6 Steps for Creating Better Managers (with Tools and Templates)

Our mission at OpsMBA is to help you build a successful business that’s a great place to work.

The world needs more great places to work. The best way to achieve that is by having more great managers.

Take a poll of your friends, coworkers, employees, or network and ask this: Rate your job satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 is I may not show up tomorrow. 10 is I’d keep doing it even if I were independently wealthy. 5 and below would be unhappy people who are passively or actively looking for new jobs or wish they could be. 6 and above would be happy people who are unlikely to leave their current position.

What will you find?

You’ll almost definitely get a lot more people at 5 or less than at 6 or more.

Why? Why aren’t more people happier in their jobs? Job satisfaction is a huge part of general happiness in life. We want to be happy. We want other people to be happy. Most people can be happy at their jobs. We should all be concerned that so many people around us are unhappy in their jobs.

Look at the poll in more detail and ask why people are happy or unhappy.

Who are the 7s, 8s, and 9s? They’re the people who are their own managers or have great managers. They’re founders. They’re CEOs. They’re small business owners. They’re freelancers. They’re also people who have a great manager, no matter what they actually do in their jobs.

Who are the 2s, 3s, and 4s? The opposite. They have managers who don’t care about, empower, and support them. They have managers who lack the soft skills that it takes to be a great manager. They have micromanagers. They even have abusive managers.

In other words, the reasons people are unhappy in their jobs are bad operating systems, bad people management systems, and bad people managers.

Maybe it’s because we promote the wrong people. Maybe it’s because founders don’t always make the best leaders and managers. Maybe it’s because people management is hard. Maybe it’s because management is time consuming and we don’t prioritize it. Probably it’s all of those things.

Whatever the reasons, we can fix it. We can have better managers. We can make people happier at their jobs. We can make a happier world. We can make organizations more successful.

Our most important products are our organization and our people. If we hire, develop, and retain the best people, everything else will work.

What does it mean to be a great manager?

Managing is hard. Some of management is generic. But a lot of management depends on the company, manager, and employees. So, to have the best managers, you’ll need to hire great managers and empower them to problem solve in their specific situations. But to help them, you should have foundational materials, management guidelines, and management systems and training to ensure managers focus on, are measured by, and satisfy those guidelines.

If your people management system is great, then:

  • Everyone will be able to answer these questions:
  • Each of your employees will be able to answer these questions:
    • How does your work fit in the company goals? Why are you doing the work you do? What company goal is that task targeted at impacting? How will you measure your success?
  • Each of your managers will be able to answer about each of their employees:
    • What motivates them? What do they want to learn? What’s their desired career path? Are they moving down that path? How do they know what to work on every day? What are their strengths? Are they using their strengths? What work do they want to do? Are they doing the work they want to do? Are we getting the most value from them and giving the most value to them? Are they happy? Are they likely to leave?
  • Your head of people management will be able to answer these questions about your organization:
    • How do you train your managers? What’s company-wide and what’s up to the manager? What resources do you give to them? How do you help your managers be great?
    • What’s required of a manager and their employee in that relationship? How do you measure the performance of your managers to ensure they’re successful? If a subordinate has an issue with their manager, what do they do?
    • How do you give and get feedback? How do you collect data and feedback from your team? What do you do with that data and feedback? How do you manage performance? Do you use performance reviews? How do you reward good performance? How do you give raises? How do you give promotions? How can people change roles? When do you trust subordinates and when check their work? How often should your managers meet with their subordinates?
    • How do your employees continue to learn and improve? How do your managers and the organization help them do so?

Those are the questions, this is the answer:

How do we create a better management system and better managers? Here are 6 steps:

  1. Build an Operating System with foundational materials, planning and goals, and execution, so that your management system has a common, strong base to build on and everyone feels a connection to the company and an impact on the company goals.
  2. Create a People Management and Development System, so that the parts of management that should be consistent across the organization are applied uniformly and properly and as a guide for your managers to use when building their own management systems.
  3. Train your managers, including providing guidelines about How To Be A Great Manager, so that managers know how to be great managers.
  4. Empower your managers to apply the systems and guidelines to each situation and person as needed.
  5. Measure your managers against managerial metrics that grow out of points 2 and 3 above, in addition to their business goals.
  6. Iterate on your process. Do whatever else your organization needs based on feedback you get, surveys you run, and what you learn from your people.

The good news is that none of this is magic. If you make it a priority to have a strong management system and great managers and you have an owner of those goals, you’ll get there. Management, like nearly every other problem, is solvable.

Give people better managers. Help create a happier world. And while you’re doing it, you’ll incidentally build a huge competitive advantage and achieve your company goals. Our most important products are our organization and our people. If we hire, develop, and retain the best people, everything else will work.

Some additional resources for creating a better management system and better managers:

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