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How to Be a Good Manager: 4 Key Responsibilities and 7 Tips

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 20, 2020 • 4 min read

What does it take to be a good manager? Whether you're a new manager or a veteran, excelling at the job starts with understanding your job. Training recent hires for new roles requires a different skill set and management style than leading experienced team members on a new project. As a manager, your success will depend on your ability to get the people you manage to do good work.



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What Does a Manager Do?

At the most basic level, managers are responsible for making sure team members do their jobs. But what that means at a day-to-day level varies across industries. Being a good leader requires you to adapt to the dynamics of your individual team.

Though the specific tasks of a manager will vary greatly depending on your company and industry, general management skills tend to fall into four broad categories that are important to understand as a first-time manager:

  1. Prepare your team to do the work. At the most basic level, how do you convey to your team members how to do their job? This can refer to onboarding new employees or training existing team members for new positions, processes, or responsibilities. An effective manager will find the right combination of formal training, mentoring, and on-the-job experience to make sure everyone stays up to speed.
  2. Create and improve processes. How do you make sure that work stays organized and on-track? That’s what business processes are about. Especially as teams scale up, building sustainable processes is essential—whether via project management software, formalized job descriptions, or routinized meetings and daily stand-ups.
  3. Establish clear lines of communication. Where do your team members go when they have questions or problems, and how does the executive team convey new orders and directives to the rest of the team? Effective communication skills can build trust between management and team members and also creates a set of expectations around how and when important information will be conveyed.
  4. Motivate your team to do the work. What makes the people on your team show up to work in the morning? The best managers will understand when employees are intrinsically motivated (by a desire for excellence, a belief in the mission, etc.) or extrinsically motivated (by money, recognition, or status).

7 Tips for Being a Good Manager

Becoming a better manager is an ongoing process. Even those who’ve managed large teams for years may still need to develop certain leadership skills or reconnect with their team or the work itself. Here are seven tips for being a successful manager at any experience level:

  1. Delegate more. It might be tempting to just do it yourself, especially in a crunch, but remember that being a great manager means your focus needs to be on the big picture. If you find yourself rushing from task to task, it means your time management is weak you probably aren’t delegating enough to your senior team members.
  2. Give more praise than criticism. Giving honest feedback in performance reviews and team meetings is important, but it’s important to be mindful of the motivating potential of meaningful compliments and praise mixed with constructive feedback. Singling out team members who’ve gone above and beyond can be a powerful motivating force for boosting employee engagement.
  3. Check in even when nothing is wrong. Make time for one-on-one meetings on a regular basis. This gives your direct reports an opportunity to bring up questions or challenges before they balloon into major problems. They also give you a less formal opportunity to communicate with your employees and gauge their level of motivation.
  4. Seek out advice and feedback. Being a good manager is hard and no one expects you to know everything, especially if this is your first management role. Don’t be afraid to ask other more experienced managers for new ideas, whether they’re part of your company or in your larger network. Be upfront about where you feel your biggest challenges and shortcomings lie.
  5. Set reasonable goals. The essence of your job as a manager is to set clear goals and motivate your team to achieve them, but this only works if the goals are achievable in the first place. There’s nothing more demoralizing than unmeetable or unreasonable expectations. Make sure the goals you’re setting for team members and the team as a whole are ambitious without being overwhelming.
  6. Get in the trenches. While it’s important for you to stay focused on the big picture, you also can’t lose sight of what the day-to-day work of your team entails. Being involved in managing individual projects on a personal level as they unfold in real-time can help keep you connected to the work your team is doing. Ask questions about the hard work your team members are doing, and stay up-to-date on trends in your field or business.
  7. Know yourself. As a manager, you set the tone for your team members. A bad mood on your part can negatively impact your team’s performance, whether you mean for it to or not. Developing emotional intelligence and understanding how you handle stress in a leadership role allows you to do your work and keep the team on-track even under challenging circumstances.
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