How to be a good manager

If you are reading this article then chances are you are a current or aspiring manager looking to be the best manager that you can possibly be. It should go without saying that being a manager is hard work, and that with a higher salary comes a raft of extra responsibilities and duties that you will have to absorb into your daily working life.

While managing a team of people and inspiring them to do their best can certainly be rewarding, there are also major downsides that come with the role of manager. The best way to cope with difficult situations as a manager is by adopting a growth mindset in which you focus on what you are still to learn, rather than demanding perfection from yourself.

A good manager is, primarily, willing to learn. As a manager you will be at your peak when you put your ego aside and tap into the areas you need to improve upon. Only when you are willing to learn from your mistakes will you be able to grow as a manager. 

Accepting that you will never be a perfect manager is important, as only when you put aside the desire for perfection can you drop unrealistic expectations and focus on being the best manager that you can be. 

In this article we will explore how to be a good manager.

What defines a good manager 

If you were to ask one hundred people to define a good manager you would surely get a different answer from each individual! This is because the idea of what makes a good manager is highly subjective. Each of us have our own experiences that will inform our view of what makes a good manager, however, there are definitely some attributes which will come up time and time again. 

Arguably, a manager’s first task is to be fully aware of their role within the wider company. Once you are aware of the full extent of your duties and your place within the organisation you will gain an enhanced understanding of how you can improve your offering within the company. When you are aware of your full remit you will be able to make changes to the responsibilities of your team in order to better fulfil the requirements of your organisation. 

Another key role of the manager is the ability to use ‘people skills’ in order to inspire your team to achieve the best results that they are capable of. You should be able to motivate your team to do their best while respecting them as individuals with their own unique priorities and motivations. At times this will be tough, and, as a manager, you will have to strike a fine balance between being firm and being fair. 

What it takes to be a good manager

As a manager, a large proportion of your time will be taken up by managing your immediate team. Managing a team of employees can be tricky as not all will respond to the same management style. One way of mitigating the potential for difficult employee behaviour is to keep fairness and respect in mind at all times. 

Fairness is important because it’s vital that your employees do not see you as having ‘favourites’ and double-standards for your team members. Having ‘favourites’ is the fastest way for your team’s morale to plummet. While it may be difficult at times, it’s important that you maintain boundaries and fairness by seeing your team as colleagues rather than friends. 

As well as treating employees with fairness at all times, it is vital to respect and trust your staff to work without close supervision. Some managers (especially those with perfectionist tendencies) find it a struggle to delegate, and run the risk of micromanaging their employees. While it might be tempting to micromanage the workload of your team, try to avoid this approach as you will find that your team will produce their best results when trusted to work under their own steam. 

You may sometimes have to manage conflict within a team, so it's beneficial for you to understand how to deal with conflict in a team. Some suggestions include

  •    Talking with the other person
  •    Focus on behavior and events, not on personalities
  •    Listen carefully
  •    Identify points of agreement and disagreement
  •    Prioritise the areas of conflict
  •    Develop a plan to work on each conflict
  •    Follow through on your plan
  •    Build on your success

Another area in which a manager must excel is in the ability to motivate their employees. It is key that you possess the organisational and analytical capabilities required to evaluate your team’s performance and to find ways to encourage your employees to do their best. At times this might mean finding ways to engage employees who are underperforming or whose life circumstances mean that their performance is suffering. On the other hand, this could mean identifying great work that your team has done, and acknowledging excellent performance with rewards, such as promotions or pay rises. 

Key skills to be a good manager

While management requires a huge number of skills, here are a few of the most important qualities of a manager: 

  • Motivational

  • Organised

  • Analytical

  • Assertive

  • Trusting

  • Tactful

  • Empathetic

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Able to work well under pressure

How can you improve as a manager?

It is admirable when managers seek to improve their managerial skills, as it benefits not only the manager, but their team and the wider organisation also. First up, you might find it helpful to take some time to have an honest conversation with yourself, asking “how can I be a better manager?”, or “what skills do I need to build on as a manager?”. By taking time out of your daily routine to properly self-critique, you may identify some areas that you can work on. 

Offering additional training to your team is always a good idea, if you feel that not everybody is on the same level. Learn how you can effectively provide good training for your team

Ask your team or other colleagues to evaluate your skills as a manager and get their opinions on what it takes to be a good manager. While this might sting depending on who you ask, asking for your colleagues' feedback is a surefire  way to gain an insight into how you are viewed by your team and, crucially, how you can perform better as a manager. 

Finally, if you are a new manager or are interested in refreshing your managerial skills there is a wealth of courses available to help you sharpen your skills or gain a new perspective on managing a team.

Ask your HR department, or browse the e-Careers course catalogue to identify courses that will help you to get to the next level in your career.