Boost your management skills by getting back to the basics — here are some common sense tips for leading an effective team.
By Inside CRM Editors
Management is all about connecting with the people on your team. So how do you effectively manage a team? With common knowledge, of course. These are a few back-to-basics rules that will help you develop management skills that really matter.
Like it or not, your body speaks volumes, even when you are silent. Here’s how to express an attitude that’s appropriate for a leader.
1. Stand tall. Keeping your shoulders back and holding yourself up to your full height will give you an air of confidence.
2. Take your hands out of your pockets. Putting your hands in your pockets is often seen as a sign that you have something to hide.
3. Stand with your arms crossed behind your back. This will help you adjust your posture, and it leaves your hands in a position that is open and not intimidating.
4. Make eye contact. Always look directly into the eyes of the people you are speaking with. This shows you’re interested and also gives you a sense of confidence.
5. Sit up straight. Even if you’re at an 8 a.m.meeting and feeling tired, it’s important to sit up straight in your chair. Slouching makes you look disinterested and can give off an unwanted air of laziness.
6. Face the person you’re talking to. This shows you are interested and engaged in the conversation.
7. Shake hands firmly. For many, a handshake is a reflection of the person you’re shaking hands with. You don’t want to come across as unsure or overbearing, so make sure yours is professional and confident.
8. Always smile. Smiles are contagious and will make others feel positive when you’re around.
9. Look your best. You don’t have to be model perfect every day, but you should dress appropriately and neatly. Clothes can have a big impact on the way you’re perceived.
10. Walk confidently. Keep your head up and take even strides.
No one will be happy if your team has to rush around at the last minute to complete a project. Follow these tips to make deadlines less stressful for everyone.
11. Only promise what you can realistically deliver. Don’t create deadlines that you know you can’t meet. By only promising what you know you can do, you’ll be able to finish on time.
12. Set clear goals. Once you know what you need to accomplish, it helps to know how and when you want to do it. Put your goals down on paper and make sure everyone on your team gets a copy.
13. Organize a team. Many of your employees will have unique strengths and training that can make them great assets to certain projects. Pick a team that has the right skills to carry out the job.
14. Delegate tasks. Spread work among your employees in a way that doesn’t leave anyone overburdened while also allowing the project work smoothly.
15. Create milestones. Creating milestones for you and your team will help you keep track of your progress and also give you a sense of accomplishment as you reach each milestone.
16. Keep communication open. Keeping everyone in touch with the status of the project is key to making sure it’s completed on time.
17. Do it right the first time. Planning ahead will help prevent you from delivering a substandard product. Having to redo something for a client costs money, and, more than likely, future business opportunities.
18. Stay organized. Staying organized will help keep you from wasting time chasing down important documents and information.
19. Make sure expectations are clear. Be sure that each member of your team knows what their specific responsibilities are. This will save time and prevent tasks from being overlooked.
20. Create a plan. Compile your goals and milestones into a comprehensive plan for attacking any project you are given. This way, you can make sure you’re staying on schedule and that all of your employees will be clear about how and when things should be done.
Getting Along with Employees
A happy office is a productive one. Everyone will be more cheerful if you follow these simple rules.
21. Don’t make your employees come in on days they’re normally not scheduled to work or call them while they’re on vacation. A surefire way to make employees resent you is to invade their personal time for nonpressing work. Unless you have something that absolutely has to be done, let time away from work stay that way.
22. Don’t play favorites. Playing favorites can bias your judgment and impair your leadership abilities. Treat your employees equally.
23. Give credit when it’s due. Don’t take credit for your employees’ ideas or hog their limelight. This action not only fosters resentment but also makes you seem untrustworthy.
24. Don’t micromanage. While it’s fine to keep up with what your employees are working on, don’t constantly look over their shoulders.
25. Never discuss employee matters with their co-workers. This kind of gossip always gets back to the person and will make you look unprofessional.
26. Don’t interfere with employees’ work. If your employees are getting work done, don’t stress about how it gets done. Even if it’s not being done they way you’d do it, it’s best to let employees use their best judgment.
27. Don’t push unreasonable deadlines. You don’t want to spend all of your time at the office, and neither do your employees.
28. Keep your promises. Barring some catastrophic event, you should always keep promises you make to employees, especially about pay and benefits.
29. Keep work about work. Don’t require employees to run your personal errands. Take care of your own personal business or hire an assistant.
30. Reward hard work. Make sure your employees feel valued for the work that they do. Employees will be more willing to put in extra effort if they know it’s noted and appreciated.
31. Provide motivation. Sometimes employees need a morale boost. Provide them with encouragement to get a project rolling.
Being a good manager isn’t just about what you can encourage other people to do, it’s also about managing your own performance.
32. Be accessible. Don’t hole up in your office all day — come out and visit with your employees. Let them know that they can always come to you with problems and concerns.
33. Be open to constructive criticism. It may not always be what you want to hear, but listening to constructive criticism gives you the chance to learn and grow from your mistakes.
34. Accept responsibility. Part of being the boss is accepting responsibility for the mistakes of all that you manage, not just your own.
35. Know there’s always room for improvement. No matter how good you think you are, your job can always be done better. Always be willing to learn.
36. Improve your skills. Learning is a lifelong process. You’re never too old to take a class or ask a co-worker to help you improve your knowledge.
37. Explain things simply. Don’t use big words or technical jargon just to sound smart and impress others. Your employees will understand and perform better if you explain simply and clearly what you need.
38. Instruct rather than order. You may be the boss, but you don’t have to be bossy. You’ll have more success if your requests are more tactfully delivered.
39. Include your staff in your plans. Don’t make your work top secret; let your employees know what’s going on and how they are expected to contribute.
40. Know your subordinates’ jobs. You don’t want to be caught with inferior job knowledge.
41. Be flexible. It’s fine to be firm in what you expect, but allow for flexibility in how it gets done.
42. Get regular feedback. Your employees and superiors can give you valuable feedback on how to improve your performance. Use this to your advantage.
43. Know your limitations. You can’t be everywhere doing everything all at once. Know the limits of your time and abilities and say no to things you know you can’t do.
Getting the most out of your day can be difficult with a busy schedule, but you can use these tips to help you maximize your time in order to be better available to employees.
44. Get the most out of meetings. Be organized and prepared for meetings to increase effectiveness and time savings.
45. Focus your energy on things that matter. Don’t let trivial tasks take time away from things that are really important.
46. Identify your time-stealers. Everyone has little things that detract their attention and make them lose focus. Figure out what these are and work to eliminate them, if only for a few hours a day.
47. Be punctual. Being on time is a big deal. Never keep people waiting for appointments or meetings if you can help it.
48. Respond to your correspondence within a reasonable amount of time. You don’t have to be chained to your inbox, but make sure you respond to emails within a few hours whenever possible.
49. Do only what is necessary. There are times when going above and beyond works, but doing so on a daily basis can derail your progress on more important issues. Get the key things done first, then see if you have time for additional things.
50. Stick to schedules and routines. While they may not be the most exciting things, schedules and routines can help streamline and improve your productivity.
51. Organize and manage your schedule. Use any tools and utilities you have at your disposal to prioritize your day and keep track of what you need to get done.
52. Plan more than you think you can do. While this may sound stressful, it can actually be a great motivator. If you manage to get everything done, you’ll enjoy a great sense of achievement.
53. Get to work early on occasion. Sometimes an uninterrupted half hour in an unoccupied office can help you get key things done or allow you to plan your day before there are any distractions to slow you down.
54. Know that sometimes stress is good. While too much of anything, especially stress, can be bad, sometimes a little stress can be the motivation to get you moving, allowing you to get more done.
55. Do your least favorite tasks first. Get your most tedious and least desirable tasks out of the way earlier in the day. After that, everything else will be a breeze.
Managing Finances and Resources
Whether you’re a business owner or a manager, staying on top of tangible items is vital to success. These tips can help you keep track.
56. Set up a realistic budget. While it’s good to be optimistic, don’t plan for more spending than you know you can afford. Make sure you plan for emergencies and contingencies as well.
57. Save costs where they matter the most. Don’t just pinch pennies for the present. Make sure your savings will pay off in the long run. Compromising on quality might cost you later on in repairs and replacements.
58. Spend only when it’s necessary. Don’t spend if you don’t need to. Every bit you save goes toward your profit.
59. Find alternative sources of finance. Sometimes even successful businesses need a little help. Business loans and investors can help you through leaner times.
60. Stay true to your contracts. Not only will you gain the respect of your clients, you’ll also avoid legal battles that can be a serious financial drain.
61. Make sure employees are well compensated. Employees deserve to be rewarded for hard work. Make sure yours are well compensated for their time and they’ll be more productive and happier to come to work.
62. Learn to do more with less. Quality is much more important than quantity, so make what you have count.
63. Assign equipment wisely. While it might be nice for every employee to have a PDA, budgets often don’t allow for such conveniences. Make sure the employees that need tools the most have access to them.
64. Invest in solid technology. This doesn’t always mean the latest technology, but what your office needs to do work effectively.
65. Update when necessary. Using obsolete equipment and programs can really slow you down. Update when it makes sense so you won’t get left behind by competitors.
66. Don’t be wasteful. Every sheet of paper, paper clip and pen is a cost on your budget. Use materials wisely and don’t waste them out of haste or carelessness.
Communicating with Clients
Whether you’re a business owner or a manager carrying out a project, one thing is always the same: The client is dominant voice in decision-making. Learn to communicate with them effectively and you’ll set a good example for the people you supervise.
67. Remember that the customer is the boss. At the end of the day, your job is to make the customer happy. Act accordingly.
68. Differentiate your products. Don’t get lost in a sea of products and services like yours. Make sure you stand out from your competitors.
69. Retain customers as much as you recruit new ones. While you always want to bring in new business, it’s very important to maintain relationships with loyal customers.
70. Provide effective channels of communication. Make sure your clients can contact you easily and quickly if they have a problem, concern or question. They can also provide a valuable source of feedback.
71. Maintain customer data. Use this data to make your customers feel special by remembering occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. It’s also helpful for keeping track of purchasing preferences.
72. Segment your customers. Not all customers are alike. Divide your customers into groups that allow you to provide attention and services that meet each customer’s unique needs.
73. Provide effective after-sales services. Don’t let contact fall off after the work is complete. Make sure your client stays happy.
74. Listen attentively. Pay attention to exactly what clients are asking for to help you better meet their needs.
75. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. It’s OK not to know the answer to every question. It’s better to say you don’t know and get back to a customer than to try to bluff your way through a conversation and have to backtrack later.
Keep Up with Change
There is no way to stop the world from changing, so follow these tips to keep up and ahead of the game.
76. Don’t fight change. You can’t stop markets, trends and technology from changing, so learn to go with the flow.
77. Adopt a predictive managerial style. Don’t wait for things to happen to make a move. Anticipate problems and provide contingency plans.
78. Test your contingency plans. Waiting for disaster to strike is a dangerous way to find out if your emergency plans will hold. Test them out from time to time to fine-tune them and make sure they’re still relevant.
79. Identify the positives. Even the most negative changes can have positive aspects to them. Being able to identify and maximize them can help make adapting less painful.
80. Be quick to adapt. Learn to adapt to changing situations quickly and be able to change plans on the spur of the moment if the situation requires it.
81. Stay tuned to external factors. Your business is affected in many ways by outside factors. Keep abreast of these so you can anticipate any sudden market changes that would affect how you need to manage.
82. Put in place a Research and Development plan. Encourage innovation and creativity to stay ahead of the demand for newer and better products and services.
83. Keep an eye on the competition. Don’t let the competition get the best of you. Keep up-to-date with what they’re doing and use it to your advantage in managing your business.
Whether problems are internal or external, they can make your management duties a nightmare if you don’t handle them correctly. Here’s how to stay on top of them.
84. Stand up for employees. If other departments or managers are bearing down hard on your employees, stand up for them.
85. Fix what’s broken. Don’t waste time placing blame. Take care of fixing the problem before dealing with any possible repercussions.
86. Manage and control your emotions. Don’t let anger or frustration affect your problem resolution. If you are emotionally invested in a situation, cool down before discussing it or bring in an outside mediator.
87. Learn when to step in. Some problems might resolve themselves if you just let them be, but you need to be aware of times where you’ll need to step in and take control of a situation.
88. Take the blame. If you’ve made a mistake, fess up. It’ll give you more time to work on fixing the problem instead of talking your way out of taking the rap.
89. Get the facts first. Before you pass judgment on a situation, make sure you have the whole story. Listen to employees and refrain from questioning anyone’s integrity without first ensuring that you’ve gathered all the data.
90. Rise above the crisis. Learn to separate yourself from the problem and rise above the fray. You’ll be able to think more clearly and make a better decision on how to rectify the issue.
91. Don’t ignore problems. A small problem can easily snowball and become something much more difficult to fix.
92. Try to depersonalize problems. Let employees know that the problem isn’t with them but with their actions. Don’t make it personal.
Go Above and Beyond
Managing people isn’t just about getting the job done. To truly be a great leader, sometimes you need to go above and beyond what the job calls for.
93. Lead by example. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but the best way to get a point across is to be the model to emulate. Let employees follow your lead.
94. Get your hands dirty. Sometimes you need to show your employees that no one’s above doing unattractive tasks.
95. Make a difference to your employees. Don’t just be a generic manager — stand out as a leader and role model for your employees.
96. Gain your employees’ trust and respect. You’ll have a much easier time managing employees when they respect your rules and boundaries and trust your leadership.
97. Be empathetic to personal problems. Whether it should or not, what happens outside of work can have a big affect on the quality of work produced. Be sensitive if employees have personal issues that keep them from concentrating on work.
98. Be unique as a manager. Every position demands something different and you should be proud to be adept at your particular role rather than trying to emulate other managers.
99. Remember that ethics matter above all. Be honest and reliable in all of your business and personal relationships.
100. Be on the lookout for new ideas. You never know where your next great inspiration will come from.
101. Get to know your employees. Learn more than just their names. Get to know your employees’ family backgrounds, likes and dislikes. Doing so will make you more personable.