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How to Be a Good Manager

Female Leading Group Meeting

Whether you lead a team in retail, a small business or a large firm, strong managerial skills are vital. Being a good manager can mean increased employee retention, less stress in the workplace, and even better customer experience.  Both first-time managers and those who have been at it for a long time can work to improve their skills and how they interact with those working under them.

Related article: How to Become a Manager

What Qualities Make a Good Manager?

If you think back to a good manager you’ve had in the past, you can probably list some attributes you appreciated about them. Likewise, you may have experienced a poor relationship with a manager that left a bad taste in your mouth. Having these qualities can help you be one of the leaders that inspires others to work hard, reach goals, and serve customers and clients well. Here are a few of the qualities we believe make a good manager.

Related video: 5 Qualities of a Great Leader

They put others first. 

Good managers understand that the success of the organization and whether or not goals are reached is due to the people on the team. That is why they put others first and make sure their needs are met on the path toward success. At SNU, we often speak about “live last” leadership which has basis in the scriptures. This type of leadership is countercultural, as it means putting the needs of others above yourself. When you help others succeed, you will find success, and often a greater level of fulfillment yourself.

They set clear goals and benchmarks.

In a massive survey of employees, a majority of respondents listed setting clear goals for the team as one of the top characteristics of a good manager. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you will never measure up. Successful managers provide goals for their team members to work toward, and let them know what defines a satisfactory job. When you do this, you're positioning your employees to perform at their best and to reach desired outcomes. When clear goals and benchmarks aren’t in place, employees may feel lost or work in a different direction than needed. On the opposite end of the spectrum, with clear desired outcomes, employees are able to meet and exceed the organization’s needs.

Related video: Using Your Why to Make Your Organization Successful

They communicate clearly.

Having clear and open lines of communications with employees is vital to the successful operation of a team. Good managers communicate regularly, answer questions directly, and welcome feedback from their employees. In fact, Robert Half listed clear communication as one of the top 12 most important skills to determine whether or not you are reaching your potential as a manager.

They listen and express empathy.

The people working with you are not machines that can be turned on at 8 a.m. and turned off at 5 p.m. They have emotions, needs, families, goals, and lives outside of the workplace. The most effective managers are able to listen to the challenges their employees are facing, both within and outside of the office, and help them feel heard, seen, and valued, regardless of whether there is a solution to the issue. Many employees even expressed greater satisfaction with their managers when they felt their thoughts and opinions were taken into account and seriously considered.

They are skilled in the area they are leading.

While you are not able to fulfill all of the work of the team, you should be strongly skilled in the area you are leading. For example, you may struggle to guide an analytics team in reviewing the latest sales numbers if you haven't ever worked with analysis software, just like a retail manager will struggle to assist employees if they've never worked in retail before. Consider ways you can  continue learning and developing your skills in whichever process you are leading, and you’ll gain better insight into the daily lives of your employees. You may even find areas for improvement and growth in existing processes!

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They are honest and trustworthy.

Integrity is difficult to teach, but integral to success as a manager. You want your team to rely on you, trust that you will do the things you say you will do, and feel safe expressing their ideas and opinions to you. Leading with an honest example is one of the best ways to encourage your employees to do the same. That may mean accepting accountability even when it is difficult, or openly communicating about hard decisions. 

They are excellent problem solvers.

As a manager, you're sure to face challenges on a daily basis. There may be some conflict between team members, a failure in the system, or even a new challenge presented that there isn't yet an answer for. The most effective managers have an analytical mind with problem solving skills that enable them to face each day with the mindset of improving the existing situation and reaching for new heights.

They are flexible and open to innovation.

Change is guaranteed in any organization, and as the leader, you'll be expected to remain flexible to new methods that are handed down from leadership, or even institute change yourself. You may also hear an idea from an employee that can make a system more efficient or help improve the workplace. Regardless of how change comes, it will be important to be open to it and capitalize on the opportunities it will bring.

They recognize talent and hard work.

One of the most important skills of a manager is recognizing talents and others. By knowing what unique skills each of your teammates bring to the table, you'll be able to create and lead an effective team that is confident in its processes and abilities. Those who work under you will also appreciate being acknowledged for their hard work and the skills that they have taken time, and often invested money in, developing.

How to Improve Your Management Skills

Whether you're a first-time manager or have been working in a managerial role for years, there are always opportunities for improvement. Many of the qualities listed above can be developed over time, either through practice, watching other successful leaders, attending trainings or even enrolling in a degree program. As you work to improve your skills, you'll find quick results in the improvements working with other people, more successful projects, and less overall conflict within your team.

Model after the leaders you admire.

Modeling after leaders you admire can be a great way to quickly improve your management strategies. You may have had a boss you loved working for, or see a colleague effectively leading a team. Pay attention to see what they do well, and then decide what tactics or strategies you can pick up for yourself. If you try one and find it successful, add it to your tool kit. If it doesn't work, you can also always go back to the drawing board and try again.

Attend a training.

For any topic, there are typically trainings and conferences available where you can learn more and get up-to-date information on what’s currently working for others. Look into continuing education opportunities, whether they exist in your area or somewhere you need to travel. Attending a conference with other like-minded individuals can help you bounce ideas off of each other, learn from experts in the industry who you may not be able to interact with on a day-to-day basis, and hear questions and answers that you may not have thought to ask on your own.  These trainings can also be listed on your resume and be shown as proof of your dedication to serving those you work with.

Pursue learning materials or an online course or webinar.

If you're not able to travel, it's likely you'll be able to find an online course or webinar that provides teaching on management practices. Oftentimes, professionals will offer insight built over years in the field through a course or webinar, which you can access for free or for a fairly nominal fee. You may also look into business books where experts share years of experience that you can gain in only a few hours of reading.

Related resource: View This Playlist on Leadership on Our YouTube Channel!

Enroll in a degree program.

If you want in-depth, hands-on learning about being a manager, there is no competition for a degree program focusing in leadership or management. You'll dive into coursework specifically designed for leaders, and if you're attending a college that places an emphasis on hiring professors with experience, you’ll also have the benefit of learning from those with a wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. If you do not have your bachelor's degree yet, a great place to start would be studying Organizational Leadership. Those who already have bachelor's degrees can pursue a field of graduate study such as a Master of Leadership, M.S. in Management, or MBA.

If you want to invest in yourself and your career through earning a degree at SNU, our enrollment counselors are prepared to talk with you about the practicalities of earning a degree while working full-time and balancing a family, as well as financial aid options and more. Contact us today to begin your journey toward becoming the most effective manager possible.

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