology, and profit margins – but equally, they need to be well versed in soft skills like listening empathy, and conflict resolution.
Here, we’ll discuss how that invaluable combination of skills actually shows up in a good leader. Below are 8 proven ways to be an effective manager.
- Establish Expectations at the Outset
Many employees will feel lost without proper direction. Clarifying expectations and setting performance goals helps build your team’s foundation.
- When will the team meet, and what are the ground rules? Will there be regularly scheduled one-on-ones?
- What apps and technologies will you use to facilitate communication and teamwork? Will you provide online employee training and development?
- What is your attendance policy, and how is it different for flex-time or remote employees?
- Adapt to Remote Work
Who knows when, if ever, corporate America will return to normal? The vast space that’s been erected between employees and managers, in response to COVID-19, has made online training management more important than ever. Managers can demonstrate leadership by ensuring their team members have access to the tools and technology that will help them succeed during this transition. For example, they could leverage software technology, such as a learning management system (LMS), to create a communication and collaboration hub for their employees.
In addition to technology, human skills are needed. One byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a loneliness epidemic; effective managers who demonstrate listening, empathy, and compassion can earn the trust of their employees.
- Ongoing Communication
Effective management cannot happen in isolation. Practice proactive, ongoing communication, and plenty of it. Talk about the organization and its future direction. To the extent you can, be candid and transparent. Most of your communication will be related to project to-do lists, but don’t neglect the human side; make it a point to touch base with your people about their personal lives and any challenges they are experiencing.
Also, it must work both ways: if you expect your staff to share, it’s up to you to set the example. Reach out to your team and to individual members at least once every day to offer support and connection. Be real and they will be more inclined to engage on a deeper level. While keeping your team members accountable may be part of your job description, don’t excessively micromanage them; instead, challenge, inspire, and empower them.
- Facilitate Career and Skills Development Opportunities
Part of being an effective manager is identifying the needs of your staff, and then helping to bring them to fruition. One of the greatest needs of younger employees is skills training and career development. While millennials will respond favorably to training, this is a win-win: investing in your employees’ capabilities and know-how enables your department to fire on all cylinders and maximize productivity. Effective managers work with employees to develop a personalized learning plan that identifies their relevant skills or knowledge gaps – and then recommend specific training to close each gap.
Online training management has an important role. All companies that transition to remote onboarding and training must invest in software, such as an LMS, to help deliver and administer remote-based learning programs.
- Provide Meaningful, Daily Feedback
The need for ongoing feedback is another “ask” being driven by younger generational cohorts, who value continuous education. According to Gallup, a tiny fraction of employees, just 14 percent, strongly believe that their performance reviews motivate them to improve. What they really want is thoughtful, meaningful, and ideally, instant feedback – delivered on an ongoing basis. If you can’t deliver feedback in-person, use video conferencing, send an email, or post a comment via an LMS. To ensure fair feedback, solicit it from a variety of co-workers in the company, each with a different role and perspective.
- Be a Strong and Fair Leader
Being an effective manager means earning the respect of your team members. They are watching you for insight into how they should conduct themselves. If they don’t respect you, they won’t follow your lead. Whether you want to motivate your troops to adopt a new technology, contribute more to meetings, or express gratitude, get out front on each issue and set a good example.
In terms of managerial style, while openness and flexibility are good traits to model, remember that you are the leader, and a good leader needs to be clear and decisive.
- Celebrate Success
Effective managers realize the importance of acknowledging employee accomplishments. Reinforcing positive behavior enhances your co-workers’ psychological and emotional wellbeing and motivates them to perform at an even higher level.
What is cause for celebration? It could be an accomplishment like winning a new-business pitch, completing a complex project, or receiving a favorable customer review.
How should you recognize their contribution? You could devote a social media post each week to acknowledging your troops and/or surprise them with a gift certificate. Many managers send out a regular update that acknowledges good work and singles out specific employees for their accomplishments. It’s also important to allow your coworkers to not only receive but also share praise.
The only way your employees are going to learn, and grow is by doing. This means looking for specific projects and learning opportunities that will challenge and stretch them. In order to delegate projects to your team members, managers need to know each employee’s strengths, skills, and interests, so they can match them with the right project. Delegating your work will also free you up to focus on bigger picture issues.
Becoming an effective manager is something that happens over time and that you grow into. There is no one formula. Effective management requires a good mix of hard and soft skills, and the experience to know how and when to apply them in a given situation.
Gary Valkenburg; CEO and founder of World Manager, a platform that allows every CEO to train, track and communicate with employees, plus control company compliance nationally and globally.