Small Business Advice

12 best practices for managers

In this post we review 12 best practices to level up your managerial skills.

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Only 14% of business managers have the leadership talent needed to grow their businesses, according to recent Go Remotely findings. The good news is that as a business owner, you can always learn and implement the best practices for managers to level up your administrative skills. Building these skills won’t happen overnight, but rather over time. Nonetheless, we’ve lined up 12 management best practices that are essential to running and growing a business.

Define your personal branding

As a business owner or manager, you want to get your personal brand spot on for two reasons. First, it will affect the attitude of your staff, which in turn will affect their productivity and loyalty to your company. Your overall character, including the way you dress, speak and act around your team will influence the people around you. For example, according to a Forbes research, 96% of employees believe that empathy in a manager is important in advancing employee retention. Such traits will radiate to your team and will ultimately set the tone for your company.

Secondly, your personal branding can help you attract your target audience. While large companies rely on corporate branding and image, small businesses typically make one person their customer face. Oftentimes that person will be you. And if you can manage to make people feel comfortable – whether in person or when they look at your online profiles – then they’ll think of you (and your business) as credible, trustworthy and authentical. This is helpful, not just for attracting and retaining customers, but for networking and referrals as well.

Personal branding can be quite simple. It boils down to how you dress, your actions, how you treat and interact with others, and even the kind of music you play at the workplace. You’ll want to make sure that they align with the image of you that you want others to have when they meet you or look at your online profiles.

Take Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. His story of humble beginnings embodies determination and authenticity, both of which are evident in his brands – particularly the way he grew the family wine business into a multimillion empire. It’s a classic case of humble beginnings to millions in sales.

Take up management courses

One of the best ways to pick good management practices is by enrolling for a management course. This is especially important if you are a new manager and don’t have vast experience to rely on. A good management course provides you with the academic knowledge and skills required to understand specific areas of business, including financial management, human resource, marketing, operations, and business technology.

With these skills, you can learn ways of steering your team towards collective business goals. Additionally, a management course may help you figure out how to select and allocate resources for the betterment of the business. Combine it with other helpful courses in emotional intelligence and conflict resolution, and you’ll be a well-rounded leader.

Taking crash courses in management is something that top executives do as necessary. As CNBC reports, quite a good number of executives went back to school to learn ways of dealing with the new challenges that came with the coronavirus pandemic.

Hire the right people

One of the best practices for managers, as far as human resources, is spotting and hiring the right people for the job. These are employees who have the necessary soft skills and can fit in the company, seamlessly blending with its culture, tone and values. 

As the Morris Bixby Group reports, managing an underperforming employee requires 70% more time than managing a good hire. Plus, if some of your staff don’t share the company’s vision and values, you’ll find it near impossible to steer everyone in the same direction. And this will cost you time, effort and profits.

So, how do you know that someone is likely to be a bad hire? 89% of hiring executives describe bad hires as people who lack soft skills, according to LinkedIn. Beyond that, a bad hire is someone who just can’t adjust and fit in your company, or simply can’t click with you (the business owner/manager). Business management is basically people management. Thus, bringing bad hires on board simply makes your management work more challenging.

The good news is that you can take steps to improve your likelihood of getting the right employees for your company. Start by considering a wide range of candidates for any particular position. Create assessment criteria to analyze candidates, and narrow down to a few who you’ll select for interviews. Finally, prioritize soft skills and cultural fit when recruiting.

Set data-driven goals

One of the most critical management best practices is setting business goals from the get go. It doesn’t just give your team something to aim for, but it also gives you the direction to steer the company. Make sure they are tangible and measurable goals. For example, you can set specific revenue targets for employees and overall company sales.

Use data to set company goals. The simple reason behind this is that good management practices are more objective than subjective. Without reliable data, you’ll find yourself constantly shifting goal posts, which will take your team out of tune. You can, for instance, examine historical company and industry statistics to determine realistic sales and income targets for your business.

The process of using quantitative data to make decisions is known as data-driven-decision making (DDDM). It’s one of the key management skills for any experienced or new manager. In fact, Google uses this technique specifically to train its management staff. The company used data from employee surveys to distinguish the behaviors of good managers from bad ones. Armed with that information, Google tailored its training programs to meet the needs of each group of managers.

Practice consistency in action

Consistency translates to stability because it brings order, which can greatly help you and your employees to achieve business objectives. As a consistent manager, your team will know exactly what to expect of you. They won’t feel confused and out of sync with the company’s expectations.

Besides, consistency removes feelings of favoritism, which can hugely boost cohesion and good performance. For example, offering rewards of equal value for similar achievements and reprimands of equal value for similar mistakes will show consistency. Such practices will remove any confusion from your team. As a manager, you want them to know exactly what to expect of you.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, is one of the best examples of consistency in action. His “rank-and-yank” technique of eliminating poorly performing employees didn’t have any favoritism. Harsh as it was, it worked quite well for him and the company.

Once you know how to set consistency within the company, it will transmit to customer service as well. Customers will always spot companies that deliver consistent results. And they’ll keep coming back because of that predictability.

Foster open communication

In today’s world, best practices for managers go beyond recognition and feedback. Employees are looking for collaboratively-minded managers who practice two-way communication. In fact, a 2018 Salesforce study found that employees feel 4.6 times more empowered to perform their best work when they feel that their voice is heard.

Therefore, in addition to recognizing their work and giving feedback – whether good or bad – make sure to listen to your team and adjust to their needs as necessary. After all, they are most likely the ones who interact with customers the most and know what you need to do to satisfy your customer.

Excellent communication should be clear, accurate and thorough. It should not leave people with more questions. For example, every employee should ultimately know what tasks they are responsible for, what they need to do to accomplish those tasks, when they should do it, and how to get it done.

Create an environment where employees are not afraid to raise their concerns. You can easily do this through empathetic communication. Listen actively, address their issues and ask questions whenever you need more clarification. As is the case with all the best practices for managers, good communication will also reflect positively in customer service.

Build employee confidence

Your team may have the know-how to do their task but lack the confidence to get out of their comfort zone. Good management practices can help them overcome such limitations, which is what you want.

Confident employees are able to solve problems in difficult situations, even when they’re facing strict deadlines. They’ll be more willing to take on new projects without the fear of making mistakes. This kind of effort from your team is what takes the business from 0 to 100.

How do you boost employee confidence? Assign roles based on personal talents. If you frequently assign tasks that are beyond a worker’s ability, they’re likely to perform poorly, and this will affect their confidence. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge them. Rather, assign stretch assignments; i.e., incrementally more challenging tasks.

Besides, acknowledge your employees’ achievements and improvements. Help them through mistakes and celebrate successes as a team. And don’t forget to create a culture of open communication where people can share feedback and concerns. In other words, engage your team to build their confidence. The Engagement Institute reports that U.S. companies lose up to $550 billion a year due to disengaged employees. Just by giving your employees an empathetic ear, your company won’t be part of this damning statistic.

Develop your staff

Business management best practices include making your people better at their jobs. This involves improving both their job-specific skills as well as their soft skills. The more expertise your team has, the more productive it will be.

Staff development is not necessarily an expensive and time-consuming thing. You can easily attain it through training, mentoring and motivation. A good example is when you get one staff member to mentor a junior employee. Alternatively, you can assign an employee to another role so that they pick up more relatable skills.

The same will happen if you introduce new projects and create opportunities for some employees to shadow their more senior colleagues. Or, you can bring one or few employees with you whenever you go to open meetings, seminars and conferences. And if you have a Section 127 plan in place, then encourage your employees to take part-time academic courses that can further their skills.

Be flexible

In business management, flexibility means two things. First, provide your employees with greater latitude when it comes to accomplishing goals. Secondly, treat each team member in a way that’s suitable to their talents and overall character.

Providing enough latitude allows employees to be innovative and find simpler, efficient ways of accomplishing business goals. An overly rigid management style means forcing employees to stick to the status quo – established methods and standards – even when it’s not working. Worse still, your team may have a more cost- and time-efficient way of achieving something. But if you don’t give them the flexibility to apply that method, they almost certainly won’t.

Say, for example, that your company currently uses manual accounting. That’s not entirely a bad thing because manual accounting tends to have a low risk of data loss and correcting wrong entries is easier as well. But then one of your team members introduces accounting software like QuickBooks. If you’re too hung up on the old ways of doing things, you may feel the need to resist this new technology. And with that, you’ll miss out on all the benefits of accounting software, which include saving costs, instant generation of reports, automatic filing of taxes, data accuracy, simplified payroll etc.

As mentioned, being flexible also means being tolerant to the diverse nature of your human resource. Because of varying talents, some employees won’t always grasp the nitty-gritty of a task at first. But they’ll fully understand what’s required of them over time. This makes it important to find a way to give some leeway and allow them to learn on the job.

Flexibility is among the most essential best practices for managers because it prevents employees from burning out on the job. CareerBuilder says that 61% of employees are burned out, which affects their overall productivity.

Avoid micromanagement

According to Entrepreneur, micromanagement increases the chances of early death for employees. That’s enough reason to give your team free reign to do their work – simply because their healthcare matters. Just as important, micromanagement increases stress on employees, which in turn reduces productivity.

There are several things you can do to avoid micromanaging your employees. For one, have open communication with them and let them tell you how they prefer to be managed. Secondly, delegate and trust that your people will deliver. The 70% rule of delegation says that if someone can do a job 70% as well as you, delegate it to them. Of course, some training is essential to cover the remaining 30%. But even if they deliver 80 to 90% for a start, then you’re making progress.

Delegation always ranks highly among good management practices because it gives the manager time to focus on other things while simultaneously allowing employees to take on new challenges.

Always provide feedback

A recent Gallup finding shows that highly engaged employees show 21% more profitability. Similarly, 89% of HR executives agree that clear and regular feedback is key to successful outcomes, according to Workhuman.

The bottom line? Engage your team by providing regular helpful feedback. Congratulate them when they’ve achieved set milestones and propose corrective measures whenever things are not going according to plan. Remember to deliver feedback in person and make it actionable.

For example, if sales are dropping, consider holding a meeting either with your sales team or with everyone. Present the feedback – whether statistics, charts, graphs or whatnot – that shows declining sales. Then propose ways to correct the situation. For instance, you can suggest increasing the company’s online presence because most consumers are ordering goods online these days. And don’t forget that engagement involves listening to and addressing concerns and issues that your team may have.

Providing feedback goes beyond performance. It may also help you attract talent. According to a LinkedIn research, talents are four times more likely to consider your company for future opportunity when you offer feedback.

Be considerate of employees’ personal commitments

A recent Glassdoor survey reports that 87% of employees expect managers to help them balance work and personal commitments. This doesn’t necessarily mean being all over their personal lives, but rather supporting them as they attend to non-work aspects of their life.

If, for example, you have an employee who is also taking a course in college, you can adjust the work schedule so that it allows them free time to attend classes. Similarly, it won’t hurt to give them vacation time and free days when they need to attend to the emergency needs of their loved ones.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, the best practices for managers ultimately boil down to properly managing human resources. If you can put yourself in your employees’ shoes, you’ll find it easy to have empathy, be considerate and figure out good ways of providing feedback. That’s how you create a winning team that can grow your business into an empire.

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