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5 Ways to Be an Effective Manager

18 Sep

Upward mobility at work often means taking on management positions. Those looking to take this leap in their careers typically want a greater opportunity to strategize, coordinate and oversee their company’s intricate operations. Managers are responsible for leading diverse teams, and must successfully navigate professional relationships so that employees stay engaged. Duties in these dynamic roles are demanding and constantly evolving.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that manager roles across industries will grow by 8 percent from 2016 to 2026.1 The median annual wage for managers was $102,590 in May 2017, which was the highest average wage of all major occupational groups.

Because of the stimulating and challenging nature of management roles and their significant earning potential, they are career goals for many online MBA students. If you want to learn how to be an effective manager, here are five essential ways to achieve success in such a role.

1. Manage Time Wisely

In any organization, managers must typically juggle numerous overlapping duties that each involve multiple stakeholders. Most managers:

  • Set goals and strategies to achieve them
  • Organize work and delegate responsibilities
  • Motivate and communicate with team members
  • Measure progress and optimize performance
  • Lead and inspire employees

To thrive productively in a role with such complex demands, meticulous time management skills are essential. Inbound marketing and sales software provider HubSpot recommends that managers improve time management by:2

  • Blocking off certain time periods to execute specific tasks
  • Reprioritizing tasks throughout the day
  • Maintaining specific and predictable time frames for recurring tasks, such as holding one-on-one meetings on the same day every week
  • Using widely available productivity tools to structure your workload and maintain focus

It's common for managers to get bogged down by an overflowing email inbox or to see their productivity wane through unfocused attempts to multitask. By dividing responsibilities into manageable chunks of time and maintaining a clear and well-structured schedule, you can get more work done while still allowing time for meaningful employee interaction.

2. Invest in Your Team

While perhaps not the first attribute that comes to mind when one thinks about an effective manager, emotional intelligence (EQ) is actually one of the most valuable traits a team leader can have in a contemporary workplace.3 This is because as technology continues to develop at a rapid pace and enable more efficient work, increased attention to employees’ engagement with their array of automated tools is of critical importance to keep them happy and motivated.

Research by Gallup finds that while businesses with highly engaged teams surpass their competitors by 147 percent in earnings per share, 87 percent of employees worldwide are nonetheless not engaged at work.4 Managers can make a profound difference in their employees’ engagement level by:

  • Getting to know employees. At the beginning of a working relationship and at regular intervals thereafter, managers should check in with employees and learn about their experience, goals and talents
  • Focusing on strengths. Once a manager is familiar with an employee, enabling them to utilize their strengths every day is vital to both that worker’s professional development and the success of the organization. Gallup research shows employees who use their strengths every day are eight percent more productive and 15 percent less likely to quit than those who do not.5 Try to regularly assign employees projects that utilize their individual strengths in challenging ways
  • Showing empathy. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership found a direct correlation between empathy and effective leadership.6 Managers can show empathy by recognizing signs of overwork and stress, showing interest in the needs and goals of others, making a genuine effort to help employees with personal problems, and showing compassion to employees encountering turmoil in their personal lives

As a manager, using soft skills in professional interactions is a vital step toward producing better results. Taking the time to invest in relationships with your employees can improve retention, make employees more productive and improve the talent you attract for your team.

3. Promote a Vision


A unified vision helps members of a team stay focused and on track toward achieving organizational goals. A Gallup survey indicates that one of the most effective tactics of a great manager is to motivate each individual employee with a compelling mission.7

While the larger organization may already have a vision statement in place, managers should discuss a team-specific vision that contributes to that larger objective. Some ways to use a unifying mission to motivate a team include:

  • Brainstorm in a group. Talk about what contributions you want to make and specific actions that can get you there. Collect descriptive words that support your vision, and create a vision statement ranging from a sentence to a paragraph in length that describes your team's work
  • Share the vision. Display the vision statement where it's visible to all team members, and consider sending it out in an email and/or posting it in a team message board
  • Revisit and reshape. Revisit the vision statement regularly at team meetings. Check in on whether team members feel you're working toward it effectively, and be open to evolving your approach as the team's work and role within the company grows

A vision statement enables a manager to lead with direction, hold team members accountable and strengthen collaboration. Effective managers make sure their vision is communicated clearly and often.

4. Set and Measure Goals

In light of the general focus a vision statement provides, managers should set specific, measurable goals to move the team toward achieving that vision and monitor the group’s performance attentively. The act of setting goals alone increases performance and productivity between 11 and 25 percent, according to Forbes.8

There are many types of goals managers can focus on, including:

  • Team results, which include what a team hopes to accomplish long-term and smaller goals to achieve that will get the team closer to that final result
  • Employee results, which are goals a manager can devise and measure collaboratively with an individual employee
  • Personal results, which a manager should set for themself so that they continue to improve in their managerial role

Setting and measuring goals gives managers the ability to show their higher-ups how their teams are effectively contributing, and the tangible outcomes provided by goals give managers something they can use to inspire employees. When employees and managers collaborate on goal creation, they're equally invested in achieving them.

5. Recognize Employees

Gallup research shows not only that the most effective managers use recognition often, but that recognition is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep employees engaged as well.9 Simply doling out recognition is not enough, though. Meaningful recognition is:

  • Specific
  • Timely
  • Sincere

First, managers should ask their employees how they want to be recognized. One employee may appreciate being publicly acknowledged at a large meeting in front of other employees, while another may prefer one-on-one recognition. Armed with this knowledge, managers can make recognition thoughtful and individualized in every instance.
Managers should point out specific actions employees take that are deserving of recognition, and they should do so on a frequent basis. Regular recognition reinforces positive behavior in employees and increases the likelihood of positive results. This approach can improve a company's reputation and make employees more likely to want to succeed in their roles.

Learn Essential Management Skills From the KU School of Business

These are just a few traits of effective managers. In addition to these soft skills, effective leaders also master business skills like finance, accounting and business ethics through robust business school programs like the online MBA program from the KU School of Business.

The University of Kansas is committed to producing well-rounded business leaders, and our curriculum offers numerous elective options to help you customize your business education. Learn more about the KU School of Business online MBA program to take the first step toward effective business leadership.

  1. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from www.bls.gov/ooh/management/
  2. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from blog.hubspot.com/marketing/manager-time-management-tips
  3. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from fastcompany.com/40451582/7-skills-managers-will-need-in-2025
  4. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from gallup.com/services/190118/engaged-workplace.aspx
  5. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from gallup.com/businessjournal/186044/employees-strengths-outperform-don.aspx
  6. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/EmpathyInTheWorkplace.pdf
  7. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from news.gallup.com/businessjournal/167975/why-great-managers-rare.aspx
  8. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from forbes.com/sites/stevenkotler/2014/10/16/goal-setting-101-one-of-our-best-performance-boosters-de-mystified/#72da12fc1992
  9. Retrieved on April 30, 2018, from news.gallup.com/businessjournal/193238/employee-recognition-low-cost-high-impact.aspx