Becoming a Better Boss:
Self-Improvement Tips for Managers

See also: Leadership Trait Theory

Every manager can improve. No matter how successful you are or how productive your team is, it is the case that you can become better at your job.

The majority of managers are flawed in one way or another – some are unwilling to try new things, others don’t lead from the front the way they should. But the worst kind of manager is not one who has flaws, but one who is not willing to change the way that they work.

It is vital for you to take the time to improve as a boss. Not only will it make your working day easier, but it can even improve your job prospects as your reputation within the company grows. Here are some of the most important ways that you can improve your managerial skills and see more success in business.

Great Managers are Great Communicators

The most important thing for a manager to be is a great communicator. If you can’t communicate to your staff what you expect from them, it won’t matter how good your plans are.

Being a good communicator means more than just understanding how to talk to someone one-on-one, it’s also about writing effective emails that get a point across correctly, as well as being able to lead group discussions and manage conflicts.

One of the best ways to improve as a communicator is to listen more (or in the case of emails, read more!) Think about any superiors who you enjoy working with – those who are never misunderstood – and pay attention to what they do. There is no shame in taking pointers from other managers on how to get more from your staff.

It also worth taking the time to understand where you can improve. Think about instances in the past where you have been able to get your point across effectively. Look back at old emails to try to track where you went wrong: this will be enormously helpful in future correspondence.

Make full use of employee schedules

Is your time management as good as it should be?

We are not just talking about the management of your own time (although that is important) – the key issue here is whether you are successfully managing the time of your staff. Without a doubt that most valuable asset that your staff have is their time, and if they are not using it effectively, it can be very problematic for you.

Yes, of course it is the case that members of staff need to possess good personal time management skills, but it is also up to you to make sure that they are being used to the best of their abilities. That’s why it is important to invest in software to plan employee schedules. When you know exactly what your staff are doing, you ensure better levels of productivity.

Be a leader – take ownership of the bad as well as the good

It is unfortunately the case that many managers are very willing to take the praise when things go well, but not so keen on accepting their portion of the blame when a project has not gone to plan.

Good managers need to be aware that some projects will be more successful than others, and if you are managing a team you are ultimately responsible for whether they succeed in their tasks and complete their goals.

As a manager and a leader it is up to you to take ownership of the bad as well as the good. If you find yourself apportioning blame rather than ever accepting it, you should take a step back from the situation. Constantly blaming your staff for mistakes, and selfishly taking credit when things go well, can lead to a drop in morale.

The next time you have a project that doesn’t go as it should, take the time to study your own performance. Of course if it is not your fault you don’t need to take the blame, but if there are things that you could have done differently to improve the outcome, it can be a great idea to share this with your staff. It won’t make you appear weak – it will show them that you understand that it was not necessarily their fault.

Embrace new ideas

Are you set in your ways?

It can be very frustrating for employees to work with a manager who is too strict in their own way of working. It is natural that you will have methods and plans that you use, but if you are unwilling to embrace fresh ideas or will not listen to staff for tips, you can both alienate the people you work with and make your job more difficult than it needs to be.

It is always a good idea to listen closely to those people that do the job every day – if they have advice on how a process could be changed or improved, you should never dismiss it off-hand or assume that their way of working is wrong. You will be surprised by how often your staff have an idea how to improve the way a business runs. This will make their job easier, improve productivity and improve your relationship with your employees.

Set goals and reward success

It may be the case that you think your employees understand what constitutes success, but it might not be so obvious to them.

In many cases, staff will be getting on with their job, believing that they are doing what is right, but they are missing a crucial part of the job. That’s why it is so vital that managers set clear goals for their staff.

But setting goals is no good on its own. If your staff are able to meet those goals then you should reward them for doing so. Employees love work hard if that work is rewarded. Whether the reward is a bonus or an incentive as simple as public praise, it can make a huge difference.

Recognise your top employees

It is also important to remember that a manager is only as effective as their staff.

Good managers are aware of the top performers in their team, and will do everything they can to keep them. Remember that high performing team members will be aware of their own success and, if they are not rewarded for it, they are more likely to seek a job elsewhere that does reward them. The top talent in your team needs to recognised.

Once again, there are many different ways that you can recognise high performing staff. Things like bonuses, extra holiday and other perks can really incentivise hard work and productivity. But you don’t always have to offer something to motivate your staff. In certain environments leaderboards and other aspects of gamification can be highly valuable.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership eBooks

Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.

Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.

About the Author

Dakota Murphey is a writer based in Brighton, specialising in management training and effective workforce behaviours.

Partnering with staff scheduling software company Planday, Dakota has undertaken numerous studies to discover how technological and managerial changes to the workplace impact productivity - and has published her findings in many leading online and print magazines.