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How to become a good manager: the ultimate success blueprint

By Marco Franzoni July 28, 2023


Key Takeaways

  • Good managers possess key traits such as emotional intelligence, effective communication, and decision-making skills.
  • Transitioning to a managerial role involves understanding new responsibilities and focusing on team dynamics.
  • Essential management skills include communication, decision making, and time management.
  • Leadership skills play a critical role in being a good manager.
  • Continual learning and improvement are vital in staying a good manager.
How to become a good manager: the ultimate success blueprint

Becoming a good manager is more than just a step up the career ladder. It's a transformation that requires developing a unique blend of skills, mindset, and an understanding of the human side of work. If you've just landed a managerial position or if you're a first-time manager, you might be grappling with the complexities of your new responsibilities. Alternatively, you could be an experienced manager, seeking ways to elevate your management skills and become more effective in your role. This article is designed for you.

You've probably worked with a range of managers in your career so far. Some may have been good managers, leaving a positive impact on your professional growth, while others may have been poor managers, hindering your enthusiasm and productivity. There's a stark difference, isn't there? What sets good managers apart from poor ones? The answer lies in a combination of solid management skills, leadership skills, and a sincere concern for the well-being of team members.

Our journey today will explore how to be a good manager, diving into the traits, techniques, and attitudes that the best managers demonstrate. We'll provide you with a comprehensive blueprint for success, drawing on the expertise of successful managers, latest research findings, and established best practices.

Stay tuned as we delve into the world of effective managers, and prepare to take notes - you're about to learn how to be the kind of manager that not only achieves team goals, but also fosters a positive work culture, encourages employees, and leaves a lasting positive example. Your journey to becoming a good manager begins here.

This article will be your guide, from stepping into your new managerial role to mastering the subtle art of leadership. Let's begin.

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Understanding the Characteristics of Good Managers

Before we dive into how to become a good manager, it's important to understand what the term "good manager" really means. What traits and behaviors do good managers consistently display? What separates them from poor managers?

Good managers are often described as visionary, communicative, empathetic, and decisive. They are not just focused on hitting targets or deadlines; they understand and appreciate the importance of their team members' well-being and professional development. A good manager is not just a hard worker, but also a good leader and a good coach. They inspire their teams, leading by example and encouraging a growth-oriented mindset.

Traits and Behaviors Commonly Seen in Good Managers

The best managers possess a set of traits that set them apart. These traits include, but are not limited to:

  1. Emotional Intelligence: Good managers are in tune with their own emotions and the emotions of their team members. They recognize the importance of emotional health in the workplace and promote a positive work culture that values empathy and understanding.
  2. Effective Communication Skills: They express their expectations clearly, provide and receive feedback in a constructive manner, and maintain open lines of communication with their team members.
  3. Decisiveness: Good managers are decisive. They make well-informed decisions promptly and stand by them. Their decision-making skills help keep the team on track and ensure progress towards organizational goals.
  4. Growth-Oriented: They foster a work environment that encourages learning and professional development. They provide opportunities for employee training and are always seeking ways to improve themselves and their team.

Role Models: Examples of Good Managers in Various Industries

Great managers are found in all industries, from the tech giants of Silicon Valley to small teams in non-profits. Let's look at some examples.

  1. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, is renowned for her ability to make tough decisions while still maintaining a positive relationship with her employees. Her leadership style is characterized by open communication and a genuine concern for the well-being of her team members.
  2. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, is celebrated for his transformational leadership. He promotes a growth mindset, encourages employees to learn from their failures, and is known for his empathy and emotional intelligence.
  3. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, is praised for her ability to balance assertiveness and empathy. She's an excellent example of a manager who effectively integrates emotional intelligence into her leadership style.

Learning from such effective leaders can provide valuable insights for your journey to becoming a good manager. In the following sections, we'll delve into practical steps on how to cultivate these traits and behaviors.

Remember, the ultimate goal is not to imitate these managers, but to identify valuable aspects of their management style that align with your personality, your team, and your organizational level. You're aiming to become the best version of yourself as a manager, not a replica of someone else.

First Steps on How to Be a Good Manager

First Steps on How to Be a Good Manager

The journey to becoming a good manager starts with the first step: transitioning from an individual contributor to a managerial position. This is often a challenging change, involving new responsibilities, different dynamics with team members, and a shift in mindset.

The Transition from Individual Contributor to Manager

As an individual contributor, your primary focus was likely your own work output. You had tasks to complete, deadlines to meet, and perhaps some degree of autonomy in how you achieved these tasks. As a manager, your perspective has to shift from individual achievement to team success. You're no longer simply a player on the field, but also the coach directing the whole team.

A successful transition into a managerial role involves some key shifts in your work approach. Firstly, you'll need to hone your communication skills. Keeping your team members informed, being open to their input, and handling their concerns effectively is a critical part of your new position.

Secondly, delegation becomes an important aspect of your work. You're now responsible for overseeing the work of your team, which means you'll need to trust them with important tasks. Learning to delegate tasks effectively can help ensure the team works efficiently towards its goals.

Lastly, this transition often requires a significant change in your working relationships. Your former peers are now your direct reports. Navigating this change with respect and professionalism is crucial to maintaining a positive and productive work environment.

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Understanding Your Responsibilities as a Manager

Becoming a manager comes with a new set of responsibilities. Your manager's responsibilities go beyond the basic operational tasks; they extend to shaping the work environment, guiding your team, and leading by example.

One of your key responsibilities is to promote a positive and collaborative work environment. This involves addressing conflicts, encouraging open communication, and ensuring that each team member feels valued and heard. You also need to keep an eye on the well-being of your team members, recognizing that their personal lives can influence their work and vice versa.

Your role as a manager also involves setting clear expectations, providing regular feedback (both positive and negative), and guiding your team towards its goals. Additionally, you're expected to lead by example, embodying the work ethic, attitude, and values you wish to see in your team.

Career development is another important area to focus on. As a manager, you have a significant role in shaping your team members' professional growth. This might involve providing opportunities for employee training, offering mentorship, and helping them set and achieve their professional development goals.

Becoming a good manager is a journey, not a destination. Even as you step into this new role, remember that there's always room to learn, grow, and become a better leader. In the following sections, we'll explore specific skills and strategies to help you on this journey.

Essential Management Skills to Cultivate

Essential Management Skills to Cultivate

As a manager, your role extends beyond the technical aspects of your work. You're not only responsible for ensuring tasks are completed, but also for leading your team, making critical decisions, and maintaining a positive work environment. These responsibilities demand a broad set of management skills. In this section, we'll focus on three essential skills: communication, decision making, and time management.

Communication: The Foundation of Good Management

Effective communication is a cornerstone of good management. As a manager, you'll need to clearly convey expectations, provide feedback, and promote open dialogue within your team. Good managers master the art of both speaking and listening.

Your communication skills will be put to use in various contexts: team meetings, one-on-one discussions, performance reviews, and even informal chats. In order to make the most out of these situations, especially team meetings, it's important to understand what truly constitutes an important meeting. Learn more about this in our Quick Guide to Effective Meetings.

It's crucial to foster a climate where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. This not only aids in resolving issues early but also promotes a sense of team spirit and collaboration.

Don't forget, communication isn't just about words. Non-verbal cues, the tone of voice, and even your actions can send strong messages. For example, being receptive to employee feedback or openly addressing mistakes sets a good example of openness and humility.

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Decision Making: The Art of Making the Right Choices

Another critical management skill is decision making. As a manager, you'll face numerous decisions - some straightforward, others complex and challenging. Good managers are able to make informed decisions confidently and quickly, keeping the team's and organization's goals in mind.

Decisions in a managerial role often involve a delicate balance of various factors: deadlines, team capabilities, resources, and long-term impacts. Your decision-making process should be transparent to your team members as much as possible. This not only boosts their trust in your leadership but also helps them understand the broader context of their work.

Remember, even the best managers can make wrong decisions. When that happens, the ability to accept, learn from your mistakes, and steer your team towards a course correction is what will set you apart.

Time Management: Juggling Tasks Efficiently and Effectively

Time management becomes increasingly important as you transition into a managerial role. With a team to lead and a multitude of tasks to oversee, good managers effectively prioritize and delegate tasks to ensure the team is working efficiently.

Effective time management goes beyond just organizing your own schedule. It also involves ensuring your team members are not overworked, respecting their time off, and helping them prioritize their tasks effectively.

While time management might seem like a daunting task, there are numerous tools and techniques you can use. From digital calendars and project management software to more traditional methods like to-do lists, find what works best for you and your team.

Cultivating these skills is a critical part of learning how to be a good manager. In the next section, we'll delve into leadership skills, another crucial element in your management toolbox.

The Importance of Leadership Skills in Management

The Importance of Leadership Skills in Management

Management and leadership are two terms often used interchangeably, but they denote distinct concepts. While management involves overseeing operations and ensuring tasks are completed, leadership is about inspiring, motivating, and influencing people. In this section, we'll discuss the importance of leadership skills in being a good manager.

What are Leadership Skills and Why Do They Matter?

Leadership skills are attributes that help you guide others towards achieving a goal. They include qualities such as the ability to inspire and motivate, effective communication, strategic thinking, and emotional intelligence. These skills are essential for any manager because they can help build a motivated, productive, and happy team.

Leadership skills matter in management because they enable you to lead by example, inspire your team to achieve their best, and foster a positive work environment. Effective leaders can create a strong team culture, align team members around common goals, and facilitate collaboration and innovation.

The Connection Between Leadership Skills and Being a Good Manager

Good managers are not just managers; they are also leaders. They understand that their role is not only to manage tasks but also to guide their team towards achieving their full potential. This is where leadership skills come into play.

Effective leaders communicate their vision clearly, ensuring each team member understands the team's goals and their role in achieving them. They foster an environment where everyone feels valued, heard, and motivated to contribute their best.

A good manager also understands the importance of empathy and emotional intelligence. They consider the well-being of their team members, empathize with their challenges, and celebrate their successes. This contributes to a positive work culture, which in turn boosts employee engagement and productivity.

Furthermore, leadership skills can help you navigate difficult situations, such as conflict resolution or delivering negative feedback. With the right approach, these challenging situations can be transformed into opportunities for growth and learning, both for you and your team.

In summary, cultivating leadership skills is a critical step in your journey on how to be a good manager. In the next section, we'll explore practical strategies to develop these skills and apply them effectively in your managerial role. Remember, being a good manager isn't just about managing tasks—it's also about leading people.

How to Develop Your Leadership Skills

How to Develop Your Leadership Skills

Becoming a leader doesn't happen overnight. It's a process that requires time, patience, and deliberate effort. Like any other skill, leadership abilities can be honed and improved over time. In this section, we'll discuss effective ways to develop your leadership skills and share some inspiring examples of leaders who've grown their capabilities throughout their careers.

Effective Ways to Improve Your Leadership Abilities

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to developing leadership skills. Everyone's journey is unique, influenced by their experiences, strengths, weaknesses, and the specific context of their team and organization. However, here are some general strategies that can help you become a more effective leader:

  1. Seek Feedback: Constructive feedback can be an invaluable tool for growth. Regularly solicit feedback from your team members, peers, and superiors. It's important to be open to criticism and use it as an opportunity for improvement.
  2. Practice Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and managing your emotions, as well as empathizing with others, is a key leadership skill. Practice active listening, empathize with your team members' perspectives, and manage your reactions in stressful situations.
  3. Keep Learning: The best managers are continuous learners. Stay updated on management and leadership trends, attend relevant workshops or seminars, and consider mentoring or coaching sessions.
  4. Lead by Example: If you want your team to exhibit certain behaviors or attitudes, be the first to demonstrate them. Show your team the values, work ethic, and attitudes that you expect from them.
  5. Set Clear Goals and Expectations: Effective leaders help their teams understand the bigger picture. Make sure your team knows what's expected of them and how their work contributes to the team's and organization's goals.

Real-life Examples of Leaders Who Improved Their Skills Over Time

One of the best ways to learn leadership is by studying those who've excelled in it. Let's take the example of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She started her career as a management consultant, and through continuous learning and embracing new opportunities, she developed her leadership skills, eventually leading teams at Google and then Facebook. Her approach to leadership emphasizes empathy, resilience, and building strong relationships.

Another example is Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. When he took the helm, Microsoft was facing numerous challenges. However, through his transformational leadership style, focused on growth mindset and collaboration, he was able to rejuvenate the company's culture, resulting in increased employee morale and business success. Nadella's leadership journey is an inspiring example of continuous learning, adaptability, and leading with empathy.

In conclusion, developing leadership skills is a continuous journey filled with opportunities for learning and growth. As you embark on this journey, remember that being a good manager means being a good leader, and vice versa. The next section will provide you with some more practical tips to be a good manager.

Common Pitfalls and Challenges in Becoming a Good Manager

Common Pitfalls and Challenges in Becoming a Good Manager

Embarking on a managerial journey can be exciting, but it's also filled with challenges and potential pitfalls. It's common for new managers to make certain mistakes while navigating their new responsibilities. Learning to recognize and avoid these mistakes is an essential part of becoming a good manager. In this section, we'll discuss some common mistakes new managers make and how to handle challenges like conflict resolution and criticism.

Common Mistakes New Managers Make and How to Avoid Them

  1. Doing Instead of Delegating: It's natural for first-time managers, especially those who were promoted from within the team, to dive into tasks they used to do as individual contributors. However, a manager's role involves overseeing and delegating tasks rather than doing them all. Remember, your job is to guide the whole team towards achieving its goals.
  2. Avoiding Tough Conversations: Conflict is inevitable in any team. However, avoiding conflicts or difficult conversations isn't the solution. Effective managers face these situations head-on and try to resolve them in a fair, respectful manner.
  3. Failing to Provide Clear Directions: As a manager, it's your responsibility to set clear expectations and goals. This helps team members understand their roles, responsibilities, and how their work contributes to the team's success.
  4. Micromanaging: While it's important to stay informed about your team's progress, constantly scrutinizing their work can stifle creativity and decrease morale. Trust your team members and give them the space to do their work.
  5. Neglecting Personal Development: Some new managers become so engrossed in their roles that they forget about their own professional development. But remember, learning and growth should be a continuous process.

Dealing with Challenges: Conflict Resolution and Handling Criticism

As a manager, you'll inevitably face challenges like conflicts within your team or criticism from superiors or team members. The way you handle these challenges can greatly influence your success as a manager.

Conflict Resolution: When conflicts arise, it's important to address them quickly and professionally. Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their views and grievances. Listen to all sides, mediate objectively, and aim for a resolution that maintains team harmony and respects everyone's feelings.

Handling Criticism: Criticism, when constructive, can be a valuable tool for growth. When you receive criticism, try not to take it personally. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn and improve. If the criticism is vague or confusing, don't hesitate to ask for clarification.

In summary, the road to becoming a good manager is often challenging and filled with learning opportunities. However, by being aware of common pitfalls and knowing how to navigate challenges, you can continually grow and become a more effective manager. In the following section, we'll delve into some more strategies and tips to help you become a successful manager.

The Role of a Good Manager in Team Success

The success of a team is largely influenced by its leadership. A good manager can have a profound impact on the team dynamics, productivity, and morale. Understanding these influences is key to realizing your potential and impact as a manager. In this section, we'll discuss how good managers influence team dynamics and the impact they have on team productivity and morale.

How Good Managers Influence Team Dynamics

Team dynamics are the behavioral relationships between team members. They play a significant role in how a team operates and performs. As a manager, your actions, attitudes, and management style can greatly influence these dynamics.

A good manager fosters a positive and collaborative work environment. They encourage open communication, making sure that each team member feels comfortable expressing their ideas and concerns. They facilitate collaboration, ensuring that team members are working well together, and help resolve conflicts in a way that respects all perspectives.

Good managers also recognize and leverage the diverse skills and strengths within their team. They allocate tasks based on each team member's skills and potential, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment. This not only maximizes productivity but also helps each team member feel valued and engaged, contributing to healthier team dynamics.

The Impact of a Good Manager on Team Productivity and Morale

A good manager's influence extends beyond team dynamics. They also have a significant impact on the team's productivity and morale.

By setting clear expectations, providing constructive feedback, and recognizing hard work, good managers can significantly boost productivity. They ensure that each team member understands their role and the team's goals, which helps align individual efforts with team objectives.

Moreover, a good manager understands the importance of maintaining high team morale. They show genuine interest in their team members' well-being and professional development, promoting a positive work culture. This not only increases job satisfaction but also improves productivity, as happy employees are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.

In summary, the role of a good manager in team success cannot be overstated. Good managers create an environment that fosters positive team dynamics, high productivity, and morale. In the next section, we'll look at some practical tips and strategies to help you become a successful manager.

Continual Learning and Improvement: The Key to Staying a Good Manager

As in any career, remaining stagnant in a managerial position is not an option. The world is constantly evolving, and with it, workplace norms, tools, and best practices. Thus, the key to not only becoming but staying a good manager lies in continuous learning and improvement. In this section, we'll discuss the importance of continuous learning in management and share resources and techniques for ongoing improvement.

To unlock the secret weapon to your organization's growth and success, consider reading our blog post on the role of middle managers in driving effective leadership and fostering a thriving work culture.

Dive deeper into the complexities of middle management in our detailed article here.

The Importance of Continuous Learning in Management

In the ever-evolving business landscape, skills that were relevant a few years ago might not be enough today. New challenges require new approaches, and good managers understand this. They make it a point to stay updated with the latest management and leadership trends, industry news, and advancements in their field.

Moreover, continuous learning allows managers to better support their teams. By staying ahead of the curve, they can guide their team members, adapt to changes more smoothly, and make informed decisions that benefit the team and the organization as a whole. Learning should be seen as a critical part of a manager's responsibilities, something that goes hand-in-hand with their day-to-day tasks.

For first-time managers looking for comprehensive training on leadership and management skills, we recommend exploring resources like Zella Life's blog post on First Time Manager Training: How to Train Successful Leaders. It provides valuable insights and practical strategies to develop effective leadership skills and become a successful manager.

Resources and Techniques for Ongoing Improvement

Now that we understand why continuous learning is vital let's look at some resources and techniques that can facilitate ongoing improvement:

  1. Professional Development Courses: There are numerous online platforms offering courses on various aspects of management and leadership. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning provide a wide range of options to choose from.
  2. Books and Podcasts: Reading books or listening to podcasts about leadership, management, and personal growth can provide valuable insights. Books like "The Making of a Manager" by Julie Zhuo or podcasts like "Manager Tools" offer practical advice and real-world examples.
  3. Networking: Joining professional groups or attending industry events can be an excellent opportunity to learn from peers and experienced professionals in your field.
  4. Mentorship: Having a mentor who has been in your shoes can be incredibly helpful. They can provide personalized advice, share their experiences, and help you navigate challenges. If you're interested in understanding the difference between a business coach and a mentor, you can read this informative blog post on business coach and mentor, which explores their unique roles and benefits.
  5. Feedback: Regularly seeking feedback from your team members, peers, and superiors can provide you with insights into areas you need to work on.

Remember, the journey of becoming and staying a good manager is one of constant learning and adaptation. Embrace this journey with an open mind and a willingness to grow, and you'll be on your way to becoming not just a good, but a great manager. In our concluding section, we'll summarize the key takeaways from our comprehensive guide on how to be a good manager.

If you're interested in exploring life and career coaching as a means to further enhance your management skills, you can check out Zella Life's blog post on Life and Career Coaching FAQs for valuable insights and answers to common questions.

In Conclusion: The Journey to Good Management

Becoming a good manager isn't an overnight transition. It's a dynamic journey that involves a consistent commitment to growth, a thoughtful approach to team dynamics, and a willingness to adapt to new situations. Throughout this guide, we've explored a multitude of aspects that contribute to effective management, all emphasizing the centrality of continual learning, emotional intelligence, and a people-first attitude.

Here's to your journey towards becoming a great manager. Good luck, and remember—never stop learning, never stop growing.

Read more about: Professional Development

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