Having a great manager often feels like having a good coach. However, managers play many different roles in a company. For example, as a coach, they look out for their team members, work with people to cultivate skills and reach goals, and celebrate successes. However, they also have to show employees they care about them and ensure their direct reports feel valued.
As Seema Desai, an HR expert, says:
“You have someone's career in your hands, and it’s your job to take that seriously and encourage their growth.”
Being a good manager might come naturally, or it may be a skill they need to learn. In this article, we share 13 behaviors of great managers.
13 things that great managers do
1. Use 1-on-1 meetings for development
1-on-1 meetings are a vital part of the team member-manager relationship. It’s where team members get individualized attention, and the manager can provide coaching. Being a good manager means finding the right balance between developing team members on an individual level and keeping the team on track to meet goals.
Using open-ended questions during one-on-one meetings is a way for managers to learn more about their team members’ goals for development.
Asking the right questions in each one-on-one meeting is important, so we've compiled 24 questions to get you started.
2. Discuss their employee’s preference for dates and times
Great managers show direct reports that they value open conversation by planning meeting dates and times with their input. This demonstrates that the manager cares about work-life balance. This is particularly valuable if you're a manager with a distributed team (especially one that crosses time zones). Follow up on this discussion by keeping meetings consistent and timely.
3. Encourage team members to problem-solve proactively
For reasons of time or skill, managers sometimes need to solve people’s problems for them. Good managers challenge people to develop solutions rather than using their managerial status to make executive decisions. While this may initially mean a slower path to a solution, it contributes greatly to people’s personal growth and development.
Culture Amp People Scientist Chloe Hamman says, “Asking someone how they might solve a problem forces them to focus on the situation more closely than if they had been given an answer.” This exercise can even change the way our brain processes being asked to do something differently (like problem-solving). We tend to be more motivated to follow through with ideas that we have come up with ourselves.
4. Reward employees after a long project or big achievement
It’s important to demonstrate that managers appreciate and value their direct report's efforts at the end of a major project. For example, offer employees an extra vacation day after a long project or big achievement. This gives them time to celebrate success and recharge for the next task. If a full day isn’t possible, a half-day or an extra-long lunch period can also be great reward.
Employee recognition is a crucial element of employee engagement and happiness. That's why we're sharing a list of employee recognition ideas that work.
5. Host a rapid feedback session
A quick session to show appreciation for employees and give positive feedback is an easy way to ensure direct reports feel valued and recognized as a team.
For example, managers can have individuals (or teams for a larger organization) write their names on paper and tape it to a wall. Employees then write what they most admire about each person on a post-it and add it to that individual’s paper. This can be an exciting way for employees to learn what others value about them and how they can best support each other.
6. Create a user manual for people’s preferred communication approaches
During their first month on the job, managers should work with new hires to fill out a communication-focused user manual. The manual includes instructions on how employees prefer to interact and communicate. Example prompts include, “What is your preferred method of communication?” and “How do you handle interruptions?”
Having managers discuss these topics shows employees that their managers are invested in finding the best way to communicate with them and care about their preferences. Plus, sharing these manuals throughout the team allows everyone to see how they can best collaborate.
7. Use this formula to provide powerful employee recognition
Dr. Laura Delizonna, Founder and Trainer at Choosing Happiness, provided this powerful formula to leaders at the Motley Fool. When giving recognition, she suggests framing it in a particular way:
“I saw what you did (insert specific thing), here’s what it meant for me/my team (insert impact) and this is what it says about you (insert positive trait).”
This specificity impacts employees more, showing them that they have been seen and appreciated.
8. Have an honest conversation about future career goals
To have an honest conversation about career goals, acknowledge that not everyone will stay at your company forever. As a manager, supporting your employee’s career trajectory shows that you are invested in their lifelong success.
Authenticity and a genuine desire to see people succeed breeds loyalty. I want Culture Amp to be the dream job for our people, but if it’s not, I want it to be their stepping stone to a dream job.
— Didier ElzingaCEO of Culture Amp
9. Find a balance between teaching and facilitating
The key to being a good manager is knowing when to teach and when to facilitate. Teaching typically involves telling or giving someone answers based on your knowledge. Facilitating is more about asking questions to help someone come up with their own answer, helping them be proactive. Good managers can do both and know when to use one or the other. Sometimes you will need to share some expertise and teach, and others when you need to only ask questions and facilitate self-discovery.
10. Publicly recognize employees during team meetings
At a cadence that feels right for the size of your team and the frequency of team meetings, highlight a team member who has gone above and beyond. You could ask them to share how they succeeded so the whole team can learn. Be sure to provide praise in a way that allows for multiple definitions of achievement – from smashing goals to uncovering valuable lessons.
11. Send care packages when someone is unwell
People can feel guilty for being out of the office due to sickness. Sending them a care package or card encourages them to focus on getting better rather than feeling guilty or stressed about missing work. They’ll know you’re thinking about them and genuinely care about their wellbeing.
12. Give effective feedback
Effective employee feedback is timely, specific, and focused on future behaviors. This is true whether the feedback provided by managers is positive or critical. Good managers also take the time to prepare for giving feedback and are conscious of how the receiver's mindset will influence how feedback is accepted. When managers give team members feedback they can learn from, they’re more likely to view the feedback process positively and grow.