The Ultimate Guide to Being a Better Manager

Have you ever dreamed of being in charge and then realized holy crap...I’m in charge? Maybe you finally got that promotion and now people report to you. Maybe you’ve started your side-hustle and have a gaggle of interns helping you move the dream forward. Or maybe you’ve been rocking your own business, and it’s time to hire your first few employees. Being the boss comes in all different formats, especially in our modern day workforce.

While the structure of your team might look different than someone else’s, what makes a great manager can be understood, systematized and executed. If you want to have a killer work culture, you’ve got to operationalize it. Every great boss understands the importance of how to manage people effectively, build teamship, and move everyone closer to a common goal. Taking the time to understand how to be a better manager will not only ensure the success of your business, but will help elevate the careers and experiences of the humans working for you. You’re impacting the lives of your direct reports...this is bigger than just “work.”

If this is your first time in charge (or you want a refresher in how to be a better manager), read on—we’ve teamed up with Microsoft Teams to make sure you’re covered. Because, you’re not just a teammate now, you’re a leader and a manager. So, we’ve put together everything you need to know to make the most of management...whether it’s a team of one or a team of many! And we’ve created a month-by-month worksheet to make sure you’ve got a concrete plan to put these tips into action. Let’s make some big things happen! Together.

Set Communication Best Practices

This might be a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how important it is to create best practices for how you communicate with your team, how they communicate with you, and to each other. And how you communicate is just as important. In a 2010 study by the Corporate Executive Board, they found that a culture that encourages open communication performed 270% better on long-term total shareholder return. Pretty significant. Here’s something to think about when it comes to your communication:

  • What mediums will you use to communicate? Do you use email for most things or a chat platform to keep all your communication in one place? Do you manage most of your work back-and-forth on a collaboration software? Do you group chat or conference call or use something specific for online meetings? Decide what types of software you will use for what types of communication, so that you can train your team in this and so that there’s some method to the madness. These collaboration tools are important for effectiveness and efficiency of communication. And you should decide it upfront.

    Pro Tip: There are so many collaboration tools out there, but what’s great about Microsoft Teams is its ability to integrate chat, project management, video conferencing, and calendaring. It’s one hub for teamwork.

  • What are communication on/off times? As in...do you expect your employees to always respond or are there general working hours that you expect timely responses within? Deciding and communicating this ahead of time will help keep everyone on the same page, and it will help determine what type of culture you have.

  • How should someone get in touch when things go wrong? Make sure the people you’re managing know when and how to get in touch if they get sick or there’s a fire with a client or there’s something that needs to be communicated immediately. That way, there’ll be fewer issues where there’s an issue already.

  • Is your communication style effective? Make sure you’re always giving specific due dates, clear with your expectations, and direct with your feedback. This will ensure your employees (and you!) don’t have to read between any lines. Also, rather than always telling your reports what to do, try asking specific questions to see if they can get to their own wisdom and strategy themselves (without you having to tell them).

Be a Master of Great Meetings

While meetings are the bane of many people’s existence, they don’t have to be. You simply need to be intentional and cognizant of what your meeting strategy is before you go into leading a team. Think about what the word meeting even means – the coming together of two or more people by arrangement – so you can make the most of them. In order to determine how you’ll best manage, ask yourself these questions and plan your meetings accordingly:

  • When will you meet (together as a team and 1:1 with your reports)? It’s best to determine a meeting cadence for individual meetings and for team meetings. It’s likely that these are each weekly, but sometimes they may even by twice-weekly, or every other week, depending on the nature of your work, your team structure and the projects at hand. Great managers decide this cadence upfront, have a meeting planner, book the time on calendars so there’s a hold, and stick to the schedule (barring extenuating circumstances).

  • How do you meet? Decide and communicate if meetings are held by default in person, over the phone or in online meetings. Making sure everyone knows what type of remote or IRL culture you have is necessary. If you’re doing a phone or online meeting, ensure your team knows the technology you expect to use when and if people are remote.

  • What is your meeting format? Having a format for both your 1:1s and your team meetings will create consistency and an understanding of what everyone should expect to come with, to be prepared for, and what to share. If you want some cool ideas for group and 1:1 formats, do a little research and you’ll find great ideas like these!

Pro Tip: Video conferencing and online meetings are easy with Microsoft Teams. Up to 250 people can join per meeting from your computer, phone, or tablet.

Figure Out What Makes Each Teammate Tick

If you want to experience the flow and productivity of true teamwork, you’ve got to understand the different personalities on your team. You can’t manage each person the exact same way (well, you can but it may not work out so great). In a survey of 80,000 managers conducted by the Gallup Organization, the single quality that made managers better than others was their ability to know what made the people on their team unique and how to capitalize on that. You can ask yourself these questions to help figure that out and have better team collaboration:

  • What motivates them? Do they like external recognition, words of affirmation, meaningful work, quiet appreciation, continuous feedback or maybe nothing at all? Pay attention and you’ll find clues, otherwise have a discussion about it. Ask!

  • What type of personality are they? There’s so many tests out there to help you better understand the individuals on your team. Whether that’s Clifton StrengthsFinder, or the MyersBriggs, or DISC assessment, it may be worth having everyone on your team take the same test so you know what makes each of you unique (and you can determine how to better manage them with that information).

Operationalize Your Goals

The point of a team isn’t for each person to play the exact same position. The point is to differentiate what the strengths, weaknesses, priorities and goals are of your team. Each individual needs to understand not only what the biggest goal of your team is as a whole, but what their individual goal is and how that ladders into your big vision. You as a boss have to determine what your team’s north star is, and what each individual person is expected to prioritize on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis in order to get there (And in some cases, your team’s north star maybe be one decided by higherup powers at be). Figure out if you’ve done the following….

  • Have you decided and communicated the goals and priorities of your team?  These priorities should ladder into the overall goals of your business. Your team needs to know where they are at – both at an operational level and a vision level.  And don’t forget, if you’re not delegating the work to your team, you’re probably not able to get the really big things done. You’re just one person!

  • Does each person know what their overall priorities are for their role, and thus how to prioritize? The Create & Cultivate team uses and amazing system for understanding and communicating their priorities to each other called “Hot Lists” where each manager requires their reports to send what their top priorities are each day with what they’re working on and general updates. As a manager, this gives you direct transparency into what your team is working on without having to micromanage and constantly ask or wonder. You could even communicate these hot lists in chat groups if you wanted.

  • Are you measuring? As they say...they don’t respect what you don’t inspect...so make sure you have a system for measuring the progress you’re making with these priorities and goal– both at an individual and team level. A great book for the process and execution of this is Traction by Gino Wickman.

And...Lighten Up!

When you become the boss, you not only have the chance to be an incredible leader who impacts the people around you and influences the direction of a vision, but you get to make people feel valuable. If you can create a positive environment for your team, you’re literally contributing to their health (according to a huge study that showed the link between leadership behavior and heart disease. AKA, if you cause people stress you’re causing them health problems). So have fun with your newly found bossdom. There’s a few ways you can contribute to the good vibes of your team, that not only improve morale but make those working for you feel seen. Here’s a few things to reflect on to lighten up the mood:

  • What small things will improve employee morale? Maybe it’s having everyone’s birthday on the calendar so you can embarrass them with your terrible (or amazing) vocal abilities, or a team chat where you get to instant message funny things throughout the week that don’t have to be work related.

  • Do you have an employee recognition system? Find something that might work for you and your culture and your budgets. Recognition doesn’t have to be grand, it just has to be sincere. Here’s some cool ideas if you’re looking!

  • Can you provide professional development? Even if you don’t have budgets for killer conferences like C&C or expensive trainings with executive coaches, providing a great book or audible credits could go a long way.

  • Can you create fun offsites? Sometimes we all just need a change of scenery. Maybe you tell everyone to meet you at the local Farmer’s Market, or you do a working team lunch by the water, whatever you choose... find meaningful ways to change it up. Sometimes, it’s just what’s needed to solve a hard problem together.

This is NOT everything you need to know about managing a team (not even close!), but hopefully it’ll be a great place for you to start. Because everything gets better when we don’t try and go at it alone. That’s how you can make some seriously big magic come to life in your career...with a team!

Don’t forget, if you want some help planning out the next quarter and how to incorporate all these management tips, enter your email below to download our Quarterly Planning worksheet!

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We’d love to know: What are your best tips for being a great manager?

About the author: Maxie McCoy is a writer and speaker obsessed with giving women the tools they need to believe in themselves. Her book, You're Not Lost: An Inspired Action Plan for Finding Your Own Way, is one of the top motivational guides for professional women and is carried at Urban Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold. Maxie specializes in creating meaningful offline experiences that provide practical action in workshop and group formats. She's worked with top brands, conferences and companies to create original events that engage their target audiences both online and off. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, TheSkimm, Forbes, Fortune, INC, Bustle, Business Insider, MyDomaine, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Billboard, CNN and many more as an expert in women’s leadership.




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