The two prerequisites for being a great manager are:
- Sincerely and deeply caring about your team and company.
- Having empathy, self-awareness, organizational awareness, emotional awareness, perspective, maturity, and security.
If you possess those characteristics, you can become a great manager in practice by doing the following:
Empower your team.
Your job is to hire the best people, set high expectations, create the right culture, invite questions, and be available. Your team’s job is to achieve their goals, do their tasks, update you, and ask questions. Don’t micromanage. But don’t forget, it’s also ultimately your job that your team achieves their goals.
Serve your team.
Your job as a manager is to serve your team, not the other way. Put your team before yourself. You, your team, and your company will all be better off. Highlight them, their skills, and their success. You succeed if they do. You fail if they do.
Seek and provide open, honest, and frequent communication of all kinds.
Seek and provide immediate and frequent feedback. Celebrate, discuss, and learn from successes and failures. Encourage debate. Ask for ideas.
Develop strong relationships.
Your relationships with your team set the foundation for everything else. Strong relationships make you and your team happier, communicate better, and more successful. Take time to get personal. Once a month at your team meeting, talk about your life outside of work. Get together outside the office. Get to know the other people in their lives.
Understand strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.
Keep notes on everyone. This isn’t a list you update and glance at once a year. This is something you think about every week, in the context of every meeting and every assignment. This guides how you apply these practices to each person.
Focus on career development.
Align your team’s career goals with day-to-day tasks when possible. Push them to think about and accomplish their goals. Help them develop the skills they’ll need.
Put in the time.
Management of people is its own task. If you’re a manager of people, management is not something that is meant to be done in your excess time. Management is probably your top priority. Hiring, developing, and retaining six star performers is likely more valuable than your best individual contributions. Put the time into management that it takes. Do the 1-1. For each 1-1, schedule the time in your calendar to prepare for that meeting. Create the agenda before the meeting. Follow up after the meeting. Here’s a template for your 1-1s. Adjust as needed.
Be positive, enthusiastic, and energetic.
Your attitude permeates the team. If you have the right attitude, so will they. Your attitude will be in the background on everything your team does. It will make good times even better and bad times easier to push through.
Explain the contribution to the whole.
Your team wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. Talk about how team responsibilities and tasks are consistent with and contribute to the company and mission.
Tailor your management.
Every person and situation is different. Be flexible, not dogmatic. These are good practices to start with, but learn, adapt, and apply these as you see fit.
If you’re going to dedicate yourself to being a great manager, do more than read about it. Take the best ideas from every source. Make a checklist of the things you need to do. And check them off repeatedly. Your team will notice.