Seven Lessons to Be a Good Manager

Who is a manager? All of us. All of us are managers in our own capacities—we manage our lives if nothing else. However, being a manager in a large organization is a different ballgame. Corporate managers need to possess a dynamic and varied skill set to thrive within their role. The following seven lessons are intended to improve your management skills both in personal and professional lives.

Lesson One: Who Is a Manager

You may find several definitions of management on internet and in books. However, a simple definition is as follows:

Management is the coordination and administration of activities to achieve a goal.

These activities may include defining a strategy for the organization, setting goals, allocating resources, coordinating the staff with relevant tasks, so and so forth. Sometimes management also refers to the senior staff members of an organization such as heads of departments and CEOs. 

Just like management, a manager can be described in several ways, ranging from the coach of a sporting team to a CEO of a multinational company. Even the president of a country is essentially a manager. A simple definition of a manager would be:

A manager is someone responsible for organizing and directing a group of people or a project.

A manager could be a team leader, a project incharge or a coach who uses department resources—both people and equipment—to get the job done. A large organization can have multiple managers to streamline its operations. Here are a few types and categories of managers:

Top Managers: Top managers are involved with strategic decisions and policy making of an organization. They are responsible to oversee and ensure that all operations and activities are aligned with the company’s mission.

General Managers: General managers are responsible for making sure that the units are producing revenue as they should. They create plans related to a product or service and ensure that those plans are executed.

Line Managers: Line managers are the middle-managers who are responsible for getting the output from staff under them. They evaluate the results of the assigned activities and report to the upper management.  

Team Managers or Supervisors: They oversee and streamline a particular function in an organization e.g., a specific plant and its production. They make sure that people in the field deliver against the tasks assigned to them.

Lesson Two: Roles and Responsibilities of a Manager

Depending upon the nature of an organization, a manager may have several responsibilities. However, there are a few common tasks all managers would be required to perform. Few key areas of responsibility include:

  • Developing strategies and setting priorities
  • Making decisions on behalf of the department
  • Organizing the department
  • Placement and training of employees
  • Delegating tasks and responsibilities
  • Making sure staff have adequate resources to do their job
  • Act as a middleman between upper management and employees under them
  • Act as a middleman between customers and the organization
  • Coach and train employees to perform their tasks efficiently
  • Performance evaluation of employees under them
  • Hiring new employees
  • Managing the department budget
  • Communication within and outside the department

The list is virtually endless.

Lesson Three: How to Manage People

Managing employees under them is the most critical part of a manager’s role. He or she should be skilled enough to find the balance between being supportive and holding employees accountable. A three step approach can be deployed for effective employee management:

Step One: Means: Make sure staff has adequate means to do their job. For instance, if an employee is required to write an email to a customer and he doesn’t have a computer with internet access, you can’t expect him or her to do the job.

Step Two: Ability: Make sure employees have enough ability to do their job. Taking above example, if your employee doesn’t know how to use a computer, you likely have a wrong person for the wrong job. Replace the employee or train them.

Step Three: Accountability: If appropriate means and ability have been provided, you can hold them accountable for their tasks. Remember, without following the first two steps, applying the third step would be unfair to your employees.

Lesson Four: How to Communicate Effectively

A manager should be able to communicate effectively, both with the subordinates and the senior management. With subordinates, targets and expectations should be clearly defined. Avoid grey areas as much as possible. If something cannot be defined clearly, tell your subordinates what they are supposed to do immediately and leave the unclear part for a later discussion. If something is urgent, do communicate the urgency.

While communicating with senior management and customers, be transparent and honest. If your team cannot achieve a certain task in a certain time, do not overcommit on their behalf. Keep your commitments realistic.

Lesson Five: How to Prioritize Your Tasks

Effective segregation and prioritization of tasks is an important skill for a successful manager. The principle objective should be to identify and prioritize areas that will produce the bulk of the results. A typical rule applied to achieve this is called the 80:20 rule. The rule states that you will often find an approximate ratio of 80:20 between related factors. A few examples:

  • 80 percent of sales revenue is generated from 20 percent of the customers. Those customers will become your priority customers.
  • 80 percent of the problems are caused by 20 percent of the causes. Address those causes as soon as possible.

Focusing on 20 percent priority areas allows a manager to produce maximum results with minimal resources. That is good management.

Lesson Six: How to Manage Your Time

The 80:20 rule saves a manager a lot of his resources. One of those resources is time. In fact, time is the most precious resource of a manager. Thus, time management is a key to being successful as a manager. Apart from task prioritization, a few tips for effective time management include:

  • Distinguish between urgent and important tasks. Some tasks are short and urgent; execute to get them out of the way as soon as possible. Make a plan for your important, long-term goals, and work on them on daily basis.
  • Avoid multitasking whenever you can. Contrary to common perception, multitasking doesn’t make you efficient as a manager. It is better to tick a few boxes rather than leaving a few in progress forever.
  • If you tend to be a perfectionist, keep your perfectionism pragmatic. Spending all of your time on a single task to make it look perfect is like sitting in the exam and presenting an overdetailed answer to a single question when you were actually required to answer five.

Lesson Seven: What Are the Traits of a Good Manager

Apart from the main duties and skills stated above, a good manager possesses the following traits as well:

  • A good manager tries to establish and solidify relationships within and outside the organization.
  • He/she endeavors to create and nurture a positive work environment in which people support each other.
  • Good managers are mentors; they make sure new talent is being looked after and developed.
  • They take ownerships of their team and stand by them in difficult situations.
  • A good manager manages himself before managing others. Managing yourself includes sleeping well, being accountable for your actions, doing your best, setting standards for the team, being a good listener etc.
  • Above all, a good manager leads by example.

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