When you become a small business owner, you automatically open yourself up to a range of new roles and responsibilities. Although you may have no prior experience, one of the most important responsibilities you will encounter is managing a small team of workers - whether they are employees who work alongside you or freelancers who work remotely. In the end, your ability to manage your team will greatly impact the success of your business.
Although every small business owner will have his or her own managerial style, there is a set of characteristics that make some people better managers than others. On that note, I want to share this advice from Michael Riley of Vayner Media. His 10 tips for becoming a better manager will help you build your managerial skills and successfully lead your team of workers.
By Michael Riley, Vayner Media
After almost 3 years at VaynerMedia, I finally got the chance to manage someone directly. Before then, I had worked with a few Community Managers here and there who I delegated tasks to and loosely managed, but they did not directly report to me.
Managing someone can sound easy when you haven't done it yet. It's one thing to observe your superiors who have managed you, but another to actually put those observations into practice. Although getting the chance to manage someone might not seem like a big deal to some, this has been a new experience for me and I've embraced it head on. While I'm definitely not the perfect boss (yet), I feel like I've grown to understand some foundational elements for what it takes to be a good manager.
Here's what I've learned over the past 5 months:
1. GIVE CONSISTENT, HONEST FEEDBACK
Most employees like to know how well they're doing at their jobs. If you left it up to them to evaluate their performance, I bet they would think they're doing better than they actually are.
That's why you need a good manager to keep them in check by regularly telling them what they've been doing well and how they can improve.
Personally, I've started to give feedback in a variety of ways, whether in one-off emails, live in-person, in a document, or during a recurring weekly meeting. Constantly giving feedback helps me coach my coworker sooner, allowing for quicker improvement. As for the honesty part, I don't like to dance around issues but rather use them as opportunities to teach. Telling it like it is is best for both parties involved.
2. TEACH YOUR WAYS
Speaking of teaching, I've enjoyed showing my colleague how I go about doing certain tasks and responsibilities. I like to think I've figured out some good systems and shortcuts in my 3+ years and am proud to share them with hungry employees who are ready to listen and learn. The more you invest your time in them in the first few months they're working for you (vs. letting them figure it our from themselves), the better off you'll be down the line. Doing so will help reinforce your knowledge and experience about the company, which will make you feel good. I'd recommend even staying after normal work hours if necessary to help them understand something. What's better than shaping an employee to become just like you?
3. SEEK OUT OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEM
Once someone who works for you gets their basic responsibilities down, that person will likely be eager to take on more. Try to audit what's currently on your plate and see if you can pass anything off to them that would be new for them. Or consider inviting them to meetings they wouldn't necessarily have exposure to so they can get a better understanding of you operate at your role. In addition, as you get to know the person you're managing better, you'll get a sense of what they're interested at the company as well as their career. Try to keep that in the back of your head and suggest things that they can do or read that will help them learn more about the areas they care about.
4. HELP THEM SET GOALS
In conjunction with giving the person you're managing consistent feedback, show that you're invested in their growth by helping them set goals. Pay attention to both the short-term (what they want to improve at in the near future to help them move towards a promotion) and the long-term (what they ultimately want to do in their career). Empower them to create their own goals, and keep them honest as you meet with them regularly to discuss their progress.
5. COMPLIMENT THEM
While this point is related to my first learning about giving feedback, I wanted to separate it out specifically because it's really important. I think it's much easier to tell people when they have done something wrong than to celebrate when they do something right. Make sure to go out of your way from time to time to let them know when they've done a good job at something. The positive reinforcement will make them feel like a more valued member of the team and likely inspire them to work even harder and smarter.
6. DON'T MICRO-MANAGE TOO MUCH
Everyone likes things done in certain ways, but you're going to have to learn to come to terms with when other people do those things according to their own style and preference. Otherwise, you'll be doing two jobs and likely be suffering at your responsibilities. As important as it is to teach the person you're managing how to do things, at some point you have step back a bit so they can figure out things on their own. That's how they grow and how you can hyper-focus on the items on the top of your to-do list.
7. HAVE PATIENCE
You can't expect that the employee you're managing will become like you overnight. They're going to make mistakes along the way. Obviously, you want to try to minimize them as much as possible and ensure they don't make the same ones twice, but you're going to have to learn to live with it. Try to put yourself in their shoes and remember where you came from. Their improvement at their job will take time, so learn to live with it. Patience is incredibly underrated.
8. SHARE YOUR WORK EXPERIENCES
Being relatable is so huge when managing someone. Whether it's giving feedback or helping manage goals, I often try to tell my coworker a story about a similar experience I had at the company. It automatically levels the playing field and increases empathy between us. For example, if I was giving feedback on a mistake they made, I would either point to an instance when I did the same thing, or an example of when I recently made a mistake. Sharing your work experiences in this way lets you proactively reflect on how you've been shaped into the employee you are today and develop some humility along the way.
This one is so huge. Communication is everything in the workplace. I like to keep an open dialogue with my coworker at all times. For example, we often chat about their workload / priorities for the day so I know exactly how they'll be spending their time. When we have our 1-on-1 meetings each week, I try to be super transparent about any feedback I may have and encourage my colleague to be the same way. I also try to make myself super available and am always willing to take a few minutes to gut check or help with something so long as I can. While over-communication is so important, you need to be careful of overdoing it to the point where your micro-management is affecting both of your outputs.
10. BE NICE
No one likes working for a jerk. Make an effort to be pleasant to be around, as it will be more conducive to better work. You don't want to intimidate your colleagues or have them talking bad about you to others. Lead by example and the people who work for you won't want to let you down. At the same time, be cautious of being too nice to the point where others think that they can get away with things because you'll let them off the hook. You need to find your balance.