What makes for effective management? And how can you develop it—in yourself or your leaders?
The best leaders display a particular set of qualities and behaviours that shape their success. These strengths shape their relationships with their teams. In turn, this has a dramatic effect on team success, engagement, and retention.
“There is no relationship in the workplace more powerful than the one between people managers and employees,” asserts SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
Let’s explore what skills and qualities today’s managers need most and how to grow them. We’ll also look at how this will benefit your organization.
Table of Contents
Benefits of Effective Management
Understanding the benefits of great management will help you make the business case for providing managers with advanced training. With that in mind, we lay out the key functions of effective management.
Enhancing Performance and Engagement
Performance management is at the heart of every manager’s job. Their main goal is to help each employee strengthen their performance.
Just 32% of employees are engaged in their work, a 2022 study found. That’s a 4-percentage-point decrease from 2020. Meanwhile, 17% are actively disengaged. And 60% feel emotionally detached from their work.
Worse, 84% feel stressed at work as a result of poor management, SHRM notes.
But great managers have the power to change all that. In fact, 70% of team engagement hinges on the manager, Gallup found. Employees will feel more enthused, inspired, and energized to be part of their team.
In turn, effective management leads to highly functional teams that achieve organizational objectives. High engagement leads to an average of 23% higher profits, Gallup found. So, no organization can afford not to have effective management!
Boosting Retention with Effective Management
Effective management makes employees more likely to stay with a company. From mentoring them to focusing on wellness, the manager’s actions make a real difference here. In 2021, 63% of employees who quit their jobs cited a desire for opportunities for advancement. And 57% voiced feeling disrespected.
Growth opportunities, autonomy, rewards, and inclusivity are several key drivers of retention that managers can provide.
The drawbacks of poor management are probably fairly obvious at this point:
- Employees will likely leave the organization in higher numbers.
- Organizations will fall short of their goals.
- Employees won’t live up to their potential.
So, then, how to select and develop the best managers? We’ll explore that next!
Personality Traits That Lead to Effective Management
Some managers are primed to excel because they possess certain key traits. For example:
- They have a great deal of integrity.
- They truly care about people.
- They have a high level of self-confidence.
- They’re great communicators.
Integrity and compassion for others are generally innate qualities. It’s tough to teach someone to care about being ethical, after all. (However, a manager can learn to act with more integrity if the desire is there. Likewise, managers can learn to tune into their compassion for others more and allow it to guide their actions.)
Meanwhile, confidence and communication can be more easily developed. At the same time, managers who already possess these building blocks have an excellent foundation for success.
Rules for Effective Management
Let’s explore some shifting priorities in management and the principles to live by today.
Over the past five years, companies have increasingly selected managers for their coaching abilities, researchers assert in HBR. At the same time, learning to coach in the new normal can prove challenging, they note.
The researchers highlight three key trends that are reshaping the manager’s role:
- Workflow process management is often being handled by technology. Automated prompts are nudging employees to complete tasks.
- Managers can’t directly observe employees in many cases. Often their work is asynchronous (meaning it happens at different times). That’s where great communication and awareness of outputs come in. So, managers need to increasingly rely on performance management software to assess progress.
- The emotional dimension of the employee experience is gaining increased emphasis. Moreover, employees want support in enhancing their life experience, not just their work experience.
“These three trends have culminated in a new era of management where it’s less important to see what employees are doing and more important to understand how they feel,” say the authors.
Based on these trends, let’s look at the top principles of strong management.
Find the Right Tools
Use software to help with effective management of goals and performance. The right tools are essential to coach effectively when working remotely:
- Performance management software that allows you to track progress toward goals. Good software reveals individual and team KPIs as well.
- Instant feedback tools that let you share observations in real-time.
- Performance evaluation software that helps you accurately measure performance. A good tool will help analyze performance by drawing from goal-tracking software.
Adopt a Supportive Approach
The old management style relied on control, Gallup asserts. But today, that approach will drive employees away in droves. So, make sure you’re not using an authoritarian management style. Focus on catering to employees’ needs rather than relying on discipline and fear. Today’s managers must focus on empowering and inspiring people.
Clarify Your Values for Highly Effective Management
The best leaders have strong leadership values that align with their company’s principles. For instance, they might strive to be resilient, pragmatic, and equitable. Your values should guide your behaviour and shape your expectations for yourself and others. Choose a handful of your core values and define why they matter to you.
Now, let’s move on to the top management abilities. We’ve curated a list of our top 7 qualities.
Effective Management Skills and Qualities
Let’s look at the top management skills and how to develop them. We’ll share techniques for enhancing each of these abilities and tips for using them every day.
Empathy is more vital than ever in today’s workplace. Supporting employees in enhancing their life experience requires compassion. Strive to understand what holds the most importance in their life. Here are a few ways to show empathy:
- Help them balance work and other dimensions of life. Work with them to assess their workload if they’re struggling.
- Work to understand their perspective by asking thoughtful questions. Don’t draw conclusions about their performance without first talking to them.
- Strive to be inclusive by getting to know each employee equally. Have conversations with each of them about their hopes, dreams, and challenges. Nurture each person’s development by providing the same types of opportunities for training and advancement.
- Check in often about how they’re doing. Ask what support they need, provide feedback, and answer questions.
Great managers are highly focused. Their drive keeps those around them highly motivated in turn. Use these techniques for staying focused:
- Learn to prioritize efficiently. Make sure each task on your list connects back to your big goals. And tackle the most important tasks first.
- Stay focused on major goals. Remind yourself of them every morning.
- Design your workspace to meet your personal needs for focus. Have a comfortable space that provides the calm (or noise) you need, depending on your personality.
- Create work hours and patterns that also support your focus. Take advantage of how your energy may fluctuate at different times of the day. For instance, focus on independent projects in the morning and collaborative work in the afternoon if that fits your style.
This connects directly to focus. Effective managers understand and align with the company vision. They can easily explain it to anyone at any time. They have a contagious passion for fulfilling the vision.
How to bring this vision into your daily work?
- Practice explaining your organizational vision in a nutshell. Come up with a compelling “elevator speech” that would inspire your team.
- Reflect on how the vision drives your daily work.
- Drop references to the vision in your team meetings. Find ways to work it into the discussion. (For example, “Great idea, Sarah—I love how it supports our vision of XYZ.”)
Develop a captivating vision for your own career, too. Ideally, it will align with your organizational vision.
Strong communication keeps everyone on the same page. It ensures employees have a shared understanding of their team goals and metrics for success. Here are some tips for doing that:
- Give candid feedback frequently. Help employees clearly understand how to improve.
- Clearly explain evaluation criteria in terms of roles and projects. Employees must know how you’ll assess success.
- Explain the “why” behind your expectations. This will show employees why it matters and help them truly understand what you’re looking for.
- Use plain language to explain your ideas. If you tend to speak at length, work to simplify directives. That way, employees will grasp and remember what you’ve said.
- Check in with employees to ensure understanding (with no judgment if they’ve misunderstood).
- Practise different methods of explaining ideas and teaching skills. Some employees appreciate visuals, like graphs, or observing someone else in action. Others prefer to just dive in and learn from hands-on experience. And still others learn best by listening and reading about concepts.
Encourage employees’ creativity by approaching them as partners. Foster more effective management by using the following tips:
- Be a sounding board for employees’ ideas. Encourage them to run their own ideas by you.
- Use different methods of brainstorming, from real-time group sessions to asynchronous idea sharing.
- Trust team members enough to delegate important tasks to them that stretch their skills.
- Create psychological safety by not penalizing failure. Celebrate the effort rather than the outcome.
Effective management means being accountable even when it feels uncomfortable. Great managers own their mistakes and work to fix them as quickly as possible. Here’s how:
- Take ownership of mistakes in a public format when necessary. Apologize to your team as a group for a mistake that affected your project, for instance.
- Follow through on solutions. Take the steps you’ve pledged to take to remediate a problem.
- Talk one-on-one with employees about how to strengthen your performance as a manager.
Be a reliable presence that your team can always count on. Taking these steps will show that you’re dependable, committed, and capable of effective management.
- Show up on time for big and small meetings. (This includes your one-on-ones!)
- Come prepared and fully present.
- Strive to be emotionally stable, regardless of what is going on around you. This will have a positive effect on others.
- Meet your deadlines, especially when they affect team workflow.
- Be approachable and available (while setting necessary boundaries). For instance, have set “office hours” when employees can drop in to a video chat and talk with you.
Provide in-house or outside training to build managers’ skill sets. For instance, SHRM offers a People Leader Qualification that imparts vital skills.
How to Assess Effective Management
Look at managers’ ability to model the qualities described above. Send pulse surveys to their teams inquiring about how well they demonstrate these qualities. Then, create a training plan that addresses areas for growth.
1. Look for Red Flags of Poor Management
Pinpoint any signs or problems that must be addressed. Does the manager (or prospective manager) micromanage others? Rarely share appreciation? Convey disrespect for team members? Prioritize solving these issues.
2. Put Their Skills to the Test
Are you considering whether to promote an employee to a management position? Give them a chance to lead where they are now. Ask them to lead a project or two and assess how they perform. What are the outcomes? Survey team members to find out if they felt supported, too.
3. Get 360 Feedback
Use 360 reviews to assess the skills of current or prospective managers. A 360 feedback survey will identify blindspots, strengths, and key areas for growth.
4. Look at Engagement
Consider managers’ level of engagement, too. This is a great way to gauge effective management. As Gallup notes, managers’ engagement is contagious. If they’re motivated, employees will be motivated. Work to keep managers engaged by giving them exciting projects and training opportunities.
As managers build the skill set described here, you’ll see marked improvements in their teams. The skills they gain will transfer to their own employees. In turn, teams will become higher-functioning—as well as more engaged and energized. As a result, you’ll retain your valued employees while making better use of their talent.
Want more insight into how software can enhance management in your company? Demo our product!