It’s no secret that having great managers can make so much difference in employee satisfaction and overall performance, which translates to greater business growth. Every company is different and every team functions differently, but the skills needed to effectively manage teams are usually the same across the board. Here are 13 essential things great managers do.

1. Create clear job descriptions (JDs)

The JD is the most critical piece of the puzzle in managing people, yet often the most overlooked by small business owners. This can create confusion and lead to resentment and often termination or resignation. Creating a job description can be very easy, and if you sit down uninterrupted for 15 minutes, you can create a meaningful job description for anyone that works for you.

Some JD hacks:

  • Simple. 10 bullet points will do.
  • Concise. Every item must have a meaning to you and to your team.
  • Relevant. Keep it relevant only to the role hired and the skills of the employee.

2. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are absolutely critical to setting yourself up for success. KPIs should cascade down from your overall corporate goals, and they should be quantitative and clearly explained.

As an example, let’s say your goal is to grow your revenue from $1 million annual turnovers to $2 million within 12 months. You will need to set goals for the marketing team, sales team, and others. Your sales team may need to generate 100 leads per month, close 10 of them, at an average monthly recurring revenue of $500 per client.

KPI generally relates to efficiency and effectiveness in a role, alternatively, in terms of speed and quality and they can be presented in simple table format in the cloud such as Google Sheets or Docs.

3. Provide clear briefs

Clear and unambiguous communication is paramount for the smooth running of your team. When providing instructions, give as much detail as you can, while also anticipating any roadblocks, and communicating them to your team before they even start.

Let’s say you’re asking your virtual assistant to schedule a trip for you:

An unclear brief:

“I am going to New York next week, can you organise the trip for me”

A clear brief:

“I am going to New York next Tuesday for a meeting with client X. I need to land before 11 am to arrive at their office at 2 pm. Can you look into a hotel on 1st avenue under $400 per night? I will be staying for 3 nights. If you can not find a hotel on 1st, try 3rd and if you need to spend an additional $50 in doing so, that’s fine. Send me the itinerary before 5 pm today.”

Imagine the difference in output between the clear and the unclear brief. Imagine the speed at which the clear brief will be completed in contrast to the unclear brief. Be clear, it will save you and your people a huge amount of time.

4. Understand organisational charts & roles

Great managers understand the structure of roles within an organisation. When was the last time you looked at an organisation chart? When was the last time you looked at your own organisational chart?

As businesses grow, functions and divisions are formed, and how they are formed, attaining the right mix of senior strategists and mid-level and junior tactical implementation team members, will ultimately determine the success of the business.

If you are a solopreneur, this may not seem relevant to you but it absolutely is. You are, at least for now, the entire organisational chart. You are customer acquisition, finance, innovation, operations, and customer support. As your business begins to scale, you will need to scale the team with it.

Every incremental $10,000 per month jump in revenue brings with it a need to grow the team required to manage the growing machine. You will need to invest in customer acquisition strategy (for example, a CMO), and staff to implement the CMO’s strategy. This can still be on the micro level, for example, your CMO may only work 10 hours per month and their social media specialist 20 hours per month, content writer 30 hours per month, and paid media specialist 20 hours per month.

Irrespective of the team size, the structure still needs to be there, with the perfect mix of strategy, planning, management and execution is needed.

Here is a great formula you can apply to most functions and teams

  • 20% Strategy, planning and analysis of results
  • 20% managing those implementing
  • 60% implementing

5. Transfer knowledge effortlessly

Great managers understand that a large part of their role is to transfer not only what they know now, but what they learn along the way. Great managers invest hours into initial training, as they understand that it takes time to impart the layers of knowledge required for someone to do their job effectively.

Some knowledge transfer hacks:

  • Build video training files (Snagit, Vimeo are great tools)
  • House processes in the cloud and in an easy-to-consume order and format. Check out the Atlassian groups Confluence product, or simply use Google Docs.
  • Build IF/THEN scenarios to drive easy decision-making
  • Sell your vision and give your team the Why.

6. Document everything

As they say, if it is not written down, it was never agreed upon.

After every meeting, have one of the participants send meeting notes. Taking this a step further, if you utilise a task management platform such as TeamWorkPM or Trello, plot out the deliverables resulting from the meeting directly into your task platform with due dates attached.

7. Implement quality control systems

Human beings make errors, it is an inescapable part of a business. Businesses that recognise that and implement intelligent, leveraged systems to minimise and detect errors, outperform those that do not.

Some examples of quality control systems you can implement:

  • One person checks the work of another systematically or randomly
  • You randomly check work
  • Their is a clear draft and approval process for certain tasks, such as website changes, invoices, proposals

8. Set aside time to manage

While some studies suggest that 6 hours each week is needed to be an effective manager, I believe that with sound time management and ‘taking the monkey off your back” strategies, 3 hours is the sweet spot.

This does, of course, depend upon the number and diversity of staff that reports to you, so take the above recommendation a general guide. With this in mind, if you are a full-time manager that has 6 full-time staff reporting to you, you would need to set aside 18 hours every week to manage your team. While this may sound like a lot of time, keep in mind that if you are a manager, managing people is your role and where your time should be spent.

9. Do daily check-ins and weekly WIP meetings

Throughout my years as a manager and a coach of managers, the WIP (work in progress) is probably the simplest yet most neglected management process that leads to goals and outcomes not being achieved.

Managers mistakenly make the following assumptions:

  • No news is good news
  • I pay my staff, they should not take up any of my time.
  • If they need something, they will probably reach out and let me know

10. Plan the teams’ week out in advance

Now, this does depend upon the seniority of your team members. Let’s’ assume all are below director level and all are a level under you in your organisational chart.

Great managers not only plan their own week in advance, they take the time to sit down with their team and plan their week out with them also. This not only creates synergy within the team, it also visually prioritises the week while removing any tasks or activities that are not going to move the team towards their goal.

There are two ways that I like to do this with my team members.

Firstly, we set recurring and one-off tasks in our cloud team management platform (we use TeamWorkPM). Then, to ensure we have the volume and timing right, we then map out the tasks in Google Calendar.

The mapping of the tasks into the calendar is a very powerful process, as it not only shows you how the week will play out in terms of task completion and productivity, it also gives you, the manager, a virtual visual insight into when your team should be left alone to get work done.

11. Remove self as the bottleneck

Depending upon the size of your team and the functional roles you also play within your business, you may be a central cause of slowing progress by inadvertently becoming the bottleneck within your team. There are several steps you can take to achieve this:

  • Create clear processes in which every stakeholder knows the part they plan
  • Empower your team to make decisions, covered below
  • Teach your people how to manage up, covered below

12. Encourage decision-making

There are far too many decisions that you need to make to run your business successfully and efficiently alone. Empower your team members to make decisions so that you can remove yourself as the bottleneck. While it is nice for the ego to believe that things simply cannot function without you, the reality is, if you’re running your team or business well, they absolutely can and should.

There are some great hacks for simplifying empowerment with some decision-making workflows:

  • IF/THEN scenarios. IF this happens, do that.
  • Escalation rules: IF this happens, tell me
  • Threshold rules: IF this metric goes above X, do this. If it goes above Y, tell me within 2 hours.

13. Teach people how to manage up

Managing up is a skill rarely talked about, despite the huge impact it can have on productivity. Managing up is the skill that entails subordinates managing their manager effectively, by implementing some of the managing up principles:

  • Self-reporting. Ask your people to create a weekly report of what was achieved, what is late, what they learned, and more
  • Email consolidation. Asking your people to send fewer emails and to leave non-important emails to be discussed during weekly meetings. Tell them to not cc you if you have a CRM system that allows you to access emails linked to contacts. They can provide you with an update in your daily or weekly meeting instead.
  • Response turnaround times. Create rules around communication turnaround times, so that you will no longer be left hanging. Examples include 2 hours for emails, 1 hour for phone calls, 30 seconds during Skype or Google Hangouts chats.

In Summary

Management is a learned skill that entails over a dozen core competencies that once mastered, will result in massive gains in productivity, staff happiness, and bottom line growth. Work on developing each of the 13 items in this list:

  1. Create clear job descriptions (JDs)
  2. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  3. Provide clear briefs
  4. Understand organisational charts & roles
  5. Transfer knowledge effortlessly
  6. Document everything
  7. Implement quality control systems
  8. Set aside time to manage
  9. Do daily check-ins and weekly WIP meetings
  10. Plan the teams’ week out in advance
  11. Remove self as the bottleneck
  12. Encourage decision-making
  13. Teach people how to manage up

Give yourself a score out of 10 for each, then aim to have that number climb by 1 every month until all are at a 9 or 10 out of 10, and your life will never be the same again!

Happy managing! :)

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