9 Steps to Becoming a Better Manager

Are you a new manager? Or an experienced manager whose people skills might be slipping? Take this refresher course in effective management strategies.

In most businesses, many managers acquire their titles and supervisory responsibilities in the absence of any formal training—or, for that matter, any natural leadership skills.

Even trained managers may occasionally get so busy with their day-to-day responsibilities that they neglect the basics of handling people. Whether you are a new manager or a veteran, take some time out to brush up on these essential skills.

Courtesy 123rf.com
Courtesy 123rf.com

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Managers: Are you Thankful?

So today is the holiday known as Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Tradition has families gathering at dinner tables all over the country. The feast is legend. Usually the main course is turkey prepared now in numerous ways; baked, fried, stuffed, and on and on.

The ‘trimmings’, as we call it in the south, can range from sweet potatoes and corn casseroles to exotic fruit salads. Various ethnic groups have their own ways of preparing the feast we call Thanksgiving.


As this year’s edition of Thanksgiving happens, it, for me, is time to pause. Quiet pause leads to reflection. Reflection leads, hopefully, to revelation of things needing to be included in a list of possible changes to come. Here is my list of things:

1. On a very large scale, the recent events in the world emphasize the fact that this world is changing very fast. New forces have risen to strike fear in otherwise peaceful people who only want to live each day. I choose to not honor that fear. My challenge is to awake each day and strive to make the day a little better for someone somewhere.

2. My business can be better by me being sure I show up, in the moment, fully engaged and ready to participate. No distractions, no exceptions.

3. My family can be better if I stay focused on maintaining my faith in God, living my love for my wife, and by showing my committed trust and love for my children, regardless of how old they are.

To be in a place where I have the personal freedom to make these choices is the biggest blessing of all. I love Thanksgiving because it causes a time to pause and reflect.

My prayer for you is that you take your own time to reflect. Give thanks where it is due. Speak the words and show the appreciation.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

How to Know if YOU have the Heart of a Leader

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There is a whole body of academic work surrounding studies about management versus leadership.

Need a coachOne of the best explanations I know states simply:

Management is about the process. Leadership is about people. ~Doug Thorpe

Being a good manager means business goals (or personal goals) are getting met. The process is working close to or at its peak potential. You, as a manager, can influence the priorities, push the right buttons, and get things done. Some managers make good, solid careers operating at this level. However, there may not be any meaningful impact in the lives of the employees subjected to a ‘pure manager’ approach.

Managers can certainly be decent handlers of their people; fair, honest, respectful, and so forth. But frankly, some managers are not good with people. While results are being posted, the people on the team are slowly feeling disconnected and uninspired.

Leadership takes the influence with people to a whole higher level. Leadership definitely gets the work done and meets or exceeds goals. While that is happening, people are feeling inspired. Team morale is building. Loyalty is growing.

Understanding how to be both an efficient manager and an effective leader takes some work.

In his book “The Heart of Leadership”, Mark Miller tells a story of a young business man named Blake. Blake is struggling at work with his duties as a team leader. He seeks some counsel from a close family friend. I won’t tell all of the story, but the core value comes down to this simple acrostic.


The initials stand for:

  • Hunger for wisdom –  keep learning new and different things to improve yourself
  • Expect the best –  set a high standard and maintain your expectations for it
  • Accept responsibility – stop the blame game, take your ownership seriously
  • Respond with courage –  be bold with your decisions
  • Think others first –  be willing to be more of a servant rather than a boss

True leadership does in fact have heart. I like the simple way this can be explained. (By the way, Mark’s book is a great read for anyone struggling in this area).

As with Blake in this story, you might need to seek multiple mentors to guide you in each of these areas. Find role models who fully understand these principles. Soak in their experiences. Begin the journey to apply the teachings to your efforts both in the office and at home.

I promise you will be amazed by the shift in those who report to you, for whom you have influence and impact. When all things are said and done, leadership to inspire and guide people will far outperform pure management. Having a heart for leadership wins the day!

New Managers – Begin with the End in Mind

This is one of the wisest teachings I have heard in a long time. Anyone who has been appointed as a new manager should be thinking about this vital aspect of the new role they are playing at work.

Step #2 in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” is ‘begin with the end in mind’. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that many things do not end well.

There are the obvious examples like divorces, car crashes, job loss, health issues, and financial change (downward). Then there are the things like our favorite TV shows that came to an end. Shows like Lost, Friends, Fraser, and Boston Legal all had pretty good endings. But some very successful and well admired shows had really bad endings; think fade to black on The Sopranos. How often have you seen a movie or read a book and said “gee, I didn’t like the way it ended”?

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Be a Better Boss | Add Recognition to the Mix

In a recent article featured in the Harvard Business Review, recognition was identified as one of the easiest things you can do to be considered a great boss. According to David Stuart:

“Most leaders receive surprisingly little development before assuming their first supervisory roles. In fact, many get no leadership training at all until they’ve been in the executive ranks for nearly a decade—reaching, on average, age 42.”

Courtesy 123rf.com/ iqoncept
Courtesy 123rf.com/ iqoncept

He goes on, “But whether you’ve had formal training or not, there’s one simple action that can dramatically increase any manager’s success in gaining the support and engagement of subordinates: recognize great work. That means calling out excellent accomplishments by your employees right away—and doing so in consistent and regular increments from the start.”

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Advice to New Managers | Complaints Go Up

First time managers face a big challenge knowing how to channel the complaints they feel about the workplace. In a clip from the epic WWII movie, “Saving Private Ryan”, Tom Hanks as Captain Miller answers a question from one of his men about what to do with complaints.

I could not express this topic any better than the advice given in this clip.

[shareable cite=”Tom Hanks as CPT Miller”]Complaints go UP, always up.[/shareable]

[reminder]What do you do with complaints?[/reminder]

4 Dirty Psychological Tricks Bad Leaders Use

Whether they realize it or not, political, professional, and community leaders often use psychology to influence and control their followers. 

Both good and bad leaders can use psychological devices to their benefit. The difference between good and bad leaders is how they use them.

Source: Pressmaster/Shutterstock
Source: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Here are 4 psychological tactics often used by leaders, both for good and bad:

1. In-Group/Out-Group Bias

This psychological device, sometimes called the “We-They Feeling,” increases cohesiveness and solidarity among members of a particular group (or political party) by focusing on an out-group. We see leaders use this all the time: “We are the good guys; they are the bad guys.” “We are right, they are wrong.” “They represent a threat to our way of life; we must preserve it.” This bias is the root of prejudice, as out-group members are vilified and tensions rise. Unfortunately, this cheap trick is used all the time in politics, by leaders both good and bad, and has led to the huge political divide between today’s political parties in the U.S.

Bad leaders really exploit this. The bad leader gains a short-term advantage—the loyalty and commitment of his followers—but there are long-term costs. It is extremely difficult when the two factions (or nations) need to work together in the future. And when we demonize those in the out-group, it can bring out the worst in people. Good leaders try to manage in-group/out-group bias by focusing on common goals (also known as “superordinate goals”) and working together to solve common problems or obtain common objectives.

2. Demanding Unquestioning Obedience to Authority

“Do what I say because I’m the boss.” That’s a statement indicative of bad leadership. Milgram’s obedience studies demonstrated that people will show blind obedience to an authority, even going so far as to provide painful and dangerous shocks to innocent victims. But when individuals demand absolute obedience it’s a telltale sign of bad leadership—another cheap psychological trick. As children, most of us are taught to obey authority, and some continue to submit too easily and blindly follow as adults.

It is the harder path—but the path of the good leader—to allow followers to question their authority when warranted. A leader who does not consult with followers or allow any sharing of power, but instead demands unquestioning loyalty, is not only a bad leader, but one who will likely be ineffective in the long run.

3. Exception-Making

Leaders are the ones who have to enforce the “rules,” and good leaders make sure to set a good example by following those rules themselves. Bad leaders tend to believe that they are an exception to the rules, and that the rules don’t apply to them because of their importance or position. Leadership ethicist Terry Price calls this exception-making.

Examples include the many leaders who engage in illegal or immoral behavior, from accepting bribes to having illicit affairs to evading laws. The best leaders possess humility. They know that the rules do apply to them and that they are moral exemplars for those whom they lead.

4. Unfair or Unrealistic Exchanges

Common in religious cult leaders and heads of state, here the leader offers something that he or she can’t possibly actually provide, such as eternal salvation, in exchange for a follower’s complete loyalty. Religious cult leaders, for example, ask followers to sign over all, or a large portion, of their wealth in exchange for (eventual) salvation. When followers are asked to make huge sacrifices, such as giving up their money or their freedom, it creates an almost unquestioning devotion to the leader, and the likelihood for blind obedience is increased.

Whenever a leader claims that “God is on our side,” this is, by definition, an unrealistic exchange. (How can a leader know that?) Consider this wonderful quote from Abraham Lincoln, a good leader: “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

This article was previously published by Ronald Riggio in Psychology Today. Content is used by permission.

Ronald E Riggio Ph.D.

Ronald E Riggio Ph.D.

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. Professor Riggio is the author of over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas of leadership, assessment centers, organizational psychology and social psychology. His most recent books are Leadership Studies (Elgar, 2011), The Art of Followership and The Practice of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2008, 2007), Applications of Nonverbal Behavior (co-edited with Robert S. Feldman; Erlbaum, 2005), and Transformational Leadership (2nd ed.), coauthored with Bernard M. Bass (Erlbaum, 2006). Professor Riggio is an Associate Editor of The Leadership Quarterly, and is on the Editorial Boards of Leadership, Leadership Review, Group Dynamics, and the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, and he was the originator of the Shoptalk column at the Los Angeles Times, a Q&A column dealing with workplace problems/issues.

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Cutting-Edge Leadership

Discusses the latest research from leadership scholars and organizational psychologists, presenting the information in a useful, “how to” format.  If you want the latest leadership and work-related knowledge, find it here. Read now.

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5 Strategies to Make Employees More Productive and Engaged

This is a recent post by a good friend and fellow coach, Mike Lejeune. Mike is a senior HR professional who has coached and mentored hundreds of key officers across a wide variety of industries. He hosts his own blog called “Simple Leadership“. Here is his post.


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S1-Part 2 Making the Job Stick “Big Five Performance Management”

Big 5 FINALIn one of my last posts I introduced Rick Gillis‘ book “Promote”. Part of his six key thoughts about proving your worth in the workplace is to provide your boss and your company an accomplishments based story. So today, I want to delve further into that aspect of how to make a job stick.

Another close friend and long-time colleague, Roger Ferguson, has written his own book named Finally! Performance Assessment That Works: Big Five Performance Management

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