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All you need to know about being a good manager

July 27, 2022 - 10 min read


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8 traits of a great manager

Avoid the following habits

How to hire a great manager

Need a hand?

Think back to your least favorite work experience. 

Maybe it was your first job at a fast-food restaurant. When the lunch rush was in full swing, your boss cracked under pressure. Instead of looking for solutions, your manager blamed you for the backup of food orders. 

Of course, it wasn’t your fault. You were trying your best with the tools you had, and a good leader should have recognized that.

Being a good manager is difficult. Whether in a restaurant or a boardroom, leaders should give staff something to aspire to — not just punish them when things go south.

But what does it take to be a good manager? Don’t worry — we’re going to tell you.


8 traits of a great manager

The best managers set clear goals, boost employee engagement, and value the well-being of their direct reports. No matter your management style, here are some keys to being a good manager:

1. Align your team with organizational goals

Keep your team in the loop on your organization’s goals. Companies constantly adapt to accommodate regulations or beat competitors to market. Thankfully, your team is surely bright, quick, and adaptable. 

Show the members of your team how their work fits into the big picture. Doing so will have a big impact. After all, people are at their best when they recognize their importance to the mission.

2. Show empathy

Remember the people you manage have thoughts, feelings, and emotions that matter.  Be mindful of their workload, check in with them regularly, and recognize that they also have personal lives.

Emotional intelligence goes a long way in building trust with your staff.

When you treat people well, they will be more likely to step up when you need them. Your team will keep you in the loop on the ins and outs of their work and be more willing to collaborate. Magic happens when people feel safe and work together.

3. Become a master delegator

If you want to know how to become a project manager, you need to know how to delegate tasks, not complete them all yourself. To hit deadlines, you’ll need everyone to understand their role and your expectations. And, most of all, trust them to follow through. Then you can celebrate when they knock it out of the park.

4. Set SMART goals for your employees

Employees should know the purpose of their role. Simple project-based tasks can feel meaningless without something bigger to work toward. Good managers know what they need from individuals and communicate it effectively. Set SMART goals for each staff member. SMART stands for: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely 

This type of goal-setting will help keep things clear and focused for your employees.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Like any relationship, leading a team requires constant good communication. You’ll need to keep meetings on task, resolve conflicts at their inception, and adapt to people’s work styles. Use active listening to hear what people need from you and communicate what you need from them. 

You can improve your communication skills with the help of a professional coach. At BetterUp, you’ll get access to tools and advice to help improve your leadership skills.

6. Play to your team’s skills

The best leaders know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. Have regular performance reviews. Show the people you manage what they do well and where they can improve. Plan new skills together. And, most of all, empower your team by believing in them.

7. Set people up for success

Ask your team members what they need and, if resources allow, provide it. That might mean investing in training programs or subscribing to that perfect project management software.

Or, it may be as simple and practical as upgrading to more comfortable chairs or investing in a great coffee machine for the office. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to build a great work environment.

8. Inspire

Great leaders are uplifting when times are tough and celebrate the team’s victories first. 

Make it your goal to help your team members become the best versions of themselves. Not only will this boost employee morale, but it will encourage resilience and creativity.

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Avoid the following habits

While there are many things you can do to be great, managers should also be wary of certain habits. Here are four to avoid to be an effective manager and leader:

1. Micromanaging

Unless you’re offering constructive feedback, avoid telling someone how to do their job. You hired them for a reason, so let them work.

Hovering over someone’s shoulder only leads to stress, anxiety, and maybe even mistakes — the very thing you’re trying to avoid.


2. Over-providing solutions

As a manager, people often count on you to solve problems. But unless someone explicitly asks for help, it’s better to sit back.

Trust that your employees are talented enough to solve things on their own. This will make them better workers in the long run and show them that you have faith in their abilities.


3. Playing favorites

It’s often a leader’s job to diffuse tensions in the office. If you show blatant favoritism, you’ll do the opposite.

This practice sows distrust among your team. It also tells people that hard work doesn’t matter — you just need an “in” with the boss.

4. Leading with your ego

We get it. Landing that managerial position is a big deal. You worked hard to get there.

But don’t let it go to your head. Employees can tell if you’re trying to make yourself look better. Stay humble, be authentic, and do a good job. Your leadership will speak for itself.


How to hire a great manager

Finding a new manager for your company is difficult. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Have a standard set of questions that will reveal their leadership qualities. For example, “Tell me about a time you helped an employee improve on a mistake.” By asking each candidate the same questions, you’ll be able to compare responses. This can help you see who is the best fit for the role and the company.
  2. Be picky. This is an important job. Your standards should be high.
  3. Interview candidates based on referrals. If you know and respect someone, you can likely count on them to refer stellar candidates.


Need a hand?

Don’t feel like you need to manage your career development on your own. Being a good manager takes time, patience, and hard work. Whether you’re improving your time management or gunning for a new management role, BetterUp coaches can guide you to success.

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Published July 27, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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