A great manager can be the difference between a so-so team performance and a stellar one. Unfortunately, many managers—especially first-time managers—don’t feel adequately prepared to lead. But management skills can be improved with some strong communication principles and a collaborative attitude.
Follow these five tips to become a better manager on this National Boss’s Day.
Check In Often
Managers can lose sight of the bigger, human picture when they’re immersed in their day-to-day activities. With goals to meet, next quarter to plan, and projects to manage, it’s tempting to assume that your staff will come to you with any issues.
But that’s often not the case. Employees may be too bogged down in their own duties to schedule a meeting with you. Or they may be unsure how such a request would even be received. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to facilitate frequent check-ins with your team.
An open conversation gives your employees a chance to let you know how they’re feeling about their work. You can ask specific questions about their workload to make sure they’re not overwhelmed, and check on the status of projects or goals. You may also want to ask about their personal lives. Maybe they have a sick parent you didn’t know about, and a minor shift in their schedule could be a huge help. Open up the lines of communication to keep yourself up-to-date and encourage your team to reach out with ideas or suggestions.
Pair Negative Feedback With an Action Plan
Many people take their work very personally. And this can make criticism feel like an attack if it’s not handled carefully. When you pair that feedback with a plan that the employee can follow, you show them that it’s the actions, not the person, that are the issue. And you tell the employee that you believe they can improve their performance.
For example, let’s say a server has been making numerous POS mistakes recently, ringing items in on the wrong checks and asking you for transfers or voids. You could suggest an action plan that involved better organization of their server book, or more frequent trips to the terminal to prevent confusion and mistakes.
Make Sure Your Own Expectations are Well-Informed
Unrealistic expectations are a morale killer. When impossible goals are “handed down” from on high, it makes employees feel like they’ve been set up to fail. Even worse, it can make it look like managers are out of touch with the realities of the business.
Sure, a manager can declare that their hotel is going to reach an average monthly occupancy rate of 90%. But in a highly competitive market, with a hotel that lacks amenities, and an overworked sales team…is that possible?
Don’t just set goals and metrics. Work with your team to set them together. You may get helpful feedback that you hadn’t considered. Perhaps your goal is too high this year, but it can be reached in two or three years with some careful planning. Or maybe that goal will require some infrastructure improvements to be feasible. Whatever the case, the team has to buy in for it to be achievable.
Keep Open Door Hours
Managers come in all different levels of approachability. Some have an open-door policy, encouraging employees to drop by anytime with questions, concerns, or for a friendly chat. Others are harder to reach, ducking out of the office at all hours for meetings or lunches, or only meeting with employees by appointment.
There are downsides to each. A revolving door of drop-ins can prevent you from getting your own work done. And an “appointment-only” policy makes it harder for employees to gauge what is appointment-worthy, leading to slow communication.
Try regular open-door hours instead. Tell the team that for a few hours each day or week, employees can drop by unannounced to ask questions or troubleshoot a problem. By scheduling this time, you’ll prevent interruptions during your deeper work sessions, and encourage your team members to open up a direct channel of communication with you.
Share the Spotlight
You’ve just completed a project that has delighted the higher-ups. After a round of handshakes and congratulations, the company owner says, “I particularly liked that unusual marketing strategy. It was so creative! Well done.”
Some managers will simply say “thank you” and move on. But the great managers will say, “I was impressed, too! That initial concept came from Sonia on my team, and we all thought it was a great idea.”
A manager does not lose any of their luster by sharing the praise where it’s deserved. In fact, by letting others know that you’re listening to and adopting your employee’s good ideas, it shows that you’re doing what a great manager does—nurturing your team and encouraging their contributions. And it shows your employees that you’ve got their backs and that they can trust you to share the credit for the team’s success.