Listen and act: seven tips for becoming a good manager

We recently learnt that one third of managers don’t follow up on action items from performance check-ins; thirty-three percent of managers to be exact, according to Appraisd. The problem is that by not following up with employees after check-ins and one to ones, managers are devaluing their team members’ time and, crucially, giving them the impression that their opinions and views don’t matter and aren’t important. 

Listen and act 

A further survey from OnePoll found that the general failure of managers to follow up concerned employees; 26% of respondents said their managers could improve the situation by following up concerns more effectively. Responding and carrying out actions upon receiving feedback matter. These sentiments are echoed by the results so far from WeThrive’s Employee Engagement Reality Check Survey where 45% of respondents have so far reported that when they’ve filled in an employee engagement survey they had either never received feedback following their responses or the specific issues they raised were never discussed with them.

All this got me thinking about what makes a good manager and the negative impact a poor manager can have.

The missing manual for line managers

The CIPD rightly point out that line managers have an important role to play, they point to the fact that:

‘…proper consideration is given to the way line managers are selected, developed and managed on an ongoing basis to ensure they are able to perform this role.’

However, realistically, we know that this is often not the case. One of the problems is that not everyone is a born people person. Often employees are promoted to line managers because they are good at their day jobs and this can cause problems. All this talk of feedback is part of the reason we built WeCoach – to ensure that, following employee survey feedback line managers know exactly what to do and aren’t left scratching their heads and they know exactly what to do to help. 

The below is an excerpt from our upcoming guide: ‘The missing manual for line managers,’ where WeThrive founder and business psychologist Piers Bishop outlines what happens when people get wound up and the effect it has in the workplace: 

“People’s behaviour changes as they get wound
 up, and reason is replaced by something older. The results are unpredictable – some people withdraw, others become aggressive. Some talk less, others more. Some become more focussed on the task in hand – even if it’s not working – while others go round in circles. But there are also some general results from increased stress. Most people become more
 selfish – that’s not a criticism, just a reflection of the way we are wired. And any behaviour that is stress–related, is likely to increase. So you could you expect happier staff to take fewer smoking (or vaping) breaks, and find it easier to get off nicotine altogether. Smokers or not, they’ll take fewer days off sick, and, critically, spend less time sabotaging your attempts to manage them.”

The role of the line manager is vital. We’ve established that listening and then acting on employee feedback is crucial but what other tips are there for being a good manager and what are successful managers doing in order to engage with employees?

Tips for becoming a good manager

1) Listen and act
Even if your organisation doesn’t run employee engagement surveys it’s important to sit down with your staff one to one and ask them how they are. Where possible when they raise concerns act on them and feedback where you’re at on a regular basis. Of course, you won’t be able to fix everything but showing you want to help can go a long way. It is possible to show empathy and tow the company line where necessary. Showing you are human too can go a long way. 

2) Ask for feedback and stick to one to one sessions
Asking for feedback in the form of 360 reviews isn’t always easy and, in my experience, can be a process where neither managers or employees feel particularly comfortable. Asking for feedback about the way people like to be managed doesn’t have to be as scary as it first sounds. But it is important – in all areas of life more and more we expect our individual needs to be met. We know one to ones are important but as individuals we vary in how often we need that time from our managers.  So, start by asking how often your employees would like to sit down with you on a one to one basis – some will be happy with once a month, others once a week but however often you agree to do them, stick to them. In order for employees to feel valued this is crucial. 

3) Lead by example
A manager’s behaviour will be scrutinised like never before so you must lead by example. If you want your team members to turn up for meetings on time ensure you arrive a few minutes early, every time. It won’t go unnoticed.

4) Set achievable goals
If there aren’t any goals how will we know if we’re doing a good job? Goals and KPIs are important for exactly this reason. Setting daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals is important not only for individuals but for the team overall, it will allow you to pull together to help each other in tougher times and celebrate when your team achieve above and beyond what was expected. 

5) Be consistent
Where possible manage employees with consistency and save any difficult conversations for those one to ones, not the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to change to ensure there is consistency across your team. If there is a meeting at 3pm on Wednesday which always fails to start on time because the meeting beforehand overruns then change the time.

6) Don’t micro-manage
This can be tricky, particularly if you’re a new line manager who is conscientious about what you do. Unfortunately micro-managing doesn’t benefit anyone; not the employee, not the business and not you. We all make mistakes, it’s how we learn and get better. Giving people autonomy in their work empowers them and actually means they are less likely to make mistakes in the first place. 

7) Say thank you
Let’s finish off by going back to basics! Saying thank you is an incredibly powerful motivator and it costs nothing. Unfortunately failing to thank employees means you won’t get the best from them. A lack of gratitude at work leaves employees feeling unsatisfied, unappreciated and demotivated, all of which have a significant impact on employee happiness and productivity.

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