- Effective leaders set clear expectations for their teams and align them with company objectives.
- Successful managers collaborate, focus on growth and are excellent communicators.
- Avoid poor leadership habits, such as giving feedback only when there’s a problem and micromanaging your team.
- This article is for new managers focused on becoming excellent leaders.
Stepping into a leadership position for the first time can be daunting, even if you feel prepared to handle your new responsibilities. Going from focusing primarily on your own work’s quality to overseeing an entire team’s output can feel overwhelming. However, effectively leading your team and experiencing success can be extremely rewarding.
The relationship between a manager and their team can be complex to navigate. There’s more to it than telling everyone what to do; in fact, that management approach is highly discouraged. We’ll explore the characteristics of true leaders in management positions and a few behaviors to avoid to become an excellent manager.
What are the ideal characteristics of good managers?
We’ll highlight four primary characteristics of good managers and offer advice from seasoned influencers on how to incorporate these traits into your leadership style.
1. Good managers are collaborative.
Creating a collaborative environment where everyone feels heard, respected and valued is a crucial step for new managers. A team that works together creates a welcoming, supportive culture.
As a manager, you can encourage a collaborative environment by setting the pace for workplace ethics.
According to Summer Salomonsen, former chief learning officer at Grovo, tips for creating a collaborative work environment include delegating tasks, encouraging communication and feedback through regular one-on-one meetings, and prioritizing reciprocal trust among the team.
2. Supportive managers are growth-oriented.
Good managers should focus on helping their employees progress both individually and collectively. Get to know your workers personally so you can help them leverage their talents. Find what works and what doesn’t, and prioritize identifying and removing obstacles so your employees can perform at their best.
Will Esdaile, vice president of performance marketing at Blue Nile, suggests that managers “have a development goal that isn’t about the business. Have one goal focused on the development of a person (or people) on your team that isn’t connected to a business outcome. This could be developing confidence in presenting by sharing work to a big group or learning a new language.”
3. Excellent managers know how to communicate.
Communication is a driving force behind nearly everything people do, so clear communication is a vital characteristic for supervisors. You should set clear expectations for your employees, be transparent about important topics, and establish guidelines for both giving and receiving feedback.
To inspire original thinking, Salomonsen advises managers to create a diverse and inclusive company culture where everyone can voice their concerns, opinions and ideas. Encourage authenticity and vulnerability by leading by example, this could be asking for help or admitting you don’t understand something in front of your staff. Great leaders are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and communicate how they are working to improve challenges.
Did you know?: Communication is key to employee engagement and job satisfaction. It’s crucial to communicate concisely with your team so misunderstandings don’t hinder their work.
4. Good managers motivate their employees to improve.
Money isn’t the only incentive that motivates employees. Every worker wants to feel valued. If they don’t believe their work is making a difference in some way, they won’t be motivated.
Yaniv Masjedi, marketing personnel at Aura, said new managers should “take some time to get to know each team member’s strengths and where they need extra support. Use assignments as a learning process for you and your team. Then support where needed and lean extra hard when you’re able to.”
Masjedi added it’s best to learn alongside your team as you grow into your role. Your staff will see you putting in the work to improve, which will inspire them to do better in their own positions.
Tip: When you’re managing remote teams, proactive communication is crucial. Hold regular meetings and set clear guidelines on what communication methods to use in specific circumstances.
Bad leadership habits every manager should avoid
New managers often fall into bad leadership habits as they take on their new responsibilities. Salomonsen noted six leadership weaknesses to avoid at all costs.
- Providing only negative feedback: Managers can fall into the trap of providing feedback only during performance reviews or when problems arise. Feedback is essential to an employee’s professional development. However, feedback includes praise for specific tasks, not just criticism. When employees experience a carousel of negative – and only negative – feedback, they can become discouraged and thus disengage from their work.
- Micromanaging staff: While you must oversee your team’s workflow and help staff handle roadblocks, you shouldn’t try to control them completely. It’s essential to trust your team to complete tasks as a whole and respect each individuals’ work style. Forcing your workers to perform tasks counter to their typical methods can cause a significant drop in productivity as they adjust. As long as the end result is the same, give your staff room for creativity.
- Not requesting feedback: Poor managers rarely solicit or address questions, feedback and concerns. Good managers offer the floor to team members so they can freely express their questions and concerns. This will often clear up misunderstandings and create a more collaborative space. Keep in mind if one team member has a question, others may need the same guidance.
- Shutting themselves off from new ideas: Closed-minded managers won’t accept criticism or new ideas. They become a roadblock keeping the team from performing at its best. Each team member has their own perspective on the creative process, and is uniquely suited to recognize inefficiencies within their workflow. Listen to your team’s input, and use their perspectives to enact positive change.
- Avoiding tricky conversations: Good managers must tackle challenging situations that affect the team’s productivity head-on. Avoiding these situations lets the problem fester and can cause employee engagement to drop significantly.
- Not setting clear expectations: Bad managers are unclear about team goals and often set expectations too high or low. Instead, managers should establish project expectations before starting so their team understands the end goal. Setting expectations too high can make goals seem unattainable, but going too low can cause the overall performance to fall under key benchmarks.
What strategies should a new manager implement?
Several techniques help new managers ensure their team is working optimally. Consider these methods:
- Introduce yourself to team members. When stepping into a new managerial role, it’s essential to introduce yourself to your new team as soon as possible. Meeting everyone allows you to build trust with the group while setting professional expectations for the foreseeable future.
- Set recurring one-on-ones. Regularly checking in with individual team members gives you a chance to provide feedback, praise them for their strengths and address any potential roadblocks. This way, you can discuss any issues regularly and work together to overcome obstacles.
- Align team and company goals. Aligning team goals with the company’s overall objectives helps set your project’s pace. Additionally, when employees know what you expect from them, they’ll have clear professional goals to achieve. These goals can give them a sense of how their work contributes to the company’s success.
- Set measurable benchmarks for team performance. Setting metrics for your team’s performance is good for everyone. Team performance goals can help employees set achievable professional goals. Team goals also give you an easy way to determine when an employee is struggling with their tasks.
- Maintain transparency about company decisions. As a manager, you’re privy to more leadership decisions than your employees. However, keeping these decisions to yourself and changing your team’s workflow without explanation can cause employees to disengage from their work. Instead, be as open and honest as is allowed about company policy shifts. This way, you build trust with your team even if the changes you have to make are difficult.
Did you know?: Your leadership language and word choices are crucial. The right phrasing can be the difference between a positive, high-functioning workplace and a negative environment with high turnover.
How can you grow and develop as a manager?
You should never feel lost or unsupported when taking on a new role, especially as a leader. Here are three ways you can learn and grow in your new position.
1. Participate in management training.
Every company should offer training before hiring. However, many businesses don’t prioritize management development because of expense or time concerns. Some even reserve these programs only for senior leaders or offer workshops just a few times a year, explained Salomonsen.
“These sessions may be rewarding and inspiring, but they rarely make an impact on day-to-day work,” she said. “Moreover, sending every new manager to a management seminar their first week on the job is prohibitively expensive for most companies.”
Internal training is another option that’s especially suitable for small businesses. Host a few sessions with company experts or managers to run through the basics. Often, employees are promoted to a management role, so they already understand company standards and expectations.
2. Utilize microlearning methods.
Microlearning is a popular training method for small businesses. It’s quick, intensive and collaborative. This way, managers learn all they need to know in short bursts without feeling overwhelmed.
“With microlearning, both new and experienced managers can access digestible lessons that focus on the critical behaviors they need to perform their best, right in the course of their day-to-day work,” Salomonsen added. “Done right, a microlearning approach allows managers to quickly put new knowledge into practice, and gradually improve their habits and skills over time.”
Microlearning is efficient and far more affordable than extensive training programs.
3. Work with mentors and L&D partners.
Working with a mentor or learning and development (L&D) partner can set up new managers for success by providing support and expert knowledge.
“Each person is different, and every new manager has their own areas of growth in the early days of their new role,” Salomonsen said. “Whether they need to develop their interpersonal skills, time-management skills, strategic planning skills or leadership approach, they will need support from senior colleagues. … Finding a management mentor or L&D partner early can help set a strong foundation for the new manager’s development in their role.”
Keep an open mind about colleagues, friends and professional connections, and network as much as possible. Once you work with someone who can guide you through the beginning process, you’ll feel more confident in your role.
“Everybody needs a mentor,” added Brett Helling, owner of Gigworker.com and Ridester. “Find one and discuss the problems you are facing. Having a mentor or someone with expertise is the clear indication of growth within yourself.”
Kiely Kuligowski contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.