How to Be a Master Manager

May 29, 2018 Alyssa Karhan

Employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers. Ouch! Talk about a punch in the gut. If you don’t want this statement to be true of you, you need to make sure your management style has the right mix of know-how, care, and trust to empower your group of talented individuals and retain them long-term.


Achieving “best boss I ever had” status isn’t easy, but with these six masterful tips, you can become a M.A.S.T.E.R. Manager.



M. Motivate and challenge employees to be better

As a mentor does with a student, you are charged with motivating, encouraging, and challenging your employees to do their best work. There are many ways to do this, but we’ll highlight just a few.


The first is incentives. In our 9 Highly Motivating Incentives for Your Employees post, we highlighted the benefits of using incentives regularly in the workplace. Incentives are effective in driving desired performance, giving employees a “do this, get that” reward to work toward. Learning what incentives motivate your employees—whether a casual week or month, time off, company outing, weekend trip, bonus, gift card, etc.—is important in achieving your desired results. If a bonus isn’t going to cut it, don’t be afraid to up the ante; incentives essentially pay for themselves anyway. No results = no rewards.


The second is feedback. Giving good feedback is must-have quality in Master Managers. It’s a skill that requires a balance between constructive criticism (i.e. growth areas) and straight-up encouragement (i.e. what they’re doing well) . . . and it all starts with keeping your eyes and ears open for their everyday high-fives and noteworthy accomplishments.


The third is expecting great things. It’s one thing to motivate employees to do their job well, but it’s another to expect next-level work and above-and-beyond achievements. Seeing their potential—and investing in it with professional development opportunities—is essential in being a Master Manager. Employees appreciate a manager who sees the bigger picture and sees where they’re headed, giving them the opportunity to try new things and work their way up the org chart.



A. Appreciate employees often

Appreciation is a topic we talk about a lot, but honestly . . . we can’t talk about it enough. To be a Master Manager means you don’t underestimate the power of thanking your employees—whether administrative professionals, teachers, nurses, and more. Your appreciation instills in them a personal pride and encourages them to reach for greater and greater accomplishments. There’s always something to be grateful for, from thoughtful communication, peer-to-peer cooperation, beating a deadline, the culmination of a big project, etc. Celebrate each and every one. It’s worth it.



S. Show vulnerability and sensitivity

Howard Schultz, the founder and executive chairman of Starbucks, once said, “The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability . . . When the leader demonstrates vulnerability and sensibility and brings people together, the team wins.”


Most people view vulnerability as a bad thing; a weakness. And, if vulnerability is defined as weakness, it’s avoided. This occurs especially often in leadership positions, where it’s assumed that leaders must have it “all together”—whatever that means.


But, as we emphasize here at Baudville, employees are constantly learning, growing, and evolving in their roles. Why would managers be any exception?


Showing vulnerability is really the first step in showing sensitivity. It acknowledges that if you don’t have it all together, your employee probably doesn’t either. It means being willing to raise a hand for help when you need it, and being understanding when your employee does the same. It means being sensitive to employees’ personal needs and caring for the whole employee.


Vulnerability and sensitivity is what makes a leader accessible. Letting your guard down shows your employees that you care and that they can trust you. They know that your ego won’t get in the way, and that you’re willing to put aside pretenses and embrace different perspectives, opinions, ways of accomplishing tasks, etc.



T. Tailor your approach

With all the different personality types (introverts and extroverts included) and generations in the workforce today, a one-size-fits-all management approach will not be successful. Rather, a tailored approach will yield better results. For example: One employee might respond better to several smaller deadlines within a project rather than one big deadline at the end. Or, perhaps one employee prefers to work from home one day per week while others prefer to be in the office all five days. Having flexibility with your management style and getting to know your employees is key in cultivating a thriving company culture and effective employees.



E. Exercise humility

Being a Master Manager means being humble. It means being willing to say “I don’t know” and then dedicate time to figuring it out. It means acknowledging that you may not have all the answers and being willing to recognize when you may not be qualified to teach your employee a certain skill.


This kind of humility is the springboard for great peer-to-peer interaction and work by opening those conversations to the whole team when you don’t have the answers and encouraging colleagues to coach each other.


It’s also a great way to create an open and honest work environment. Being humble means you don’t need to prove that you know everything. It means admitting those times and proving yourself helpful by facilitating ways they CAN grow and learn, whether through fellow employees, a professional development seminar or webinar, etc. Plus, admitting your shortcomings will allow and enable your employees to admit theirs, which is the foundation for growth.  



R. Risk not being their best friend

Here at Baudville, we go above and beyond to encourage team bonding and work friendships. As The Muse put it, “a relationship with your superior can lead to increased communication and a boost in your morale.” But we also agree with their second conclusion: “However, the blurred lines between your personal and professional lives can also complicate things within your office.”


While it’s not impossible to be friends with your direct reports, those relationships come with a few dos and don’ts. Here are our top two:


Do: Remember who’s boss. We understand the value of a great manager-to-peer relationship, but at the end of the day, your job is to be their boss . . . not their friend. As a manager, you must be willing to make unpopular decisions when it’s in the business’ best interest, and be willing to stick up for what you know is right, no matter who’s on the other side of the table. 


Don’t: Take sides or play favorites. Your co-workers most likely know about your personal friendship, which makes your interactions at work tricky. Almost anything could be viewed as favoritism because they’re on the lookout for it. So, be above reproach by treating your friend the same as you treat your other direct reports.




Equipped with these tips, you’re well on your way to becoming a M.A.S.T.E.R. Manager. But, we have one more for you:


Check out our Summer Employee Engagement Guide to re-energize, motivate, and excite your team this summer!

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