Being a manager, though highly rewarding, can also come with its share of challenges. To stay sharp in this role that’s sure to keep you on your toes, one of the makings of a good manager is always looking for ways you can improve your management style, whether it’s relating to employee relations, productivity, or any number of other aspects of the job.
To help you out, we’ve created a list of hacks to help make you even better at your job. While some of these may seem like no-brainers, don’t be fooled – many of these are often overlooked and can diminish your ability to be awesome at your job. Read on to see how you can be a rockstar manager:
Employee Relations & Communication
1. Give a damn about the careers of your employees.
Studies show that motivating the career development of employees and actually caring about their trajectories is common in high-performing companies; it builds lasting loyalty and helps teach the employees what they need to succeed. And remember, their success is equivalent to your success as a manager.
2. Get to know the people you manage.
Finding out what your team members like, dislike, and what motivates them is not only helpful in building a better relationship with them; it allows you to find out what kind of incentives will motivate them: Do they want more perks? Career growth opportunities? Money? Time off?
Learning these things is crucial to discovering what kind of management style will work best with them, as there’s not a one size fits all approach to management. Plus, getting to know members of your team on a personal level makes them feel better knowing that their manager took time out to learn about their interests, family, and other aspects of their personal life.
3. Don’t be shy with giving out praise…when it is earned.
Everyone wants to know that their hard work is recognized; make sure your team members, as well as members of other teams, feel appreciated when they are going above and beyond, or even just when they have small wins, like doing a stellar job on a certain part of a project.
But, the flip side to this is to not give it out too frequently or else it loses its meaning. You also want to avoid only praising employees when they are up for a promotion. This creates a promotion-obsessed corporate culture that results in a negative environment that makes work unenjoyable and hyper-competitive for everyone. Who wants that?
4. LISTEN to your team.
The best managers are even better listeners; make sure you understand the situation a colleague is in when they speak to you about it, and always ask probing questions before answering a question. Look people in the eye, and put down your phone and computer. Face-to-face communication is a critical management skill and is also just a common courtesy when someone is trying to speak to you.
5. Feedback: a two-way street.
Honesty is indeed the best policy, especially in the workplace. You want your employees to be their best, and often being honest about what will improve their work is the only way to get there. If you have constructive criticism of or feedback for a team member, share it sooner rather than later; a “rip the BandAid off” approach is best in order to avoid issues later down the road. When receiving feedback from team members, avoid giving a defensive response; listen to their point of view, and try your best to actually implement the change if the criticism is valid.
Productivity & Time Management
6. 9:00 a.m. to noon is go time.
The time before noon is when the most gets done in the workplace; everyone is at their freshest and their energy has not begun to wane yet. A study by the University of California, Irvine, shows that peak work performance is actually around 11:00 a.m. Try and conquer 3 major things you have to do that day before noon for a better chance of actually getting them done.
Set aside a time where your team knows not to interrupt you, so you can go into in full work mode. Our engineering team here at Wonolo has “zone time,” which is understood as time where they should be left alone to work. This time is, not surprisingly, scheduled before noon. That’s not to say that time after lunch is useless, though!
7. Make sure your team understands projects inside and out.
Overcommunication is a good thing when it comes to goals and details for projects; you would much rather have your team members feel over-informed to the point where it may seem excessive versus under-informed. All roles and responsibilities need to be clearly identified for team members, and the objective of projects needs to be clear in order for the outcome to be a success. Having measurable success criteria is a big help, too!
8. Prioritization is your best friend.
As a manager, there is always a ton on your plate, and sometimes you just can’t get it all done at once. Choose one important project or task every day and aim to have that completed by the time you leave. It helps to have milestones and feel productive by completing something during the day; to meet that goal, make sure that you divvy up large projects into smaller tasks that can be completed over the course of a workday.
9. Time is money.
A great way to understand this adage is to put an actual dollar value on your time at work. If you and your team members do this, you can see how much your time is worth per hour, which encourages peak productivity from everyone in that time period. As an added bonus, it gets your team thinking about how to pick the projects with the greatest impact so that they avoid the dreaded intersection of high effort-low impact activities.
10. Deadline in 2 hours? Do it in 1.
Test your productivity and speed by trying to complete tasks and projects in half the time that is expected or that you normally would. Usually, you can complete it in a shorter amount of time than you think if you set a hard deadline to finish. Surprise yourself!
11. Clutter can be deadly.
Try to keep your desk organized. Clutter can lead to distractions from what you really need to be doing. With no clutter to distract you, all that you have left to do is focus on your work.
However, be careful about jumping to conclusions regarding the “organizationally challenged” around you. Just because someone has a messy desk, that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t getting work done. In fact, a study from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands shows that disordered work environments can actually prove to help make people more goal-oriented. But whether you’re a neat freak or find order among the chaos of desk clutter, try and go more paperless, as it’s better for the environment!
12. Ugh, another meeting…make this one productive!
Let’s be honest, truly productive meetings are often few and far between. Work to change this in your team by setting the meeting agenda in advance, don’t end the meeting without having a clear plan for next steps, and, if your team is looking especially run-down, make them stand up. A study from Washington University shows that meetings held standing up lead to more excitement about the creative process and new ideas.
13. Because you can’t be everywhere at once…delegate!
Delegation is one of the most critical skills in management, and not the easiest to implement, especially for managers who like things done a certain way. However, your life will be infinitely easier if you are able to rely and trust other team members to complete work that you don’t have time to oversee or do yourself. For managers who are hesitant to delegate tasks, the trick is to start small; think of low-risk items that you could part with and would have minimal impact if they weren’t done in the ideal way.
Ensure that employees understand the opportunities that can come with some jobs delegated to them, and they will be more inclined to perform at an outstanding level. The more you delegate, the easier it gets.
14. Remember where you came from as a leader.
Don’t forget that you once, too, were an eager entry-level employee. Staying in the trenches with your team, especially when your role is as a leader, can leave a lasting, positive impression. For example, if you see members of your team staying late to meet a deadline for a project, stay with them and don’t be shy about offering to help with even the most menial tasks (e.g., printing, stapling, data entry, etc.).
Your team members will greatly appreciate this level of support and will understand that you are the kind of manager who is willing to do whatever it takes to get something done and always has the team’s back. This ties to the idea of “servant leadership,” leading through working for your employees, and it is a mantra that our CEO and Chief Servant, as he dubs himself, Yong Kim, lives out every day here at Wonolo HQ.
15. The only wrong decision is no decision.
Decision-making is of the utmost importance in the position of a manager and a leader in general. “Decision paralysis” prevents you from exhibiting strong, decisive leadership skills to your team and department, and a lack of a decision on the majority of choices you are faced with can affect the entire team, often negatively. If you are stuck at a crossroads for a decision, there are a variety of strategies you can use to move forward: pro-con lists, asking a trusted advisor or mentor for advice, or literally flipping a coin (but only if the decision is something as trivial as choosing whether a team dinner should be at a Mexican or Italian restaurant, for example) are all great ways to avoid decision paralysis.
16. Know how to lead a brainstorm.
Brainstorming sounds like a very spontaneous activity that doesn’t require much planning, but it in fact requires a decent amount of preparation, especially when you are the moderator of a brainstorm session. Make sure your team members know the problem prior to the session, put a firm time limit on the session, encourage them to build on one another’s ideas, be able to keep the discussion flowing, and, most importantly, make sure your brainstorm session actually ends with actionable next steps with clear deadlines. Check out more tips from online professional network Ivy Exec for effectively moderating a brainstorm session here.
17. Lead by example.
Corny, but valid: Behave in the same way you want your team members to behave so they know what is acceptable and at what level they are expected to perform. For example, if you want your team in early, you need to arrive early, too. It’s all about setting that “tone at the top.” While your roles in the workplace may be different, the level of respect and quality of work from everyone should be the same.
18. Reel candidates in with a sexy job description.
Writing a good job description is an art; perfecting it is a challenge but it’s a skill you must master so as to encourage the best candidates to apply. Need some more inspiration? Check out our guide on how to write a killer job description that will capture the attention of all job-seekers here.
Want to get right to it? We created a list of job description templates to make it easy for you to capture the attention of the most candidates possible.
19. Cut your “losses” early on.
No matter how thorough your hiring process is, we’re all human and make mistakes from time to time. If you make the mistake of hiring someone who for any reason is a bad fit for your team, make sure to take action quickly to ensure that you can find someone else who is a better fit and avoid setbacks and distractions made by a not-so-great-hire. A survey by CareerBuilder demonstrated that 40% of employers state that a bad hire can cost them upwards of $25,000 over the course of a year; for small businesses, where employers have a wider variety of responsibilities, this can add up to $190,000 a year. Ouch.
If you’re looking for better ways to screen potential candidates to avoid the costs of a bad hire, check out our comprehensive guide to applicant screening.
20. Facilitate conversations with your applicants, and FOLLOW UP.
Potential job candidates want to feel engaged with your company. It’s therefore essential to maintain contact with these interested applicants…or “poof!” they might disappear on you when the next best thing comes along during the recruiting process. Maintaining engagement with applicants is crucial throughout the application process and will reassure them that their time (and talent) is valuable to you.
But the contact doesn’t end once the recruiting process for a particular job has been completed. Following up helps you stay in the good graces of applicants you ultimately passed on in the process; it pays off in the long run, as it gives your company a better reputation. Research from PotentialPark demonstrates that 73% of job candidates found that the biggest frustration in the application process was lack of response from recruiters.Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and you never know who a candidate that you declined knows. You don’t want to preemptively cut yourself off from other talent in the future.
21. Don’t be afraid to outsource.
Many managers are hesitant to supplement their existing workforces with outsourcing. However, there’s no need to be; outsourcing results in lower operational and labor costs, access to world-class talent outside your company, and more free time for your team members to focus on other core work. Examples of great outsourcing resources include Fiverr for digital design and USWired for IT services. Here at Wonolo, we actually outsource some of our company jobs to our own Wonoloers.
22. Technology is your best friend.
It can take an enormous amount of time and effort to find good people to fill your job openings; to be smart about budgeting your time, look to one of many essential recruiting technology platforms. We have created a list of 15 recruiting tools you can’t live without. Check it out here.
Speaking of technology, are you looking for new ways to embrace recruiting in today’s on-demand economy? Check out our newly released eBook, New Economy New Rules: Your Roadmap for Navigating How to Work with an On-Demand Staffing Provider, to learn how to:
- Scope the business need internally to make sure you look for the right type of on-demand staffing provider
- 7 questions you need to ask to find the right on-demand staffing platform
- Roll this out at your business
- Benefits of an on-demand staffing approach
Personal/Professional Life Balance
23. Get that blood flowing.
Make exercise a part of your daily routine; taking it way back to high school biology, physical exercise stimulates the production of mitochondria in your cells, giving your body and brain more energy to be productive. Whether you’re into intense CrossFit classes or leisurely walks, getting your body moving is a great stress reducer and endorphin-booster. If you can, try and get outside to exercise; this is ideal, especially after working inside for most of the day. If that’s not an option, though, exercise anywhere will do the trick! Time has some great “deskercises” you can try out.
24. Give yourself some “me time.”
An easy way to stay sane and give your mind a rest from the stress of the workplace is to block out time for yourself during either the workday or after. Even if it’s just 2 hours a day, simple activities like taking time to go on a walk, shop, read, go to the gym or get drinks and dinner with a friend will do wonders for your sanity and help ensure you keep a social life along with your demanding work life in a manager position. Another way to unwind is to make your time before going to bed completely un-work-related. Avoid “screen time” (i.e., checking emails) within the hour before you fall asleep so you aren’t stressed while trying to catch those precious Z’s.
25. Outsource your chores, too!
In this day and age, there’s an app for just about everything, including household chores and errands that you struggle to make time for during the week. Outsourcing these errands to platforms like Rinse for dry cleaning and YourMechanic for car repairs, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without them.
The truth is, being a manager isn’t easy, but these tips are meant to make you better at it. If anything, remember the value that personal connection has, work hard and smart, and keep time for yourself and your sanity. These hacks will help you feel better about your job and will make your team love you!