Management Tips: How to Be a Good People Manager in 2020

First-time manager? Need help with your management skills? As the saying goes, people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. So we’ve whipped up our top 13 people management tips to give your company a boost.

Because with management training programs widely seen as too expensive, time-intensive or both, it’s hard for companies to develop their leadership teams outside of pure trial and error.

To help HR teams and managers navigate the murky waters of employee experience, we’ve put together the ultimate list of must-use people management tips for each phase of the employee lifecycle.

We’ll cover how to be a good manager through:


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Good managers support a strong start

Here’s the first of our people management tips: Don’t spend thousands of company dollars vetting and onboarding team members only to overload or neglect them during those critical first 90 days on the job. Successful managers take the process into their own hands to set their team up for success from day one. Here’s how:

1. Hire the right people

Get the right players on your team, for your team. Successful managers don’t just fill jobs — they fill roles in their team. In the hiring process, keep your entire team’s communication style, work dynamic, and culture in mind as you interview candidates. Then, look for someone who’s not only a culture fit, but a culture add.

2. Onboard with intention

The employee experience starts during the hiring process. Take ownership of the process and set 30, 60, and 90-day check-ins to see how they’re responding. Whether it’s a welcome lunch, swagged out desk, or onboarding buddy program, this is your chance to introduce a new employee to the team. So make it great.

Great managers make work challenging but enjoyable

This is the meat of a manager’s role. After all, the time an employee spends with one company could last 6 months or 6 years. So here’s the next of our people management tips: Create and fill roles where your reports can find meaning and growth opportunities in their day-to-day work.

3. Connect work to the big picture

Employees are responsible for meeting goals. Managers are responsible for providing clarity and support throughout the goal-setting process.

A great manager knows how to help their employees set goals at work and connect individual responsibilities to the greater company mission. Feel pinched for time? Get technology on your side. Ask your Human Resources team about getting goal-management software to take the guesswork out of setting, tracking, and managing goals for multiple members of a team.


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4. Provide guidance and autonomy

Let’s take a minute to talk management style. Did you know that micromanaging tops the list of reasons employees quit their jobs? Good managers strike a balance between guiding their employees and offering the freedom needed to learn and grow.

It can be tempting to take over a project instead of teaching a direct report on how to bring it to the finish line, especially for new managers. But beware: This approach only hurts both parties in the long run. Coaching is one of the most valuable leadership skills you have in your toolkit — use it!

5. Anticipate issues and remove roadblocks

It’s a leader’s job to look ahead and anticipate what’s coming next. What potential problems could moving into a new office bring? How might a new CEO impact your team? Which conflicts might arise when you start a new project? The ability to ask these questions, and openly work on solutions, separates a good manager from a great one.

Effective managers provide growth opportunities

No employee’s career trajectory is linear. One of your most valuable people management skills is your ability to pay attention to each member of your team and introduce the right growth opportunities at the right time.

6. Schedule weekly check-ins

Don’t want feedback to be scary? Make it a regular part of the conversation. Regular, casual weekly 1-on-1s are key for building a strong connection between you and your reports that will last the entire employee lifecycle.

Not sure how to structure your 1-on-1s? Try using one of our meeting frameworks to guide the conversation during your next check-in.


The benefits of continuous feedback


7. Provide actionable feedback

Here’s one of our favorite, but most challenging, people management tips. Good managers praise good work often and publicly, and they deliver constructive feedback quickly and directly. Address the more difficult feedback with a growth mindset — the belief that a person’s skills can develop over time through hard work and dedication.

Though a growth mindset may seem like table stakes, it’s incredibly important in a management role. That’s because it helps your employees understand your feedback is rooted in the belief that, with effort, the employee can improve and change.


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8. Encourage professional development

A great manager understands the nuances of where an employee is now and where they want to go. So be aware of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. When you see opportunities  a promotion or for your reports to learn a new skillset, you should be first in line to speak up or point the employee in the right direction.

Learn how to give real-time feedback with Kazoo →

Good managers prioritize the employee’s well-being

Though they may not realize it, managers play a huge role in the emotional well-being of their direct reports. From simple email etiquette to formal performance reviews, tap into your emotional intelligence for the betterment of your team.

9. Protect work-life balance

Good managers protect work-life balance both for yourself and for members of your team. Yes, this means refraining from firing off those midnight emails! It also involves planning your meetings with intention, taking care to respect your employees’ time. Finally, you must understand and value employees’ personal needs and goals in addition to their professional goals.

10. Celebrate victories

Constructive criticism isn’t the only type of feedback you should be giving your direct reports. Positive recognition not only makes people feel valued and appreciated, but it can also improve your team’s employee engagement levels and emotional well-being at work.

Great news: Giving positive feedback is easier than ever with employee recognition software. From your mobile device or laptop, you can provide meaningful appreciation that helps employees feel valued about the work they are doing.

11. Excel at communication

Communication is hands-down one of the most important management skills. Ask any seasoned leader to name the traits of a good manager, and you can bet the ability to communicate tops the list. Particularly when it comes to leading more junior employees, you must be clear about how, when, and why you communicate the way you do.

Because your written, verbal, and group communication impacts everything about the day-to-day culture of how your team works. And when it comes to missing deadlines or sharing new ideas, your communication style will dictate the level of psychological safety of every individual on their team.


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Finally, good managers say goodbye well

Lead well until the very end by keeping the following habits in mind:

12. Fire fairly and quickly

We’re all familiar with a situation where someone stayed in a job far longer than they should have. In most cases, these situations are not beneficial for the team OR the individual.

So hire slowly and fire quickly. There can be plenty of second chances and opportunities to improve, but as soon — as soon — as it’s evident that the employee is in the wrong role, a strong manager takes action.

13. Support healthy exits

When an employee opts for another opportunity, inside or outside of the company, a great manager celebrates with them. There’s no need for petty personal feeling. Wish them well, then gets to work on figuring out how to make your team the better opportunity.

Get started with great management today

We hope you take these people management tips, and apply it to your organization. Here are some concrete action steps to start with:

  • Get the right HR technology. Recognition? Performance reviews? Engagement surveys? There’s an app for that. Kazoo’s all-in-one Employee Experience Platform helps create highly engaged workplaces while reducing major business pain points like turnover, low morale, productivity, and absenteeism. Take the guesswork out of being a great manager, and let technology do the heavy lifting for you by scheduling a demo today.
  • Create an employee journey map. Whether you’re in HR  or a boots-on-the-ground manager, we recommend you devote some time to creating your own employee journey map. Journey mapping helps organizations understand the moments that matter most in the employee, and what they can do at each stage to have the most positive impact. Qualtrics gives journey mapping more depth in these 6 easy steps.
  • Don’t forget about the manager’s experience. All of this brings us to the tough question: if managers are responsible for the employee experience, who is responsible for the manager’s experience? They’re employees too, after all! Let that question spark important conversations when making organizational and strategic decisions.
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