Being a Better Team Leader—10 Areas of Improvement for Managers
“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
Bringing a leader’s presence to the team is what sets the best managers apart from the rest. Employees look to someone who guides rather than bosses, so being a manager is a lot less turbulent if you know how to demonstrate good leadership.
Once you take on the managerial mantle, you’re no longer just responsible for pulling your own weight. You’re now at the helm of your department and the task of carrying the vision of your organization rests on your shoulders. Let the team down with poor leadership and you’ll soon find out that an old adage still holds true: employees leave managers, not companies.
Unfortunately, stepping up as a good leader is often cited as one of the most taxing areas of improvement for managers. Sure, some people fall into their own more easily and become natural-born leaders almost overnight. Most managers, however, need some time and practice before they’re ready to provide an uplifting embodiment of a company’s mission and values.
Learning how to be a good manager is a matter of practice, not talent
Here’s the bottom line: managerial leadership is nothing but a skill that can be significantly improved through practice. What’s more, you don’t have to be capable of holding rousing TED-worthy motivational speeches. Instead, being a great manager boils down to taking care of your employees and fostering a prolific working environment. It’s a combination of smart work, understanding individual roles, and staying on top of team dynamics.
But how important should honing leadership skills be to managers? Well, according to Gallup’s report, an estimated 75% of quitting American employees opt to leave their jobs because of poor management. Furthermore, according to the WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, passive-aggressive managers make up about 61% of workplace bullies.
Another eye-opening finding is that workers state a lack of engagement as a top reason for why they quit their jobs. Unsurprisingly, the number one factor contributing to employee engagement is what kind of relationship is harbored with the immediate supervisor.
Judging by these reports, managers can be either a great source of motivation or frustration within a workplace. It’s up to you to decide on which side of the divide you’d like to end up.
Ten crucial areas of improvement for managers
We’ve picked a total of ten crucial areas of improvement for managers that you should primarily focus on in order to gradually transform yourself into the best team leader you can be. Neither of these suggestions holds more value than the others, but working on all of them is bound to make a mark on your core leadership and managerial skills.
Work on your motivational skills
Being able to motivate employees to work hard is an essential skill for a manager, so sharpening your ability to inspire should be high on your to-do list.
You want your employees to have belief both in the tasks you are delegating and in what the team is doing. That passion for work is what breeds success and improves the team’s performance by a substantial margin.
So how can you get better at motivating your workers? First and foremost, foster an atmosphere in which there’s a strong sense of team spirit and cohesiveness. A good way of inspiring togetherness is to approach every day as a day the team wins or loses together. Remember that you have to be a part of this, so you should be leading by example. If you want the workers to come in early or stay late, you do the same; if you want them to give you their maximum, do the same for them.
Be less afraid of new ideas and approaches
Some managers tend to be a tad too cautious when it comes to taking risks and trying out new approaches. After all, if things go south, they are the ones that will be answering for any costly mistake. However, what if we told you that trying out new ideas and going in fresh directions is a vital part of learning how to be a better manager?
Taking controlled risks is the only way a business can grow. That’s why most successful companies have managers who are flexible, adaptable to changes, and always interested in hearing about new ideas.
Keep in mind that some of the best ideas you’ll ever get will come directly from your staff. They are the ones working in the trenches day in and day out, so when they have ideas regarding improvements and innovations, you’d do well to listen. The willingness to hear what your top talent has to say also does wonders for employee retention.
Improve the way you offer feedback
Knowing how to provide feedback is a must for a good manager. That’s, after all, how you both criticize the shortcomings of workers and heap praise to motivate employees to continue working hard. Underrating the gravity of feedback is not a mistake you want to make.
Unfortunately, giving feedback, whether negative or positive, often turns out to be a huge pitfall for managers. How come? There are just too many fine lines that need to be tiptoed on while giving feedback, depending on different circumstances, moods, personalities, etc. You’d be amazed at how often the employee’s perception of your feedback ends up being much different from what you intended to say.
So how can you get better at offering feedback? While hurting someone’s feelings may be inevitable, your number one priority when giving feedback is to be constructive. Try to provide constructive reasoning and offer an actionable point with every critique you make.
Don’t be afraid to get personal with employees
Some managers are afraid to get too close to their staff on a personal level. They’re afraid that being a “nice guy” could be perceived as a weakness, which is a common misconception.
A vast majority of employees genuinely love it when managers drop the guard and take a personal interest in them and their lives outside of the workplace. It shows them that management cares for them on a deeper level, which breeds a greater sense of engagement and inclusion.
Remember that getting to know your employees on a more personal level doesn’t just mean talking to them about what’s going on outside the workplace. You also want to get to the bottom of their professional lives. What are they hoping to accomplish career-wise? What motivates them to be better employees? Where do they see themselves professionally in a few years? Once you get these answers, it’s up to you to facilitate their professional aspirations while aligning them with the best interests of the company.
Know how to set clear goals for your team
Top managers know that the right way to encourage employees to do good work is to give them very clear goals that are both easy to follow and gauge. This not only sets a fine, transparent tone across the team, but it also makes your job a lot easier.
It’s important that you learn to effectively delegate both the responsibility for completing assignments and the authority required to get them done. Resist the urge to micromanage and control every little thing that your employees do. Assign work and trust the staff to get the job done—that way, you increase the amount of work you can accomplish while developing your employees’ confidence and work skills.
In order to create realistic and productive goals for your employees, you need to include them in the process of defining the objectives. Be transparent about what you expect to get done and then discuss the right course of action to take with your workers. That’s the best way to determine which goals work both for the company and the employees.
Treat communication as a two-way street
Make it clear to your employees that communication is a two-way street. It’s not a podium from which only your voice can be heard, but a true productive back-and-forth conversation that has the team’s best interests in mind.
Being a good listener goes a long way here, which is a trait that often is underrated when talking about areas of improvement for managers. Leaders who don’t listen will end up surrounded by people who have nothing to say.
Building trust with your employees is key as trusting one another is the gatekeeper of productive communication. To gain the trust of your workers, never sugarcoat bad news, evade the facts, or attempt to spin. Great managers and team leaders respect employees enough to always give them the truth, both good and bad. Rest assured, your workers will return the favor and the entire team will prosper as a result.
Get good at identifying talents
There are three kinds of managers: those who attempt to do everything, those who do next to nothing, and those who strategically delegate tasks to subordinates. It’s apparent which one you should be aspiring to be.
The key to delegating tasks is having a strong sense for the talent pool of your team. The most successful managers are able to recognize the talents of their employees and harness their individual prowess. Not everyone is great at everything, so a good team leader must be able to identify each team member’s strengths and organize the tasks and the workflow accordingly.
This is among the key areas of improvement for managers because workers are most engaged when they apply their strengths to their job. That’s why managers should never attempt to force people to fit the role but place the right individuals in charge of tasks they’re able to perform well. That’s how you both keep the good spirit alive and get the results upper management expects from your team.
Never shy away from responsibility
Some managers, especially those who were recently promoted, find it difficult to assume responsibility when things don’t pan out as they hoped. Avoiding responsibility and playing the blame game, however, does nothing but damage your status as a leader.
No matter what went wrong, if it was your fault, take the bullet and start figuring out ways to rectify the situation. After all, if you’re going to hold workers accountable for their mistakes, it’s only fair that you hold yourself to the same high standard.
Even if it was a failed team effort, a manager should be the first to step up, assume responsibility and start working on a solution. They will earn respect as a leader and strengthen the team by demonstrating that workers can rely on each other no matter the situation.
Make time for one-on-one meetings
Between endless meetings with upper management and catching up with daily tasks, it’s easy to become a bit elusive as a manager. Yet, no matter how tight your schedule gets, you must make room for your employees.
Besides holding weekly administrative meetings with the entire team, you should also be having one-on-one meetings with individual subordinates. Unless business needs demand otherwise, these meetings should exclusively be about the employee sitting across from you. That way, you’ll get to learn more about your coworkers and what they expect to get from the role, company, and their manager.
Devote your time to them and them alone, and employees will start trusting you which leads to better work transparency and performance. And just remember, over time, as you form these relationships with your employees, they will also be less reluctant to communicate new ideas with you.
Don’t sweep problems under the rug
Figuring out how to be a better manager means taking a massive leap forward when you realize that successful managers never tiptoe around issues. They face them head-on and look to solve the problem before it affects the team. Unfortunately, doing so will inevitably force you into some uncomfortable situations.
The truth is that some employees are not a good fit, occasional projects fail to deliver, employees develop quarrels with one another, etc. Don’t think for a second that solving these problems will land in anyone else’s lap but yours. Remember that you have an entire team to look out for and solving any problem that threatens it must be your top priority.
The good news is that when you’re able to successfully navigate through tough times, your status among the employees will actually start to improve. Workers want a manager who stands up for them and makes it easier to do their jobs. As long as your problem-solving efforts are helping with that, your leadership status will not be brought into question.
Improving your managerial skills takes time, but it’s well worth the effort and wait
Not everyone is born a perfect team leader. Only a handful knew how to be a good manager from the get-go—most needed to rack up some mileage before they reached the peak of their leadership capability.
Luckily, regardless of whether you’re just starting out your managerial career or you’ve been at it for a while, working on the ten areas of improvement for managers we listed above will bridge the gap between the manager you are now and the manager you’d like to be.
Once you improve upon all ten of our suggestions and prove yourself as a good leader, you’ll see something incredible happen—people will be inclined to follow you and your employees will even go out on a limb for you since you’ve already proven that you would do the same for them.