It might be tempting to think that excellent managers just have a certain X-factor quality, a secret management sauce flavouring their every action that allows them to get the best out of their employees. That is seldom the case. More often than not, effective leaders are good at what they do because they have perfected a handful of skills that all good managers rely on to get the best out of their employees.
Some of these will take hard work, some might come naturally to you but – unlike that secret sauce – they are all actionable tips that you can actually put into practice. By honing the five skills below, you can jumpstart your career today and prepare yourself to ascend to even senior levels of management.
1. Practice patience
Use the stresses you are facing in your job to practice an invaluable emotional competency – patience. As a manager, you are typically pulled in opposite directions and may face pressure from your own boss. As tempting as it might be to apply that same pressure to your employees when they for instance fall behind on a task, patience is gold. A good manager knows when to press ahead and when to give his employees a little bit more time to make good on a promise. Because when it comes to managing people, the long road is typically the right one. Patience ultimately shows employees that you are in it together.
2. Be brave
On the flip side, if your employees are not stepping up to the job, it’s time to be brave and hold them accountable. An effective leader doesn’t enjoy taking people to task, but they do it because it’s part of the job. When people around you are consistently underperforming, talk to them about it. Don’t shy away from holding those around you responsible because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or because you prefer to avoid on-the-job conflict. One quality that distinguishes the best managers from their lesser peers is their willingness to speak frankly when their team lets them down.
3. Don’t be stingy with your praise
Effective leaders know when to pat their employees on the back. Praise motivates people, it’s as simple as that. If your team aced a project, why not say so? Positive feedback is an incredibly driver of motivation, and it will strengthen your relationship with the people you are managing. Learn to feel comfortable giving positive feedback and praise. All too many managers continue to underestimate the value of positive reinforcement in getting the most out of their team. The absence of praise can be a terrible morale killer. Don’t fall into this trap; recognise achievements when you see them. Giving an employee a compliment is one of the easiest, most cost-friendly and effective ways to a make a person feel valued in a company.
4. Act with integrity
Overlooking an employee who always sends page-long emails for a new project, not taking the grievances seriously of a team member with a chip on their shoulder; it can be easy to let your personal opinion of someone sway how you treat them. And while it’s perfectly normal to get along with some people better than others – that’s just how we’re wired – that doesn’t mean that you should let this influence how you treat your team. Good managers are able to separate their personal feelings from their professional behaviour. Treating employees fairly and justly is something you should pay attention to day in, day out. Don’t fall into the trap of playing favourites. Good managers know not to let their personal preferences drive their opinions or actions; it’s how they maintain good relationships with everyone around them – including that one employee with the maddening email habit.
5. Don’t be afraid to delegate
At the end of the day, good management will also come down to your ability to delegate tasks. You must learn to take a step back, to entrust employees with responsibilities and to not want to have a hand in every task completed or decision taken. Effective managers are unafraid to rely on others to get the job done. Being a manager, after all, doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. You are supervising a team of employees who report to you, so make it a team effort rather than trying to go it alone – or even worse, micromanaging your employees so they eventually lose confidence in their abilities or become reluctant to take initiative. Delegating tasks is a huge part of being a good leader because it allows you to free up time for your most important responsibilities.