As a manager, you have a lot to juggle. Not only do you have to nurture, guide, and support your employees, but you have to do it all with strength and authority. If you do your job right, both your organization and the people on your team grow. Read more about what makes a good leader here.

So, naturally, you want to be the best manager you can be.

While you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, there are a couple key tips you can use to manage your team successfully. They cover everything from dealing with stress, encouraging motivation, and building good communication to learning from failure and developing resilient team members.

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How to be an effective manager?

1. Use different communication methods strategically

Even though you might be sitting right next to your teammates, it’s easy for things to get lost in day-to-day conversations. Thankfully, you have a lot of tools at your disposal to help you communicate well with your employees.

Here’s a general guide:

  • Email: Short, neutral exchanges of information
  • Chat: Informal talk; group discussions; general announcements
  • Skype or Zoom: Long, detailed, or potentially difficult conversations
  • Phone: Long, detailed, or potentially difficult conversations (if you can’t video chat)

Email is the easiest to misinterpret since you’re missing all the context from tone-of-voice, body language, and facial expressions. Try to reserve email communication for simple, objective discussions.

Chat platforms can easily be your team’s best friend. You should use chat to share general news (it’s more efficient than sending a mass email and then getting individual replies), talking as a group, and socializing to get to know each other, even if everyone’s not in the same office.

If you’re about to have a fairly in-depth, lengthy, or emotional meeting, you should always try to do those in person.

It can easily feel disingenuous to have a complex conversation over a platform like Skype or Zoom. If you’re managing a team of remote employees, you might not have another option. But if you can, it’s far more productive to video chat with your employees for 45 minutes than type messages back and forth for two hours. Plus, if you’re delivering critical feedback or bad news, having that face-to-face element — which feels warmer and more human — is vital.

When you can’t meet in person or video chat for whatever reason, calling someone is your second-best option. You can’t see their face, but at least you can hear their voice.

It can also be helpful to run your messages through a tone analysis tool, like the Tone Analyzer. This app will warn you if you sound rude, curt, or annoyed.

Whatever method you chose, having clear communication with your team is extremely important.

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2. Promote company culture and internal bonding

Does your team have watercooler moments? They’re spontaneous conversations between co-workers about random (usually non-work-related) topics. These are far from a waste of time. On the contrary, they help build camaraderie, diffuse ideas across the organization, and can jump-start some super productive discussions.

As a manager, it’s important that you encourage watercooler moments — or they might not happen.

Kickstart them with your team by asking them to share a little about themselves. Who are they when they leave the office?

Maybe a few of your team members play the same sport or are all binge-watching the latest show on Netflix. Finding common ground lets these conversations flow more organically and can lead to some really genuine friendships.

If your team genuinely enjoys working with one another, they’ll create better work. Plus, work-centered conversations usually become more interactive, and even more productive, when people feel they truly know each other.

To keep that energy going, encourage a couple “fun” channels on your Slack, Basecamp, or HipChat account — anything from #random to #dadjokes to #catmemes. If these channels are slow, get the ball rolling by posting something yourself.

Take it to the next level by scheduling time during meetings for team members to quickly talk about something personal, like asking everyone to share a detail about their day or a small accomplishment from the last week.

Knowledge sharing sessions are another fantastic way to promote internal bonding.
If one of your team members knows a ton about wine, have her give a short presentation on how to choose the perfect bottle.

If another employee is a master at calligraphy, ask him to give everyone a 15-minute intro on how to create the perfect hand-written thank you note. You might even get one yourself.

These demos give your employees a chance to share their passions with each other while also generating lots of relationship-building conversations.

Best of all, they’ll send a clear message that you truly care about your employees as people, not just sources of profit.

3. Set clear expectations

An important part of your job as a manager is to set crystal clear expectations for your team. Without them, it isn’t uncommon to quickly lose structure and control of your team.

People are set up for success when they know what is expected of them. Setting expectations isn’t hard to do — you just need to make sure you do it right.

Ideally, your first in-depth discussion about what you’re looking for would take place during onboarding. But these discussions should continue throughout each employee’s tenure — anywhere from once a month to once a week.

Your team members should have no doubts about

  • What they are supposed to accomplish in the next week
  • Their general goals for the next one to three months
  • Which tasks or projects they own
  • Whom they should go to with issues
  • How many hours per week they’re expected to work (if applicable)
  • How much work they’re expected to complete each week (if applicable)
  • Your level of availability (when, where, and how they can reach you)

If you don’t feel confident that your employees know all of this information, it’s time to take action.

Consider either scheduling more frequent check-ins or identifying if there’s an “information gap.” Clear communication starts with you — be honest with the parameters you’ve set and ask if you’re being fully transparent and if your expectations are completely clear.

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4. Manage workplace stress

Stress in the workplace is no joke. It can happen very easily and can adversely affect the work of your team. Thankfully, there are little things you can do as a manager to help stop office stress before it happens. .

A lot of workplace stress is caused by miscommunication and lack of awareness. Stress sets in when your team members aren’t sure what projects are coming down the pipeline or what they should be working on.

You can combat this by organizing and sharing your workflow with simple, comprehensive project management software.

Hubstaff Tasks, for example, adopts the Agile framework for getting brilliant work done seamlessly. It lets you easily see what everyone on your team is working on at any one moment and helps to delegate, plan, and prioritize work. Learn more about Agile methodology here.

Since all of your team’s tasks will be gathered together in one place, your employees will have line-of-sight to everything they need to do and all that they’ve already completed. It’s win-win.

A second way to help reduce stress in the workplace is actually pretty simple, and it’s all about relationships with people.

When people are stressed, they shut down. If you don’t have a genuine relationship with your team, they won’t feel comfortable coming to you and letting you know what’s really going on.

Let’s say your designer has a lot on her plate. She may be the only designer on the team and, as a result, is swamped with work.

By having an open professional relationship with her manager, she can come to you and say she’s just overloaded as soon as she feels it. From there, you can figure out what needs to change — maybe re-aligning a deadline or bringing on some freelance talent — so that she doesn’t feel so stressed.

Obviously, there will be deadlines and sometimes things aren’t as flexible as we’d like. But being able to have that conversation with your employees goes a long way to building a better relationship with them and ultimately proving to them that you’re a strong, dependable leader.

No matter how much people communicate, sometimes things just don’t work out on a project or in a meeting and people can feel like they’ve failed.

When this happens, and it will, it’s key to remember that failing is a natural part of the workplace (and life for that matter). As a manager it’s your job to encourage your employees, letting them know failure isn’t a bad thing and should actually be embraced as a learning experience.

By having these professional relationships with your team, not only will you grow closer and work together more effectively, but you’ll be able to walk through life with them and encourage them in their daily tasks. That’s the type of manager people really want to work with.

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5. Define your “why”

As a manager, you need to be very aware of how each person’s work is building towards a long-term goal, but your employees don’t usually have the benefit of your bird’s-eye view.

The fix is simple: Tell them how their individual tasks and projects map to the organization’s larger objectives.

People tend to perform better when they understand the importance of their work and how it contributes to big, audacious goals.

For example, when asking your copywriter to rewrite your company’s pricing page, you might say, “We’ve seen this page’s conversion rate drop significantly in the last month – we need your skills to get people buying again.”

Once they’re finished, make the connection again with something like, “Awesome job! This page is so important to our bottom line and your talent with words will motivate potential customers and bring our brand to life.”

You can also use Hubstaff Tasks to actually type out your remote team’s big goals and then place individual assignments and ownership underneath.

Using tools like this will give your team something to reference when they’re not sure what a current objective might be or how they can contribute to it. A high-level goal could be: “Increase monthly referrals by 20%.” A corresponding assignment could be “Call customers who gave us a five-star rating and ask for a referral” with one of your salespeople clearly tasked to make that happen.

Visually seeing the link between what they’re doing and the progress of the business will have a hugely positive impact on your employees and, ultimately, on your communal success.

6. Track progress

A structured and consistent method for tracking progress – both for individual workers and your team as a whole — is vital to measuring success and key milestones.

We like using our own software (there are many options available) for this as it lets us automate a large portion of the process and focus on getting things done. But there are many other ways to tackle how to track progress for yourself.

For example, you can ask everyone on your team to send you a daily three-bullet summary of their completed tasks. You can even automate this process with a product like IDoneThis. It gathers your team members’ replies to “What did you get done today?” and puts them in a handy report for everyone to read.

If you want to be really informal, consider having quick check-ins with your team for 10 minutes each week about their progress on projects.

Or set up a channel or room on your chat platform dedicated to tracking everyone’s progress. Imagine one of your developers just finished finding and getting rid of some redundant CSS on your site. She goes to the “Completed” thread, writes up what she did, and tags you (and anyone else who’s involved) to share it. Easy as that.

Not only will this create an invaluable archive of what’s getting done, but it’s also a great way to give your staff a sense of public recognition.

Additionally, you can use a task tracking software like Hubstaff Tasks to keep track of ongoing projects, deadlines, employee progress, and much more.

No matter what work tracker you choose, the onus should always be on the employee to get it done – not you.

There are two reasons for this. First, your employees want freedom and independence. By asking them to take the responsibility for measuring their progress, you’re empowering them and allowing them to take initiative.

The second reason is purely pragmatic. As a manager or founder, you’ve got a ton of other things fighting for your attention and energy. You need to focus on the processes that absolutely can’t happen without you.

(Of course, you should still be active in responding to progress with feedback, advice, and further directions.)

If you do find that you’ve become overloaded with too many things fighting for your attention, don’t be afraid to delegate and offload some of your tasks to others on your team. This can be a great way to get more done and build trust between you and your employees.

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7. Motivate your team

You want to make sure your team is clear on the larger purpose they get from their work. After that new-hire-high wears off, they’ll need something to keep working toward.

A great way to encourage your team to keep working on certain business goals is to help them set personal ones. By making it more about them as an individual, as opposed to lofty big-picture goals, it will help them focus on a destination more specific to them.

A good way to do this is to ask each employee to come up with some personal goals they’d like to achieve while at the company. Set up one-on-ones with each of them to go over the goals and give feedback on them.

By having a conversation about their newfound mission, you’re not only helping solidify their goals as meaningful, you’re confirming in their minds that they’re also achievable.

When the next year rolls around, have a follow-up meeting about these goals. Ask questions like, “Were you able to accomplish what you set out to do,” and, “What did you learn along the way?” Then, ask them what their goals are for the next year.

If you’re looking for more ways to motivate your team, check out this list of helpful tips.

8. Be transparent

To improve the speed and quality of decision-making, you should strive to be as transparent as possible with your team members. The more they know, the easier it will be for them to act autonomously.

First, consider having regular “town hall” meetings with your reports to discuss the status of the company, pending decisions, any recent changes, revenue and financial updates, and more. 

These types of meetings can make managers nervous – traditionally companies don’t give their workers any “non-essential” news. But the benefits of being open far outweigh any potentially negative consequences.

If you’d like to learn more about setting up town halls like this, check out this post on how to have effective team meetings

Second, put your conversations out into the open. Giving all of your team members access to the same information improves their ability to think and act as a single unit. It also means you won’t face unnecessary bottlenecks as your team is working to meet deadlines.

Let’s say one team member asks you to clarify a project detail. If you reply via email, they’re the only one who can benefit from the answer. However, if you use a team-wide platform or a daily standup everyone will be more informed and feel a sense of community.

To take this one step further, consolidate important information in group documents using Google Docs, Dropbox, or another file-sharing service.

The last tip to effectively manage your team is simple: be honest! When you’re speaking with your team members, strive to be as authentic and candid as you can. Honesty goes a long way, no matter the context of the conversation.

9. Bonus: Consider remote work

As a manager, allowing your team to work from different places other than an office has big time benefits. Thanks to modern tech, having remote employees isn’t a big damper on a business like it could have been years ago.

By having remote employees on your team, you can encourage autonomy by allowing them to take the reins on their work day and get things done on their own time. 

When you utilize tools like Slack and Zoom you can help to keep your remote workers up to date on projects and ongoing initiatives that your company is  pushing forward. By staying connected with them, you can check-in with your team about what’s going on in their lives and how they’re feeling about their work.

Managing a remote team can feel a bit tricky at times but it can also have incredible benefits. We’ve written the definitive guide to managing a remote team, where you can learn more about what it takes to run and manage a high-performing workplace no matter where you and your team members are located. 

Feel free to ask questions or let us know your favorite tips for managing remote team in the comments below.

This post was published in February 2016, and updated September 2019.

Category: Management