One of the most important roles in any business belongs to the person who is overseeing the day-to-day operations. In other words, the manager — the person trusted to represent the business well, make sure that rules and requirements are followed by the staff, maintain a welcoming and efficient workplace for customers and all the other oversight tasks that keep a business running.
So, if you’re new to the role of manager or you want to be more effective in that role, you may wonder what keys will make you a success. How do you become a better manager? And if you’re the person hiring new employees, how do you spot someone with good managerial potential?
Here are some suggestions you can put into practice today to help.
1. Learn to delegate.
Sure, it’s a challenge to hand over responsibility to someone else. After all, if you’re the manager, the buck stops with you. You are the person the business owner is ultimately going to hold accountable if things go wrong. It’s easy to say to yourself, “Well, I’ll just make sure everyone’s timecards have been punched. And I’ll just make sure the coffee is filled up for customers. And I’ll…”
Don’t do it — or at least, don’t do it constantly. Yes, fill the coffee pot if your entire staff is swamped with work, and it will give you a breather to do so. But if the person who usually takes care of the coffee can do it, let him or her do it. If you don’t delegate, you’ll burn yourself out and make mistakes.
To delegate more effectively, create employee role descriptions to help you and your staff define who does what — and let them do it. If you want to delegate a new job responsibility, observe your staff and give the task to an employee who can handle it. This not only frees you up to concentrate on other tasks, but it also allows employees with growth potential to enjoy new challenges.
2. Don’t micromanage.
From an employee’s point of view, there are few things harder to deal with on the job than a boss who looks over their shoulder constantly. Not only is a lack of trust communicated — “You’re not really capable of doing this without me watching you” — but it de-motivates employees who are responsible and hard-working. They’ll feel it’s not worth it to put forth effort, and you’ll run the risk of losing them.
At the same time, micromanagement encourages people who are timid, don’t want to work hard or lack needed job skills to evade detection. Essentially, as a micromanager, you’re taking on responsibility for work that should be left in the hands of your employees. If someone truly can’t get the work done, they either need training or they need to be replaced, not micromanaged.
3. Make your expectations clear — and reasonable.
You can’t expect your staff to perform at your standards if you haven’t explained those standards directly and in detail. Make sure you define in clear terms what it means to be efficient, proactive, customer-friendly and so on, because those terms can mean different things to different people.
When you communicate what you want, consider whether you are asking people to do too much. Are your standards too high for your staff to realistically meet? Are you expecting they will always be able to drop everything and come in on their day off at last minute’s notice? Then stop. People perform better when you ask them to do what they can instead of asking for the impossible.
4. Communicate early and often.
Don’t take for granted that your staff knows everything. Ask them questions, and be sure everyone is on the same page. Share news. Touch base with your people every day. Whatever you need to say, be sure to communicate it with respect and understanding.
If new policies are being set, explain why they are being set. And be prepared to have to explain things a few times. New ideas take a while for people to grasp, because we all need time to practice new behaviors until they become habits.
5. Appreciate your staff.
When people are asked why they chose to quit a job, they often say, “I didn’t feel appreciated for what I do.” The reality is people don’t hold a job only to get a paycheck; they also want to feel successful. When you recognize your staff for their successes and reward their service, they are more likely not only to stay employed with you, but also to work a little harder.
Although your employees will be glad to get a bonus when you can give one, you can reward your workers in other ways, too. Giving people an extra half hour for lunch once in a while or a paid half day off on Fridays in October, for example, can go a long way to letting your staff know you appreciate them. Bring in doughnuts and coffee as a surprise. Get creative. Even a genuine smile and a heartfelt thank you for a job well done can make a difference.
6. Be open to new ideas.
Many times, the best ideas for improving customer service, productivity, efficiency and other aspects of a business come from the people who are down in the trenches doing the work every day. Your staff is a treasure trove of opinions on what works, what doesn’t and how things can be improved because they are thinking about what will help them enjoy their jobs better.
When someone comes to you with a suggestion, don’t respond defensively. Listen to what your employee is telling you, and weigh it as objectively as possible. The idea may need some tweaking before you can effectively implement it, but if it makes sense to use it, use it. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due, because the only thing worse than a manager who doesn’t listen to good ideas is a manager who steals them.
7. Handle conflict effectively.
It’s inevitable that on a staff of more than one person, there will eventually be conflict. Workers may not always get along. Stressful days can make people snap at each other. But because employees cite a negative work environment as a major reason for leaving a job, even a job they like, it pays for managers to keep an eye out for these types of problems and help resolve them.
When conflict arises, address it immediately. The longer you let a problem linger, the harder it will be to resolve it. Don’t hesitate to confront a difficult situation directly. When you work to defuse a conflict, be respectful, fair and willing to listen to all the parties involved.
Remember, when people are stressed, they may be emotional, and it may feel as though it’s directed at you because you have stepped in. Rather than taking it personally, remind yourself their emotion is theirs to deal with and persist calmly and patiently forward with what you are saying.
8. Above all, have fun!
Fun may seem like a strong word for a job that requires a lot of hard work. But remember, you’re there for eight hours of your day, or more. Do what it takes to enjoy what you do. And help your employees enjoy themselves, too. An upbeat workspace that allows for occasional coffee breaks, laughter and friendly competition can inspire everyone. Positive environments make for positive employees and positive customer experiences.