How to Be a Good Manager [13 Must-Use Strategies]

As the saying goes, people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. And much to the dismay of businesses everywhere, the old adage isn’t just corporate pessimism — it’s fact.

Need proof? When surveyed, 75% of employees who willingly left their job did so because of poor management. And with managers contributing to a whopping 70% of the variance in overall employee engagement, the need for leaders to hone their management skills is nothing short of mission-critical.

But with management training programs traditionally deemed either 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 management strategies 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

Most companies spend thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars to select and onboard new employees, 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.

1. Hire the right people

Contrary to popular belief, the employee experience actually starts during the hiring process. Keeping in mind differentiators like management style, communication skills, and existing team members, the best managers choose candidates who will elevate an entire team, rather than an individual role.

2. Onboard with intention

A great leader will do whatever it takes to ensure a new employee is warmly welcomed and quickly integrated into their team. Whether it’s a welcome lunch, swagged out desk, or onboarding buddy program, the best managers take ownership of the process and keep tabs on how each employee is responding to their new environment.

They 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, 6 years, or 6 decades. During that time, it’s a manager’s responsibility to create and fill roles where employees can find meaning and growth opportunities in their day-to-day work.

3. Connect work to the big picture

If employees are responsible for meeting goals; managers are responsible for providing clarity and support throughout the goal-setting process. Sadly, 93% of employees are unable to tie their work to organizational goals.

A great manager knows how to help their employees set goals at work and connect individual responsibilities to the greater company mission. For managers who struggle with such initiatives, goal-management software can help take the guesswork out of setting, tracking, and managing goals for multiple members of a team.

4. Provide guidance AND autonomy

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.

Especially for new managers, it can be tempting to take over a project instead of teaching a direct report on how to bring it to the finish line. But managers beware: this approach only hurts both parties in the long run. Coaching is one of the most valuable leadership skills a manager can have in their 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.

They provide growth opportunities

No employee’s career trajectory is linear; there exists an ebb and flow that should happen between performance and growth. It’s a manager’s role to pay attention to each member of their team and introduce the right growth opportunities at the right time.

6. Schedule frequent check-ins

Throughout the employee lifecycle, a great manager stays in close contact with each member of their team. Depending on the company, this could look like weekly 1-on-1s, monthly lunches, or daily updates to the team Slack channel. What’s important is the connection between the manager and the employee — from day one until the very end.

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.

7. Provide actionable feedback

Good managers praise often and publicly, and they deliver constructive feedback quickly and directly. One way to address the more difficult feedback is to give it 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 for employees to understand their manager’s feedback is rooted in the belief that, with effort, the employee can improve and change.

8. Aid in career development

A great manager understands the nuances of where an employee is now and where they want to go. They’re aware of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. When opportunities arise for a promotion or a new set of skills, they’re first in line to speak up or point the employee in the right direction.

Learn how to give real-time feedback with Kazoo →

They 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, managers have the opportunity to tap into their emotional intelligence for the betterment of their teams.

9. Excel at communication

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, a good manager needs to be clear about how, when, and why they communicate the way they do.

Written, verbal, and group communication impacts everything from decision-making to the day-to-day culture of how your team works. And when it comes to missing deadlines or sharing new ideas, a manager’s communication style will dictate the level of psychological safety of every individual on their team.

10. Protect work-life balance

Good managers protect work-life balance both for themselves and for their team (yes, this means refraining from firing off those midnight emails!) It also involves planning meetings with intention, rather than bloating everyone’s schedule with a slew of unnecessary wasted time. Finally, it requires managers to understand and value employees’ personal needs and goals in addition to their professional goals.

11. Celebrate victories

Constructive criticism isn’t the only type of feedback managers should be giving their 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 their mobile device or laptop, managers can provide meaningful appreciation that helps employees feel valued about the work they are doing.


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.

Taking us full circle, great managers 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 feelings; a strong manager wishes them well, then gets to work on figuring out how to be the better opportunity.

What can managers get started today?

We hope you take what you’ve learned in this guide, and can apply it to your own 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.

Other helpful resources

Management Training Masterclass [Free e-course]
21 Examples of Constructive Feedback for Performance Reviews
Feedback is Not the Enemy