10 Things To Do To Be A Better Manager

In this training article we provide ten ideas that can help you to become a better people manager. These ideas will help you to shift your focus from managing the performance of those reporting to you to developing it. This management approach has been proven to meet modern employees’ needs more effectively and to improve business performance.

Today’s employees are looking for something different from their manager when it comes to managing their performance. They want clear expectations and accountability, need a strong sense of purpose, and value ongoing feedback and coaching. Here are ten things all managers can do to meet these performance management expectations:

1. Seek to really understand and appreciate each individual in your team. You, as a manager, need to know what your team members really want from work. Recent research by Gallup strongly suggests that today’s employees are most interested in opportunities to learn and grow. They want the opportunity to advance as they develop and so look for a manager who shows that they truly care about their staff.

They also want to do work that they find interesting and which they feel makes a real difference. They value work that aligns with their personal sense of purpose. Of course this does not mean every employee values exactly the same thing: employees in different roles and from different generations may well have different priorities regarding what they personally value most.

So the key to being a better manager is to understand how these personal values manifest for each employee and match the work they do to these values.

2. Learn how to coach people. As a manager you are responsible for guiding and inspiring your direct reports to high levels of performance. To do this you must begin to mentally and functionally shift from being a manager of performance to a developer of performance - and this means being able to effectively coach people.

3. Collaborate when setting goals and clarifying performance expectations with your direct reports. Better performance happens when you and your employees are clear on which duties they (the employee) are responsible for; how you (the manager) defines outstanding, acceptable and unacceptable performance, and how this performance is to be measured.

Therefore it follows that you and your direct reports should work together to set the goals and expectations.

Such a collaborative approach to goal setting ensures the expectations you have are fair, relevant but also challenging. Another benefit is that where collaborative goal setting happens, employees have been shown to be nearly four times more likely to be engaged than when the goals are simply set for them by their manager.

4. Help your direct reports see the bigger picture. Where an employee cannot see a connection between the work they do on a daily basis and the purpose and goals of their company, then they are less likely to commit fully to their work. A good manager will help their direct reports understand the company’s vision, strategy and values. They will explain why the employee’s role exists, and how what they do supports the organisation’s objectives.

When employees have this sense of purpose then their engagement level increases. In surveys, employees who strongly agree that they can link their goals to their organisation’s goals are three and a half times more likely to be engaged.

5. Make sure that individual employee goals and the team’s goals are also aligned. Your direct reports can support teamwork when their individual goals are aligned with the team’s goals. This is because they better understand that they are not only expected to give full effort to their personal responsibilities but also to collaborating with other team members.

The benefits of improved collaboration in a team is improved performance. Indeed, research has shown that employee productivity shows an average increase of 56% when their line manager helps align the employee’s individual goals with the needs of the team.

6. Establish guidelines with your reports for effectively prioritising their workload. Guidelines on what is and what is not a priority creates an understanding between you and your direct reports about what is important and what can wait.

Where employees have established guidelines for prioritising their workload, they can apply these guidelines when they have deadline conflicts and ask their manager for help in balancing the priorities. The manager also gains a greater awareness of when work cannot get done because genuine problems exist and when employees are becoming stretched beyond their capacity.

7. Continually give feedback by having regular weekly meetings. Your direct reports need to know that you care about them as a person, not just as a “unit of production”, that you understand what they are working on and that you are available to them when they genuinely need your help and support.

Obviously, each person needs different amounts of feedback from you, however a weekly meeting with you which involves discussing development, resolving problems and giving constructive feedback or encouragement should be the minimum.

Again research shows that employee engagement falls substantially when employees do not have such regular meaningful, constructive contact with their manager.

8. Create individual accountability. Without your direct reports being held accountable for their results, any expectations you set with them and coaching you give are just meaningless talk.

Effective performance development requires you and your direct reports to periodically take the time to review individual progress toward the goals and standards set, to discuss any lessons learned and to plan for the future. This is what should happen in an annual performance review.

9. Look forward to the future, not back to the past. The best appraisal and coaching conversations are future-oriented and create a positive, encouraging dialogue about how the employee can improve going forward. Such conversations focus on learning and on planning for the future. Where appraisal and feedback focus only on past performance and on the specifics of what an employee has done wrong, the conversation is seen as critical and condemning and this rarely has the desired result.

10. Concentrate on people’s strengths, not on their weaknesses. Where the manager focuses on their employees strengths rather than simply on fixing their weaknesses then this tends to lead to improved self-efficacy, engagement, learning and performance in the employee.

By applying these ten principles of effective positive performance management to the people you manage you will achieve an engaged workforce and improved performance.