When you try to define how to be a good manager, you'll likely come up with many character traits: empathetic, accountable, open-minded, trustworthy… The web is overflowing with glowing descriptions of the successful manager’s personality.

But what good are all these passive descriptors when you're looking to actively and concretely boost your leadership skills?  Want to know how to be a better manager? You need some golden rules to live by.

This article condenses all that wisdom into five managerial mottos. 

From flawed to flawless: 5 steps to leading distributed teams

Learn how to be a better manager by following these 5 simple strategies

1. Great managers think like coaches

What does it mean to think like a coach? Well, try contrasting your idea of a coach with that of a boss. The boss attitude pits superiors against subordinates. The boss wants to squeeze as much work as possible out of each employee. On the other hand, coaches develop their people. They communicate with their people often in order to really understand their needs and potential. 

According to Gallup,  “the best managers talk to their employees and teams. A lot.
But it's not their word count that defines them -- it's what they say.” 

How to nurture a coaching mindset

  • Think in questions, not answers: Help employees to find their own solutions by asking questions like “what would you do differently next time?” rather than telling them what to do.
  • Communicate often: Hold consistent 1-on-1 meetings with employees to talk about everything: how work is going, what they're enjoying, where they’re struggling, or what ideas they have. Simply talk authentically and talk often. Keep track of everything using a one-on-one meeting software.
  • Push boundaries: To help employees grow, you’ll need to push them beyond their limits. Consider creating “stretch goals” that develop employees. 

What are the benefits of a coaching mindset?

  • When employees know you have their best interest at heart, they give their all. 
  • When employees feel trusted, they will perform with confidence.
  • Since a coach is part of the team and not the boss above it, you’ll foster a collaborative spirit as opposed to an antagonistic one. 

💡Tip: Read our article on the best coaching questions to ask your team in every 1-on-1 meeting. 

2. Shed your ego 

Being a manager is a job that requires humility to succeed. Good managers are not boastful or inaccessible. They are there in the thick of it with their team, shining the spotlight on others.

Just because you are technically a "superior" in the corporate hierarchy doesn't mean you always know the best method in every case. That's why, as tempting as it is to provide in-depth instruction for a task or project, resist this top-down approach for one of collaboration with your team. Remember that you can learn a lot from your team of experts.

How to check your ego at the door

  • Ask for input: When planning tasks and projects, gather everyone who's going to be involved to ask for input and gain new perspectives.
  • Give praise: When your team meets goals or an employee excels, give employee recognition and solicit them for their process so you can learn as well.
  • Take the blame: If a snag arises in a task or project, don't go looking to point fingers and assign blame. Take some responsibility as a good manager and question where you could have guided your team differently. 

What are the positive outcomes of ego-free managing?

  • Your team will see you as a partner, not as an egotistical superior. This means they'll be more willing to follow your instructions and be less timid about suggesting new methods.
  • If your team thinks of you as an ego-maniac, they may refrain from alerting you to problems. Shedding the ego avoids issues being swept under rugs.
  • Employee engagement, motivation, and satisfaction rocket up when they feel more involved in the decision-making process, especially when it comes to their tasks and roles.

💡 Tip: Own your mistakes. Whether you set goals too high or you dropped the ball on sharing important information, call it out. This is humbling, human and will set the precedent for employees to do the same.

3. Manage your team in the macro

You might think rule number one element of good management is to know what everyone is doing at all times. However, this stifles individual creativity and motivation. It also creates a bad work atmosphere, from uncomfortable to intimidating. In the end, micromanagers get their teams to seem like they're working hard, but the results will generally be just adequate because they are motivated more by fear. 

Working in the macro means confirming what high-level projects your employees work on based on business goals, but not dictating how they choose to execute on the project. Having this high-level view of initiatives in your team’s pipeline helps you flag their blindspots and coach them by challenging their decisions. 

How to step back and take a wider approach

  • Don't be a Big Brother: Never hover over a desk to see what someone is doing. Don't send curt messages and emails requesting updates.   
  • Set touchpoint times: Once you've set tasks with employees, ask them how long they need or want before your check-up. 
  • Understand processes: Don't just demand to see and judge completed work. Ask about the work process and why decisions were made so you have a full view. 

What are the upsides of macro-managing?

  • Easing up on the micromanaging pressure can result in fewer nerve-related work mistakes, as well as needed “me-day” absenteeism.
  • Employees might discover new ways to accomplish tasks or organize their workloads that are more efficient or deliver superior results.
  • Micromanagers are reminders that an employee’s output belongs to the bosses. Macro-managers help employees feel more connected to the fruits of their labor.

💡 Tip: Stepping back doesn't mean disappearing. Remind your employees of your open door policy. This is a great way to learn about where employees are at without hovering. 

4. Be a feedback magnet

The fourth rule for how to be a better manager is to constantly gauge how your team is responding to your specific leadership. This means keeping communication lines open and flowing to ensure a constant dialogue on improvement. 

The trouble is, employees aren’t always comfortable giving their boss constructive feedback. This is why it’s important to request feedback strategically, in an environment that is safe for employees to speak their mind. 

How to get feedback that’s honest and productive

  • Make it anonymous: Give employees the option to share their feedback anonymously. Adding this level of safety to the conversation is sure to inspire more truthful feedback on your management skills
  • Make it a habit: The more frequently you ask for it, the more comfortable employees will be sharing it. Make it a ritual after large projects so employees can give feedback on your involvement or guidance in the process.  
  • Take action: The best way to ensure you keep getting the feedback you need to improve is to act on the feedback you get. Asking for insights without taking action can deteriorate trust.  

What are the advantages of getting regular feedback?

  • It demonstrates you are always refining your management and leadership skills, rather than accepting your methods and abilities as static and maxed out.
  • By showing you crave their feedback, you'll help them realize how valuable their opinions are.
  • Feedback-magnet managers embody dynamism that makes a workplace come alive. No employee wants to work in a dead-end atmosphere where nothing ever changes. 
Image of a dashboard for the metric relationship with manager

Do you know how your employees feel about your management skills? Officevibe is an employee engagement solution that can help you collect honest, anonymous feedback from your team on a weekly basis. 

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5. Look ahead

Our final rule involves looking ahead toward the future. On an aspirational level, this means mobilizing your employees towards a shared mission and sense of purpose. Motivating your employees with vision and foresight is how you transform everyday work into meaningful careers. This is the stuff of great leaders. 

On a strategic level, this means anticipating what’s next or what blockers might arise. It’s about having a proactive mindset by being one step ahead with your eyes fixed on the front window rather than the rearview mirror.  

How to be a forward-looking team leader

  • Connect work to purpose: When employees can connect their daily tasks to the company’s long-term goals and mission, it creates meaning and inspires a sense of impact. 
  • Plan ahead: Your team might be focused on Q1, but you should be anticipating what’s coming up. Keep tabs on new competitors and market trends, imminent changes in company strategies, or upcoming features in your product, etc. 
  • Discuss growth opportunities: Hold monthly 1-on-1s to discuss your employee’s contribution beyond quotidian tasks. Talk about how they see themselves developing in the organization and how they want to bring their strengths as the company evolves. 

💡 Tip: Read our article on setting effective, forward-looking individual goals with your employees. 

What are the amazing results of looking ahead? 

  • Talking about the future adds meaning to the present. It'll make the everyday challenges seem less like a chore and more like an investment in the future.
  • By continually connecting their daily work to the company's future, you're providing a vision wherein they can see themselves evolve alongside you and the company. That means more long-term commitment and less turnover.
  • Thinking outside of the “now” will help your team learn to see the forest beyond the trees. Proactivity and prediction are essential elements of successful planning.

Officevibe’s app managers are successful team leaders 

One of Officevibe's survey questions asks employees to rate their direct manager's management skills. The results: 

 81% of employees positively rate their leader’s management skills.

You could bet these employees are working under leaders who think like coaches, have no egos, manage in the macro, solicit feedback, and bring purpose and vision to their work lives. 

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