Top 10 tips to being a better manager

When you’re a manager, your success rests or falls on the quality of your team. Getting the most out of your people is your day job. Now, I’ve spent over twenty years working with managers in organizations large and small, across a wide range of sectors, get the most from their people. So here are my top ten tips for how you can drive your management skills and get the most from yourself and your team.

  1. Adopt a customer service mindset.

My first tip is adopting a mindset where you think of your team as customers of your service. This is a slightly different take on the internal customer principle, because typically that applies to other departments, colleagues in other teams, even external suppliers. Yet adopting a mindset of the customer can really impact the relationships you have with your team. Far too often, people moving into management positions think of themselves as a policeman; that they’re there to catch people doing things wrong. So my first tip, adopt the mindset that your team are customers of your managerial service.

  1. Set clear goals and expectations.

Setting clear goals and expectations may seem obvious, yet it’s amazing how often we get that wrong. Wherever possible, agree the key performance indicators with your team. Notice I say agree. It’s not always possible, but wherever you can involve your team in the discussion of what those key indicator should be, what the level should be, because they are far more likely to buy in to that and try hard to deliver them.

Set clear, and positive, expectations of what you want the team to deliver. This is in performance terms, but also in behaviour and values; how you want them to behave and perform as a group. It’s incredible how rarely that is successful in organisations. Frame your expectations clearly and positively. It’s incredible how often we just assume that people are clear and know what’s expected. In his book the Eighth Principle, Stephen Covey gives a really good analogy based on research conducted with thousands of employees in top global businesses. He applies the results to a football (soccer) team of eleven players. he said that if those results were true for a football team 4 of the eleven players would have no idea which was their goal. Only two of the players would care, and only two players would know what position they were playing in and what they were supposed to do. So it’s easy to take this concept for granted. Make sure you set clear expectations and clear performance indicators. It will pay dividends in performance.

  1. Ask better questions.

Ask better questions: in fact, ask questions. In my experience managers are really good at making statements, they’re really good at telling people what to do Back to that policeman mode). they are far less good at asking questions where they really want to understand the other person, or the team’s perspective. they’ve even got more sophisticated at making their statements and instructions appear to be like questions. So, use simple open questions; classic questions like “what do you think?” You’ll be amazed at the response you get. Particularly when you stop and actually listen to what people have to say. So ask better questions. You will find that you will build stronger, healthier relationships.

  1. Seek ideas and share your experience.

All too often, managers feel that they have to be the person to come up with the solution; they have to solve all the problems. It’s simply not the case. People are full of really good ideas, real creativity that can help you drive innovation. As a manager, your role is to facilitate getting those ideas to the surface. Talk to people. Involve people. This is another time when questioning can come to the fore. Seek ideas. By all means share your experience, but you do not need to know the answer to everything.

  1. Role model behaviour and values.

It’s not a case of do as I say, it’s a case of do as I do. As mentioned earlier, making people clear on expectations is great, but you need to demonstrate those behaviours and values in practice. Don’t tell people one thing and behave in another way. They will not follow what you say, they will definitely follow what you do.

  1. Remember a team is made up of individuals.

Avoid treat your team as an amorphous mass. Remember, each of those people is an individual. They have different skills, different abilities. They have different ways of communicating, different ways of learning. They have different hopes, different expectations. As a manager, our role is to meet people where they are in terms of communication, in terms of learning. Find a way to adapt your managerial and communication style and spend time with people as individuals. Making time for people is a really important part of the management process.

  1. Keep things simple.

Work hard to really keep things simple. Charles Mingus (jazz bassist) said “to make the simple complicated is commonplace. But to make the complicated simple, breathtakingly simple – that’s creativity.” He was talking about the world of music, but it equally applies to the world of management. Aim to keep things as clear and simple as you can. Simple doesn’t mean easy. simple doesn’t mean patronizing. Simple means clear, easy to connect with and understand. It makes a tremendous difference. Clear communication, clear instruction, clear involvement. Keep things simple.

  1. Give and seek high quality performance feedback.

One of the things I hear most often in organizations is ‘we don’t get enough feedback’. Rarely is that the case. It’s that the feedback that is around is of such low quality that people don’t actually recognize it as feedback. It’s a throw away comment or it’s where a situation has got out of hand and has bubbled over as anger or aggression. So find ways to give clear, high quality, non-judgemental feedback and don’t forget to ask for feedback on your skills and abilities as a manager. Remember your customer mindset. You would seek feedback from a customer, so seek feedback from your team regularly. Listen to the feedback, and wherever possible respond to it.

  1. Be positive.

Be positive (most of the time). Remember you are not a policeman. You’re there to motivate, encourage, support and engage. There may be times when you know an individual will be motivated in a slightly more negative way: by the consequences of not getting things right. However, for most of the time and for most people, we need positive motivation. So keep positive, focus on encouraging people, focus on supporting people and only use the consequences and negative motivation when it’s appropriate for an individual or situation, and never as a threat. Positivity wins all of the time.

  1. Use these five simple questions.

Here are five simple test questions you can ask yourself about your team, and probably more importantly directly ask members of your team. If they answer positively, it’s a really good indicator that things are going well and you are moving in the right direction as a manager.

Q1 – Do I fit in? Do I feel like a square peg in a round hole or do I feel that I belong.

Q2 – Am I clear what’s expected of me?

Q3 – Do I feel supported? Is help available, am I confident to ask or do I fell policed and monitored.

Q4 – Do I feel valued? Is my contribution worthwhile, do I feel an important part of the team.

Q5 Do I feel inspired? Do I look forward to coming to work full of the joy of what I’m going to achieve that day.

If members of your team answer yes, or positively to those five questions, then you are well on the way to becoming a more effective manager.