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How to Be a Good Manager: 4 Simple Steps

Managers play an important role. Their actions help determine the success (and happiness) of everyone around them.

So how do we actually decide who to put in charge of other people? It’s usually some combination of credentials, previous experience, and performance in relevant job roles. But a great employee—even a very experienced one—isn’t necessarily a great manager.

And it gets worse. Research has found that the most incompetent managers are also the least motivated to improve. (Because they are also the least aware of their own incompetence.)

Fortunately, if you are a manager, there are some simple steps that you can take to become more effective.

The benefits of these actions have been established by research over the past decade, and include increased employee performance, commitment, satisfaction, and citizenship behaviors. Here are 4 simple steps on how to be a good manager.

1. Seek feedback

To be a good manager, ask for input. Ask people about what’s going on, how you can be a better manager, and if there is anything else you might be able to improve. Not only will this start to fill potential gaps in your own insight, but it also shows that you might actually care about being a good manager.

Managers who solicit feedback are seen by their employees as having more accurate knowledge of themselves and their employees.

2. Be clear and consistent

Good managers make an effort to openly praise positive outcomes, and to admit when mistakes are made. The tendency to avoid or “sugar-coat” uncomfortable details is all too common.

And research has found that it reduces the performance of groups, teams, and organizations.

To put it simply, to be a good manager, use a more open discussion style to encourage (rather than discourage) employees to find problems and identify potential areas for improvement.

3. Explain your thoughts and actions

Identify and communicate your values and beliefs.

What do you value about your work?

What do you believe to be fair vs. unfair?

What do you believe represents success vs. failure, or a good decision vs. a bad one?

Once this is established, it can be used to communicate why you make specific evaluations and decisions.

As a good manager, you can’t just expect everyone to understand why you do the things that you do.

When you actually explain your reasoning, people are less likely to assume that you have acted unfairly or irrationally.

4. Include people in decisions that affect them

Our last tip for how to be a good manager? Actively seek and consider opinions and viewpoints.

Once you have established your basic values and beliefs, solicit feedback that might challenge those values and beliefs—especially before making major decisions.

This gives everyone some sense of voice (and at the very least helps you to know in advance whether anyone disagrees or objects).

Perhaps more importantly, people really dislike it when major decisions appear to be made quickly, or without considering all the options.

Regardless of the final outcome, at least make an effort to listen to all points of view before reaching a conclusion.

The big idea: It’s all about communication

The default “psychological contract” between employer and employee is like a transaction.   

Do X and you get Y in exchange.

This arrangement generally motivates employees to minimize effort and maximize gain.

The more beneficial “psychological contract” is like a relationship.

Relationships have a more complex and ongoing exchange of information and ideas.

When managers make employees feel like they are part of such a relationship, it can dramatically boost commitment, satisfaction, and performance. Start using these four tips on how to be a good manager today.