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How to be a good manager: Everything you need to know

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Managers are crucial cogs in any business. They lead departments to success through an array of soft skills and talents. Without them, deadlines can be missed, quality can plummet, and business growth is scuppered.

But good managers aren’t just cogs in a machine. They are also tightrope walkers, trying to balance views and opinions from all directions. Yet, their ability to work with others and solve conflicts didn’t come to them overnight. They developed key management skills over time. 

If you’re an aspiring manager or a current manager wanting to improve your managerial skills, our range of management and leadership skills courses will be perfect for you. From improving remote team productivity to interpersonal skills, we have all your managerial prerequisites covered!

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What makes a good manager?

A good manager needs to have a selection of hard and soft skills that will set enable them to deal with common scenarios they face each day. Managers are:

1) Leaders

A manager is someone who can lead a group, small or large, to a shared goal. Their leadership style will evolve depending on the situation and individuals within the team. But at all times, they retain the authority while welcoming everyone to play their part and have a say.

If you’re only just starting to think about acquiring leadership skills, our Leadership for Non-Leaders course by Federation University is the perfect place to start.

2) Motivators

They also motivate people to want to succeed and meet their individual objectives, as well as overall team targets. Without motivation, the team is not likely to produce quality work or innovation

3) Trusting and trustworthy

Staff members need to be able to trust their managers and rely on them when needed. They need to trust that the project plans they have made are effective and efficient. They may also need to trust them with sensitive workplace issues or to judge staff conflict fairly. Likewise, a good manager trusts their staff and doesn’t micromanage their work.

4) Communicators (and listeners!)

The best managers are able to communicate effectively. This includes verbal communication and communicating through body language. And they remember that communication is just as much about active listening as it is about speaking

5) Committed

Managers must show commitment to the team’s goals and the business as a whole. If they are not committed to business targets, they cannot expect their team members to be committed to delivering the best results either.

6) Supportive

Managers support their staff when they are finding tasks difficult or fail to understand parts of processes. They also support them when they offer suggestions or discuss personal development during manager appraisal meetings.

7) Knowledgeable

Managers must be knowledgeable about the tasks that their teams are expected to deliver. They should be a source of information to help the team overcome project misunderstandings and issues related to individual goals.

8) Organised

Not every great manager is organised, but those that are tend to provide clear project plans and transparent explanations to their team, which then mitigates mistakes.

9) Empathetic

Empathy and emotional intelligence can set good managers apart from great ones. They can deal with workplace disputes and team conflicts better. And empathy is also valuable when discussing working performance in relation to an individual’s personal troubles outside of work.

How to develop must-have management skills

The perfect manager probably doesn’t exist. Even experienced managers need to sharpen some of their tools and keep developing. For example, you may be interested in our Women in Leadership microcredential by Federation University if you want to unpack leadership challenges for women.

Below are seven discussions on ways to enhance management skills for new managers and seasoned pros.

1) How to overcome imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome can occur in any job but is frequently experienced by new managers. It occurs when someone feels like they do not have the skills or knowledge to perform their duties. They feel as though they got into their role by chance rather than their attributes.

The biggest problem with imposter syndrome is that it can hamper your confidence to deal with managerial situations, and you could even shy away from tasks altogether.

Some ways to deal with imposter syndrome include:

  • Awareness: become actively aware when you tell yourself that you are not good enough.
  • Change your thinking: remind yourself that nobody knows everything, and your career is always a learning curve (you can set real calendar reminders to do this!).
  • Talk to others: speak with other people about their imposter syndrome feelings. You’ll be surprised how many people have felt the same as you do now.
  • Seek support: most businesses will offer managerial support to new managers – and they should! Alternatively, choose to independently enrol on an imposter syndrome management course to learn specialist ways of dealing with these new experiences.

2) How to switch from a work friend to a manager

Imposter syndrome is not the only hurdle new managers must overcome when climbing the career ladder. 

Another problem is the new hierarchical difference between you and your colleagues. Work friends that were on par with you in the workplace may now find themselves answering to you. You may have even been given the job over them.

This shift in workplace dynamics can cause all sorts of issues from awkwardness to even feelings of loneliness at work. But there are ways to make the transition easier.

The most obvious is to have an early one-to-one discussion with your friend and tell them that you have a responsibility to the company and must strive to meet business goals. You should also tell them that you admire their work and value their friendship. Clearing the air this way may prevent any cold shoulders and distrust within the team. It also paves the way for you to give them instructions and deadlines without feeling strange about it.

What you should not do is give them favourable treatment because they were/are your close friend. This would go against your need to become a fair boss and could demotivate or anger other members of your team.

There are even specific friend-to-manager courses now designed to help you manage this exact situation.

3) How to improve team engagement and motivation

Your managerial success will be judged on your team’s output and results. Manager responsibilities will influence the end result in many ways, but one of the most crucial is through engaging and motivating your team.

So, how can you motivate your team during a project? You can:

  • Set realistic goals and provide clear project plans
  • Do not punish failure but understand what went wrong and help people to not make the same mistakes
  • Don’t micromanage as it often demotivates staff (e.g. don’t ask for too many updates or ask to be copied into every email)
  • Give everyone a chance to speak and offer suggestions
  • Include your team in decisions and let them understand why decisions have been made higher up in the company – transparency has a big impact on motivation
  • Do not set meetings without good reason. These can frustrate staff who may be working towards a tight deadline
  • Provide valuable feedback with praise
  • Reward good work and success
  • Create a clean and safe working environment
  • Schedule timely appraisals to discuss your team’s career development and aspirations.

4) How to manage conflict as a manager

Unfortunately, dealing with conflict is a part of the manager’s job. And it is crucial to keep teams pulling in the same direction to get the best results. The best course of action is prevention, which can be achieved through:

  • Getting everyone’s input on projects
  • Making sure team goals are clear
  • Discouraging gossiping when heard
  • Learning about individual personalities and the different types of leadership skills which match those personalities
  • Never complaining about your team members, especially to other colleagues.

Another way of preventing conflict in a modern globalised world is by harnessing an understanding of diversity in the workplace. By knowing more about cultures and creating inclusive environments as a manager, you can avoid potential conflicts before they arise.

If a conflict does arise, you should aim to deal with it swiftly through:

  • One-to-one meetings with everyone involved to get individual perspectives
  • Listing points of agreement and disagreement
  • Creating a conflict resolution plan that only focuses on events – and never personalities!
  • Following through on an agreed plan with everyone.

5) How to develop communication skills

In all of the skill sets described above, the solutions at hand revolve around you as the manager being able to communicate with the team effectively. This requires exceptional emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. 

So how can these skills – as the glue of all management skills – be developed?

  • Read books and articles or take dedicated courses on improving communication skills
  • Always use simple language. Some of your staff may have different needs or be worried about asking questions because you used an unfamiliar term
  • Ask if your team has any clarification questions to make sure you have been understood
  • Try to give everyone eye contact, while briefly breaking eye contact every ten seconds or so
  • Be an active listener and show you listened by asking your own follow-up questions
  • Be aware of body language (yours and theirs). Avoid crossed arms and overly stern facial expressions.

Although the tips above are quite specific, we’d like to point out that communication is not just about following a certain set of rules dictating how you speak, listen and present yourself. It’s better to think of communication skills as a tool for us all to better understand and connect with each other, even if we don’t all think in the same way.

What’s more, taking a rigid approach to communication often ignores the fact that we’re all different, and that neurodiverse people, for example, may respond to situations differently than neurotypical people. Make sure to bear this in mind when dealing with the people you manage.

For example, some neurodivergent people, such as those on the autistic spectrum, might struggle to read body language or facial expressions in a conversation, so you shouldn’t place too much importance on body language in every situation.

Instead, try to be clear and concise when you’re speaking to an audience you don’t know so that people don’t need to try and read between the lines.

6) How to improve your decision-making as a manager

By now, you’ll have probably realised that a day in the life of a manager is filled with decisions. 

Improving decision-making skills is something that will happen over time in line with experiences and increased knowledge. But there are some unique ways that you can become more decisive and improve decision-making:

7) Tips to improve public speaking and presenting

Some people land a management job because they are equipped with expert knowledge and tick many of the right managerial boxes. Sometimes they tick the communication box, but as soon as it comes to public speaking – everything changes.

Managers have to stand up and speak to large numbers on a weekly, if not daily, basis. And can be terrifying and one of the biggest causes of imposter syndrome discussed earlier. 

You will naturally get better at presenting and public speaking with practice. But managers need to get the basics right from the get-go to avoid staff losing confidence in them or doubting other aspects of their management.

Make sure you maintain trust and respect of your staff by:

  • Learning about body language
  • Researching presentation and public speaking tips
  • Take applicable self-development courses
  • Get other members of the team involved 
  • Practice presenting alone and record yourself to pick out habits and mannerisms
  • Remember that others want you to succeed too.

Why even become a manager anyway?

There are many reasons to want to become a manager. Some people possess excellent skills that fit perfectly for a managerial position, such as the ability to communicate or motivate a group. But the desire to become a manager can be bigger than skills alone. 

After all, you can develop skills to become a manager, but the inherent desire to be one is something different. 

Many managers choose to become a leader because they get to be a part of other people’s personal development and growth. Witnessing such developments and playing a part can make you feel good, which affords high job satisfaction. 

There is, of course, the money factor. Managers get paid more for their work and that increases applications to managerial jobs. Just don’t list this as one of your reasons for applying if you ever get a management job interview.

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