15 Best Practices for Being a Great Manager

Building Leaders

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In recent years, employee engagement has become a hot topic for business owners and managers everywhere. Engaged employees are better workers. They understand their roles within the organization, and they’re generally happier and more productive. Yet despite these payoffs, many leaders aren’t sure how to really drive employee engagement.

According to a 2015 Gallup report, however, there is one tried and tested way to encourage better work: increase manager engagement. Great managers—those who are actively devoted to both personal and professional progress—are more engaged in the work they do. If you want to be a great manager—and reap the subsequent benefits of better employee engagement—follow these fifteen tips for smarter, more involved management.

  1. Share Responsibility.

Mark Graban, a business consultant and contributor to Entrepreneur, notes that a great manager includes employees in the decision-making process. If you want to be an exceptional manager, you have to understand that operational performance and profitability improve when responsibility is shared, not hoarded.

  1. Build a Culture of Engagement.

Employee engagement offers a “window” into the health of an organization, says Deloitte University Press, and a great manager holds a pivotal role in encouraging that engagement. As a manager, it’s your job to set the tone for how work is done, influence how employees feel about the workplace’s culture, and be involved in monitoring and refining engagement metrics.

  1. Listen to Employees.

Besides building a culture of engagement, a great manager actively listens to employees. Don’t tune out when an employee comes in with a problem—even if it’s similar to one you’ve encountered before. Instead, listen to the employee, maintain eye contact, and ask questions so that you can offer advice attuned to their individual needs and personality.

  1. Lead by Example.

It’s been said that actions speak louder than words, and that’s especially true when it comes to great management. You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work. If your staff is working overtime to finish a project, for instance, make sure you’re in the office with them. Employees will trust you more if they see you putting forth the same effort, and experiencing your workers’ daily processes will help you be more empathetic.

  1. Empower Workers.

A great manager seeks to enable employees—not to micromanage them. When you empower your employees by deferring to their expertise, you’re also communicating that you respect their abilities. And employees who feel respected often have the confidence to find creative solutions and think outside the box.

  1. Offer Opportunities for Education and Training.

Great managers care about their employees, so they offer their workers opportunities to learn, grow, and advance within the company. Taking the time to invest in your employees’ development will help your workforce feel valued—a benefit in itself—and could help decrease turnover.

  1. View Disagreement as an Opportunity.

A lack of conflict doesn’t necessarily make for a healthy business. Unquestioning agreement can actually produce stagnation and decrease employee engagement. A great manager encourages employees to voice their opinions on goals and processes—even if they go against the grain. If you encounter employee dissension, try to use it as an opportunity to reevaluate your current practices and develop solutions that please all parties.

  1. Elicit Feedback.

Annual performance reviews struggle to keep pace with business today, prompting some organizations to adopt a more fluid model that emphasizes ongoing, real-time feedback. You may want to make use of both tools to elicit information necessary to making better business decisions and improving your management practices.

  1. Focus on Goals.

A great manager runs a goal-oriented workplace, providing an actionable framework for progress and achievement. Help your employees set and value their goals by publicly setting goals for yourself and the business. When your staff sees those larger goals for the company, they’ll be able to see their own place within that effort.

  1. Communicate Clearly and Regularly.

When a manager clearly communicates milestones and objectives, goals become realities. Open communication on all fronts is truly critical to bringing projects to successful conclusions. If you want your employees to trust you and your business, you have to show that you trust them by maintaining transparency wherever appropriate.

  1. Recognize Efforts.

Office perks like cold-brewed coffee might not win employees’ hearts, but personalized recognition could. A great manager acknowledges employees’ efforts in appropriate ways. Don’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach, however. Intrinsically motivated employees, for instance, will likely respond better to one-on-one praise, while employees motivated by external stimuli will be better served with a public commendation or award.

  1. Act with Consistency.

Managers never play favorites. They apply the same rules and principles to every employee, which establishes consistency and dependability. Your employees will breathe easier and work better when they know how and why you react to certain situations or performance issues.

  1. Manage Talent.

A great manager provides many services, but one rises above the rest: talent management. Marcus Buckingham, a best-selling author, compares the work to chess. He says a great manager takes employees’ unique traits and employs them in a “coordinated plan of attack.” As you work on your own management abilities, make sure you’re playing your employees to their strengths whenever possible.

  1. Have Enough Humility to Learn from Others.

No one goes far alone, and a great manager knows it. If you’re working toward greatness, realize that it’s okay to admit weaknesses and ask for help. Try to seek out people who can mentor you, share lessons learned, and offer advice when challenging situations arise—even if they’re lower on the corporate ladder than you are.

  1. Develop a Unique Management Style.

Great managers aren’t innately “great”—they grow into the quality by developing and honing their own management styles. While imitating a respected mentor or past boss may help get you started, you’ll eventually want to bring your unique personality and skills to the position.

The benefits of great management are well worth the effort it takes to get there. Use the advice above to go from being a good manager to a great one.

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