Leadership

How to be a great manager

Regardless of your number of employees, it’s important that you be the leader they need.

Published: February 10, 2014
Updated: February 23, 2017

Every employee wants one, and most small business owners would like to be one – a great manager. But leading and managing are among the biggest challenges you could face while growing your company. And according to a 2016 report from LinkedIn Talent Solutions, only 32% of employers see employee retention as a top priority over the next 12 months.

It takes flexibility, fairness, and people skills to bring out the best in your employees and keep them satisfied. Fortunately, you don't have to be born a great manager to become one. Here are a few tips that can help you develop and refine your leadership skills.

Know yourself

Managing is about human interactions. And being a great manager starts with knowing yourself and how you interact. You must understand your communication style and be aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

For example, let's say you're introverted. That introversion might be interpreted as being standoffish or even arrogant. By knowing that and making a conscious effort to be more outgoing, you can begin to develop a better rapport with your employees.

Know your employees

You must know more than your employees' names to manage them well. Dig deep and learn what they're capable of. Observe what they do and how they react to situations. Ask open-ended questions about what they're working on. Draw them out, and get them talking about their work.

The more daily interaction you have with your employees, the better qualified you'll be to give them responsibilities as appropriate and keep them challenged.

Help employees meet their goals

Employment is a two-way street. Both sides have needs that have to be met. Understand your employees' career needs, and try to provide a career path or at least increased responsibilities. Nothing is more discouraging than to feel there's nowhere to go in your current job. If possible, help them self-select additional duties. If they like a certain type of work, adjust the job to encompass those duties.  

Help your people grow personally, too. You won't do them any favors by plopping them into a situation they're not ready for. Give constructive feedback about what they do well and not so well using the 3-1 feedback ratio: three positive pieces of feedback to one negative. This will keep their confidence intact.

Show your appreciation

No one wants to be taken for granted. As a small business owner, you might not be able to provide the biggest salaries or the most robust benefits, but you can show genuine appreciation.

When you land that big customer, or get a handwritten note of thanks from a grateful client, share that with the team. If it resulted from their efforts, let them know – either with an email pointing out some wonderful accomplishment or a spontaneous congratulation during the company meeting. A sincere "thank you" for a job well done goes a long way toward happy, satisfied employees.

Also, rewards – a small gift, a bonus, the afternoon off, or a designated "employee of the month" parking space near the door – can be handed out ­for special accomplishments.

Job satisfaction isn't always about money. Many employees enjoy working in small businesses because of the atmosphere, the relationships they have with bosses and co-workers, and the little things that build their sense of worth. Remember that, and you'll be on your way to becoming a great manager.

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