Whether you’re selling online products or a packaged service, efficient businesses have one thing in common: great managers.
Overseeing a specific project, area of the business or company in general, they’re critical to making sure things get delivered on time, every time.
That's because managers have complete control of resources — including people, technology, and budgets.
But how exactly do you become an excellent manager, and make the most out of your resources?
Continue reading to find out, or click to jump to a specific section.
What Do Managers Do?
Whether you’re hoping to become a manager or intrigued about what one does, managers are typically responsible for a variety of tasks. We cover the main ones below.
No matter the industry you’re working in, goals are essential for success. After all, it’s how managers ensure their teams are meeting targets.
Managers set smaller goals for their team, which impact company-wide targets. For example, if a company-wide target was to “increase sales by 25% year-on-year,” a sales manager may set goals for each of their team members to deliver 20 software demos each week.
In short: managers set smaller, more achievable goals to help their team to meet bigger targets — and communicate this to all members of staff.
Plan and Organize
Similar to goals, solid plans are the foundation of any successful project. You can’t meet goals if you don’t have a plan to achieve them, right?
That’s also the job of a manager: to plan and organize how they’ll meet their goals — and delegate tasks to people who can make it happen.
Direct All Staff
Once a manager delegates tasks, they then give direction to all their team members.
People look up to their managers — acting as a positive role model in the workplace, managers provide support and direct their employees, so they meet goals and targets.
Monitor and Evaluate
If something in a project’s workflow is taking longer than expected or isn’t on-course to meet the deadline, managers will spot it.
That's because managers continuously monitor and evaluate their workflows.
They ask staff for feedback and immerse themselves in the project. They also analyze what worked and didn't work, noting this for next time they're managing a similar project.
Build a High-Performance Team
Although there are several management styles, all of them have one thing in common: they build a solid team of high performers who get work done — on time, every time.
Managers do this by:
- Encouraging communication.
- Giving praise.
- Delegating tasks according to staff skills.
- Coaching all members of their team.
- Giving feedback.
- Solving collaboration problems.
- Defining roles, responsibilities, and timelines.
Hire New Staff
Since managers oversee projects, they need to have some input in the hiring process.
This helps managers hire people with skill sets their current team might be missing. Having the ability to pick new talent falls under resource management.
For that reason, managers are always recruiting and looking to hire top talent.
However, managers also have the unhappy responsibility of firing a staff member who's not pulling their weight.
Common Leadership Styles
When you're managing people and delegating tasks, managers often follow specific leadership styles. This helps staff know where they stand with their superiors and sets a precedent of the standard of work expected.
There are six main types of managers, including:
Directive and Commanding Managers
When you think of the word “manager,” you wouldn’t be alone if you thought they were demanding, threatening, and often arrogant.
This approach is called a "directive" leadership style — stereotypical managers, or micromanagers, who follow the "do as I say, not as I do" approach to managing resources.
Directive managers rarely do the work. Instead, they give demands for other people to do it — sometimes in a threatening manner.
This leadership style can work well in urgent situations and allows managers to understand where work stands.
However, staff might struggle to relate to this type of manager. Not only could this management style make them wary of voicing concerns and giving feedback, but directive managers might struggle to motivate their team and create a high-performance workforce.
Similar to directive leadership styles, persuasive managers give demands and rarely ask for employee feedback.
However, managers try to persuade their employees to do things, rather than just telling them straight.
For example, a persuasive manager might say "if we get this done, I'll treat you to lunch."
Although this leadership style can help motivate employees, communication is still limited. Staff members don't have the opportunity to voice their feedback, which could lead to poor quality work.
Consultive managers always ask for employee feedback and view their role as more of a team leader than a high-level manager.
Often having open door policies, this management style makes people feel like their more involved. This is useful if you're managing a large team.
However, consultive managers might struggle to get work done. Since they’re always waiting for feedback from other people, they need to push harder to make progress.
Focusing on teamwork and building relationships, affiliative leaders use personal connections to get work done faster and more effectively.
They're likely to plan team-building days and find unique ways to encourage staff to work well together.
While this leadership style can help staff to be more accountable for their work, affiliative managers often struggle with conflict. Any conflict could impact the entire project, and impact staff's focus.
This type of manager doesn't let their team do all of the work — they get involved and do some themselves.
Setting a good example and expecting staff to follow it, pacesetting managers provide their team members with a positive role model. And their high energy and constant drive to do more can be a massive motivation for their staff.
On the other hand, pacesetting managers could have the opposite effect on people who take longer to digest information. What takes an experienced manager two minutes could take someone else 15, meaning they could feel discouraged if they're not up to the same speed.
Typically, these leaders take on more of a coaching role than a manager.
That’s because laissez-faire managers aim to make staff happy, and focus more on company culture rather than meeting tight deadlines.
Laissez-faire managers often see less employee turnover because they're always striving to keep staff happy.
However, with minimal pressure on staff to get work done, it could lead to low performance.
Management vs. Leadership
While the skills needed for both roles are similar, there’s one main difference between management and leadership: managers manage people, and leaders lead by example. While a manager sets a vision for a group of people, leaders set the example for the group to achieve the goals.
It’s possible to be a leader without managing staff directly, but managers should have leadership qualities if they want to maximize their team’s performance.
Qualities of great managers and leaders include:
- Creativity and versatility
- Focus and discipline
- Responsibility to build and manage relationships
Leadership is all about setting vision, leading by example, and motivating your team to follow you ... not to work for you.
How to Set Goals to Focus Your Team
Great managers know how to make the most out of their team. For managers to succeed, they need to set goals and make sure their staff is focused. This can be done by:
Using a Project Management Tool
When a project is active over an extended period, staff members might be unsure of where they are in the process, forget a deadline, or need someone else to do something before they can start on their next task.
A central tool or software to store this data can prevent this, and keep all members of the team up-to-speed with the whole project.
Delegating Tasks Wisely
Assigning tasks based on employee’s skills helps them to focus and meet targets.
So, if you know someone is great with numbers, give them a math-based task rather than a writing assignment.
Not only does delegating tasks help to motivate employees, it also helps save time. They already know what they’re doing!
Simplifying and Streamlining
If you have three smaller but similar tasks, you could boost employee performance by giving them to one person — rather than three individuals.
This helps people feel more in control of that specific project, which means they are usually quicker to meet deadlines.
Giving Staff Something to Aim For
When you're aiming to focus your team and reach goals, think about what's in it for them — other than their bi-weekly paycheck.
Give your staff something to aim for: Percentages of overall profit from the project they're working on, team days out, or shares in the companycould be the extra push they need to complete their tasks on time.
Setting Check-in Meetings
If the project you’re working on is long or ongoing, your team’s output might start to dwindle.
This isn't uncommon and can happen due to boredom, confusion, or being unsure of what they need to do next.
You can prevent this from impacting your deadlines by setting regular check-in meetings. Weekly or bi-weekly discussions can help get everyone back on track and give staff the opportunity to voice concerns that are restricting their output.
How Can Managers Be More Effective?
- Set SMART goals that people can realistically achieve.
- Delegate tasks according to employee skills.
- Encourage employees to give feedback through asking questions.
- Listen to your team.
- Recognize and reward staff achievements.
- Set a good example.
- Customize your leadership style for individuals, projects, and deadlines.
- Be transparent.
- Make your working environment fun and positive.
How to Motivate Your Employees
Good leaders and managers know how to get the most out of their team. However, there’s one small thing that makes this possible: motivation.
If employees aren't motivated to work, they’re unlikely to meet deadlines — and achieve goals.
However, if your team is motivated and comes to the office ready to start working, it'll lead to better performance and higher job satisfaction.
You can experience these benefits and motivate your staff through using these tactics:
Recognize and Reward
Because analyzing is part of a manager’s daily to-do list, they should be able to see how staff are performing.
Recognizing this, and rewarding their good behavior, can be a fantastic boost of motivation for your team. If their hard work is paying off, they’ll be sure to continue performing at a high level.
That’s why achievement and recognition have been found to lead to higher job satisfaction.
Be sure to reward members of your staff that are working outside of the box or helping other employees meet their targets.
Suitable rewards could be leading a project, gift vouchers to a free lunch, or a day off. Showing that you take notice of hard work, and appreciate it, is a surefire way to motivate staff.
Create a Positive Company Culture
Company culture is dependant on your work environment.
Since managers always want to boost their team’s performance, crafting a positive company culture could be the motivation boost they need to meet their goals.
Managers should make employees feel:
- Valued for their thoughts and ideas.
- Encouraged to do their best work.
Creating a culture based on openness, communication, and appreciation of one another can help to achieve this.
Instead of following the directive leadership style, managers can motivate their employees by explaining the impact they're making.
One study saw a 7% improvement in productivity when a group of workers saw how their actions had a positive impact in the factory.
You could use this methodology to motivate staff by explaining:
- How their actions are impacting customers — i.e., "if we get this task done quickly, people in our local community can enjoy a hot meal."
- How their actions are impacting the company — i.e., "if we can complete this project ahead of schedule, we'll be able to charge an extra $5,000 — this could help us upgrade your old desktop computers."
The tactic may sound obvious, but it’s often underused.
Help Your Team Meet Personal Goals
No matter where a member of staff falls in your organization’s hierarchy, they’re likely to have personal career goals.
That could be:
- To move into a different department.
- To earn a certain salary.
- To become the manager of a big project.
As a manager, you can motivate staff by understanding their personal goals — and by helping your team members reach them.
This can be done by regularly scheduling meetings and taking time to understand new members. Work together to create a long-term plan, and explain how their performance now affects the likelihood of meeting their personal goal.
Get to Know Everyone
Take some time out of your schedule and get to know everyone you’re managing.
Ask about their family, make friends with your team, and learn what makes them tick.
Remember: one size doesn't fit all when it comes to managing. You might need to adapt your leadership style for different people on your team and push each person at their own pace.
Over To You
Now you've learned what it takes to become a great manager, and you can start building a solid team that helps you to produce fantastic work.
Remember: staff who connect with their managers enjoy their work —reducing employee turnover.
If you can build a leadership strategy that makes the workplace fun and boosts staff performance, you’re sure to have a high performing team.