15 Ways to Become a Better Manager and Leader

How can leaders become better people managers?

To help you adopt the best ways to manage people as a great leader, we asked CHROs and experienced people managers for their best insights. From showing genuine care for your employees as people to inspiring curiosity in your team, there are several things leaders can consciously do to develop themselves and their people management skills to become better managers of their workforce.

Here are 15 ways these leaders used to become better people managers:

  • Show Genuine Care for Your Employees as People
  • Ask Questions to Allow Team Members to Come Up With Ideas
  • Use Your Emotional Intelligence More for Team Building
  • Learn Coaching to Improve Your Leadership
  • Conduct Regular One-on-One Meetings
  • Request Direct Feedback
  • Become More Self-Aware to Unlock Your Leadership
  • Individualize Your Employee Onboarding Experience
  • Use a People-Centric Approach
  • Be Your Authentic Self
  • Develop and Demonstrate Empathy
  • Be a Facilitator to Be a Better Manager and Leader
  • Create a Psychologically Safe Workplace
  • Foster a Collaborative Relationship With Your Employees
  • Inspire Curiosity in Your Team

Show Genuine Care for Your Employees as People

For employees to want to follow a leader, they need to be seen, heard, valued & understood, and People Leaders need to take the time to ensure they are connecting with their people in ways that fulfill this need. When we feel genuinely cared for, we feel safe, and when we feel safe, we commit on a deeper level. Leaders must connect with their people beyond the scope of their job and see them as the multi-dimensional humans we all are. Taking a genuine interest in the lives of your employees will help build trust, respect, and more meaningful communication. This isn't a difficult task, but it does take time, authenticity, and a willingness to listen deeply, be vulnerable and show compassion. When your employees know you genuinely care about them as people first and employees second, you can honestly claim the title of Leader.

Barbie Winterbottom, Founder & CEO, the Business of HR

Ask Questions to Allow Team Members to Come Up With Ideas

Leaders sometimes feel they need to have all the answers, and truth be told, they often do have them; their knowledge and expertise are what usually lead to their promotion. But always having the answers can deter their team members' effective development. It's better to ask...don't tell! When a team member comes to a leader with a question, this is a perfect opportunity to ask a question back. Sure, it's often easy for that leader to answer the question and let the team member go on their way but doing so doesn't provide the opportunity for that team member to come up with a solution on their own. Asking team members to consider options that will solve the problem and answer their own questions provides them with the opportunity to learn and develop self-assurance on the job. When a leader allows others to share their ideas, the team member develops their skills and confidence and often comes up with something better!

Linda Dausend, Senior Consultant/Account Manager, FlashPoint Leadership Consulting

Use Your Emotional Intelligence More for Team Building

Leaders can become better people managers by raising their emotional intelligence.  EI is the key to building trust, better relationships, and more effective teamwork. Leaders will learn that practicing reflective listening, exhibiting empathy, and being authentic and transparent - all part of Emotional Intelligence - will be a game changer.

Lynn Catalano, Speaker, Author, Coach, Attorney, Lynn Catalano Speaks

Learn Coaching to Improve Your Leadership

Increasingly leaders are aware of the importance of coaching skills. While many leaders mistakenly think mentoring, managing, or directing is coaching, it is entirely different. Coaching includes recognizing and adjusting to different personal styles, listening for what isn't said and energy shifts, noticing trends over time, using respectful language, asking powerful questions, working with language patterns and thought patterns, supporting goal setting, and holding people as fully capable.

Learning coaching means coach-specific training based on the Core Competencies of a Coach and the Coaching Code of Ethics. The good news?  The average ROI for coaching is 600%

Cathy Liska, CEO, Center for Coaching Certification

Conduct Regular One-on-One Meetings

Leaders and managers require two very different sets of skills. When leaders seek to inspire others and rally the team towards a distant vision, managers focus on supervising the organization to achieve the many goals and milestones that take shape along the way. Given these key differences, leaders cannot assume the role of a manager without preparation.

One of the best ways to lean into people management is through regular one-on-one meetings. These meetings allow leaders to offer feedback, practice their active listening, and help their employees be more successful in their chosen role or field. Leaders must get used to the more granular aspects of working within a team, such as managing interpersonal disputes and knowing how to delegate, as this heightens engagement and fosters a more positive working environment. People management is about knowing your team and utilizing their unique traits and talents. When you do, good things tend to follow.

Max Wesman, Chief Operating Officer, GoodHire

Request Direct Feedback

Sometimes the best source of great coaching is feedback from your team. They are the beneficiaries (or victims) of your management. As a people manager, you should have regular one-on-one meetings with each direct report. One helpful habit to develop is to send an email before each one-on-one meeting. That email should do three things. It should ask them for any specific items they want to discuss. It should also ask the following question: What is one thing I do as your manager that you believe I should keep doing or do more? And what is one thing you think I should stop doing? Plan to discuss the feedback you get during the one-on-one, emphasizing how much you appreciate their contribution to your becoming a better manager.

Amie Devero, President, Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching

Become More Self-Aware to Unlock Your Leadership

One of the best ways that leaders can become better people managers is by knowing who they are and what environment they need to lead a successful team. Self-awareness is a critical foundational component every leader needs to become a better people manager. Organizations who understand this and provide a robust leadership and development program upfront and upon hire will find that their leaders will be equipped to lead their teams into the future.

Hannah Austin, CEO/Founder, SheShatters LLC

Individualize Your Employee Onboarding Experience

An often overlooked but critical step that leaders can take toward becoming people managers is to focus on individualizing and improving the employee onboarding experience. That starts with collecting as much information about the new hire as possible and tailoring the onboarding journey to their needs.

We use personality and strengths assessments (Birkman, Clifton StrengthsFinder) to learn more about new hires' learning styles, how they prefer to receive recognition and feedback, and how they collaborate with others. We use that information to build an onboarding plan adapted to their needs and set them up for success from day one.

Nir Leibovich, CEO and Co Founder, GoCo

Use a People-Centric Approach

I believe that any leader should be self-driven to rally people towards a better future. It’s about leading a team but walking shoulder-to-shoulder with team members. Taking a people-centric approach to leadership means putting your organization’s most valuable assets - your employees - at the center of everything you do. Leaders should look beyond maximizing their business profits alone and concentrate on how their people feel, their goals and aspirations, and how their leadership impacts their behavior and performance at work.

A people-centric approach adds emotional value to an employer-employee relationship. It’s about being more empathetic to your employees’ sentiments, and every process and every decision should be by the people and for the people. Employees need to know that their voice is valued and that their opinions, suggestions, and concerns shape the organization’s policies. A people-centric approach fosters employees’ growth and learning and makes them more productive and engaged.

Sandeep Kashyap, Founder, ProofHub


Be Your Authentic Self

Leadership has a different skill set to the one of your team. It requires empathy and the ability to move from the dancefloor to the balcony. It is a role of relationship management, horizon scanning, inspiring people, and enabling the experts (your team) to deliver your vision in their way. Nobody is inspired to deliver by an anonymous suit. The best thing you can do to lead your people is to be your authentic self. This means understanding your leadership brand, strengths, and development areas.

If you are unsure who you are as a leader, the best way to find out is to seek 360-degree feedback and use it. Working with a coach on leadership assessments like MBTI or Hogan, and Belbin team profiling is also a great idea. By being authentic, you will avoid resentments (missed expectations), enabling people to amplify your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses—role-model a growth mindset by sharing your development needs and your leadership brand.

Helena Territt, Executive and ADHD Coach, Hatched Coaching

Develop and Demonstrate Empathy

Empathy is a foundational skill that can truly be game-changing for leaders. Empathy can be developed through daily action and practice.  Leaders can leverage empathy for their customers to build better products that truly fulfill the needs of all, with their teams to build trust and create a safe space where all employees feel their opinions are valued and heard, and finally with themselves to ensure they are showing up in a way that enables and empowers others and themselves.

Jossie Haines, Executive Coach, Jossie Haines Consulting

Be a Facilitator to Be a Better Manager and Leader

Facilitative managers guide and direct employees’ actions, decisions, and energy.  They set the tone. Facilitative managers are not “just” the liaisons between upper management and employees. They have evolved into leaders, motivators, coaches, problem solvers, and facilitators. Facilitative managers take it upon themselves to be responsible for performance, quality, improvement, productivity, strategy, and execution – through the people who work for and with them. This is why the facilitator hat is crucial to managers aspiring to be better people managers in an employee-forward work environment.

Dianne Crampton, President, TIGERS Success Series

Create a Psychologically Safe Workplace

Create psychologically safe dynamics in your workplace. When team members feel their manager supports their overall well-being and recognizes that any challenges are opportunities for growth rather than punishment, they are more likely to trust, take risks, and openly share what's happening.

Psychologically safe relationships do not include toxic positivity, an achievement-at-all-costs attitude, or enabling poor behavior by using team difficulties as an excuse. Coming alongside people to identify and overcome obstacles and creatively collaborate for solutions makes everyone more open and receptive; leaders feel more confident addressing behavior shifts and supporting needed change together. Regularly practice responding rather than reacting, find new ways to approach and coach learning, and be willing to adapt to individual needs. Always working to grow trust in your workplace relationships will provide psychological safety, reduce stress, and increase productivity.

Amanda Ferris, Author, Business Consultant, Host of The Goal Next Door Podcast, Clover & Kind


Foster a Collaborative Relationship With Your Employees

A people manager's role is a crucial building block to creating a great employee culture, and how they treat their teams determines how an organization succeeds. Collaboration with your employees is a critical leadership skill for creating a highly engaged workforce. Providing your team with the opportunity to share their viewpoints demonstrates that their thoughts and contributions matter. A collaborative management approach will impact how your team interacts and solves problems. As a result, this contributes to higher accountability among teammates, new ideas emerge more frequently, and efficiency increases.

Shannon Garcia-Lewis, Owner/Principal, Strategic Business Partners, LLC.

Inspire Curiosity in Your Team

Leaders guide their people not by telling them what to do but by asking questions that allow them to explore answers and solutions independently. When leaders bring more curiosity to the table and stay curious about an issue just a little longer, real exploration and innovation occur. It isn't that leaders have to have all the answers or questions; they need to create the space for more curiosity on the team - the rest unfolds. When leaders are curious, their teams become curious; when teams become curious, innovation, creativity, new solutions, and psychologically safe environments are successful byproducts. Leaders become better people managers when they become comfortable leading from curiosity. Providing people with questions is often better than providing them with prescribed solutions.

Stacy Berg Jackson, CEO and Chief Executive Coach, SBJ Consulting, Inc.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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