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5 Essential Strategies for Building Strong Managers

POSTED ON 
September 5, 2023

Is your organization doing enough to support its managers?

As the backbone of any successful business, managers influence employee satisfaction, drive growth and align efforts with company objectives. However, this journey can be challenging, especially for first-time managers transitioning from individual contributors to leaders. They must adapt to new responsibilities such as leading former peers, driving team achievement, delegating tasks, communicating effectively and resolving conflicts.  

Below are five strategies to support managers of all experience levels throughout their leadership journey.  

1. Prioritize Manager Training 

Manager training is fundamental to any organization’s success. A SHRM survey revealed that 84% of U.S. workers believe inadequately trained managers create unnecessary work and stress. Furthermore, over half (57%) think their workplace managers could benefit from targeted training to enhance their people management skills.  

For optimal results, manager training programs should be comprehensive and role-specific. Here are some crucial areas that manager training programs should address:  

  • Communication Skills: Enhance a manager’s ability to communicate expectations, provide feedback and facilitate open communication with their team. For example, consider hosting active listening workshops and training sessions on feedback mechanisms. For a deeper dive, Insight Global offers an in-depth guide focusing on eight essential communication skills managers need.  
  • Decision-Making Skills: Equip managers to make difficult decisions that impact their teams and the organization. Training could include problem-solving workshops, risk assessment strategies and ethical decision-making courses. 
  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Prepare managers to mediate disputes and maintain a positive working environment. To enhance this skill, offer trainings focused on negotiation techniques, understanding different conflict styles and effective mediation strategies. 
  • Leadership Development: A manager's effectiveness hinges on their ability to inspire and motivate teams. Foster a positive team culture by developing leadership skills like empathy, strategic thinking and motivational techniques. Leadership training could include team-building exercises, leadership style assessments, values workshops or even mentorship programs. 
  • Change Management Skills: Ensure managers can communicate changes transparently, manage resistance and lead their teams through transitions. Check out these actionable do’s and don’ts for managing change at work.   

Depending on your unique time constraints and budget, you can decide to lead these trainings yourself, engage a professional facilitator or leverage a wide range of online resources. If you’re looking for a place to start, LifeLabs offers brilliant trainings that our team loves!  

Remember, training should be an ongoing process throughout a manager’s career. As they continue to grow and face new challenges, provide continuous learning opportunities to help them refine their skills.   

2. Equip Them With Resources and Tools  

Provide your managers with the necessary tools and resources to increase productivity, reduce stress and save time. You can create a resource library with templates and best practices for common scenarios and challenges that managers can easily reference as needed.   

Consider these critical areas where managers often need guidance:  

  • Feedback Techniques: Giving and receiving feedback is a skill that can be honed. Providing guidance on delivering and receiving constructive feedback effectively can make a big difference.
  • Performance Guidelines: Help managers confidently handle employee recognition and performance discussions to enhance employee engagement and develop your people. 
  • Advocacy Strategies: Teach them to skillfully and persuasively advocate for team members' raises, promotions and development opportunities. 
  • Career Pathing Discussion Guide: Assist managers in having meaningful career pathing discussions with their team members to help them explore opportunities for growth within the organization. 
  • Psychological Safety Best Practices: Equip managers with strategies to cultivate a psychologically safe environment, emphasizing the importance of openness and trust. Provide resources that guide managers in recognizing and mitigating unconscious biases, encouraging diverse perspectives and creating spaces for authentic dialogue.  
Learn How to Create Effective Manager Tools and Resources

3. Offer Networking and Learning Opportunities  

Creating a supportive environment for managers is key to their success and the overall growth of your organization. Great things can happen when managers work together, learn from each other and help one another. As author John C. Maxwell said, "The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people."  

Here are a couple ideas to consider:  

Establish Manager Networks 

Create internal networking groups specifically for managers. These networks can serve as platforms for managers to exchange ideas, share experiences and learn from each other. They can also provide valuable mentoring opportunities.  

How to get started: 

  • Clearly define the group’s purpose and goals. 
  • Identify potential leaders within your management team who can lead these groups. 
  • Schedule regular meetings—be it virtual or in-person. 
  • Use platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams to create a dedicated channel for manager discussions.  

Need more inspiration? Google has successfully implemented various initiatives within their manager community, such as: a mailing list exclusively for people managers; informal forums for idea sharing; and events focused on manager development.  

Promote Peer-To-Peer Learning 

Encourage managers to share their expertise with their peers. This could be through workshops, presentations or informal knowledge-sharing sessions. This promotes continuous learning and recognizes and values your management team's diverse skills and experiences.  

BetterUp recommends seven steps to set up a peer learning program:

  1. Nominate a peer learning facilitator. 
  2. Create a safe environment to learn from each other. 
  3. Set up networking events. 
  4. Pair seasoned employees with new recruits. 
  5. Identify common reasons to learn from each other. 
  6. Encourage diverse perspectives. 
  7. Keep track of comprehension.  

Check out their complete guide to implementing peer-to-peer learning in the workplace for more details.   

4. Foster Collaboration and Mentorship  

The power of collaboration and mentorship in management is undeniable. These catalysts transform good managers into great leaders and elevate static teams into dynamic forces. Below are tips to integrate these essential practices into your manager development plan.   

Implement Collaborative Projects 

Promote collaboration by assigning projects that involve managers from different departments or teams. This encourages them to work together, learn from each other, and understand different organizational perspectives.  

How to get started: 

  • Identify Suitable Projects: Look for initiatives or challenges that would benefit from a multi-departmental approach. These could be process improvements, product launches or employee engagement programs. 
  • Set Clear Goals: Identify specific skills that each manager should focus on improving during the project, such as leadership, communication or strategic thinking. This not only provides direction but also aids in personal development. 
  • Assemble the Team: Choose managers from different departments who bring diverse skills and perspectives. Assign a project lead to coordinate efforts and ensure that milestones are met. 
  • Conduct Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins throughout the project timeline. This allows you to monitor progress, address any issues promptly and keep everyone aligned with the project goals. 
  • Conduct Post-Project Reviews: Once the project is completed, conduct a thorough review. Assess the outcomes against the set goals, gather feedback from all participants and identify lessons learned. This provides valuable insights for future collaborations and continuous improvement.  
Build Mentorship Programs 

Establishing a mentorship program can be a game-changer for managerial development and organizational health. According to a study by the Association for Talent Development, organizations with active mentorship programs observed a 57% increase in employee engagement and retention.  

How to get started: 

  • Set clear objectives for the mentorship program to guide the program's structure and evaluation metrics. 
  • Identify potential mentors and mentees within the organization. 
  • Develop a matching process based on skills, goals and compatibility. 
  • Schedule regular mentor-mentee meetings. 
  • Provide resources and training for effective mentorship. 
  • Evaluate the program's effectiveness through feedback and key performance indicators.  

For those looking to gain buy-in from leadership, Harvard Business Review offers helpful tips on how to pitch a mentoring program to senior executives. 

5. Encourage Requesting Feedback 

Feedback isn't just beneficial—it’s essential. It provides a clear path for improvement, celebrates victories and encourages open communication.   

When managers actively solicit input from their direct reports, they demonstrate transparency, promoting an environment ripe for honest conversation. This also gives managers an opportunity to adjust their leadership style to better meet the needs of their team. The upshot? Enhanced engagement, boosted motivation and a culture where every voice matters.  

Here are five tips for an effective feedback process: 

  1. Provide Clear Guidelines: Ensure your team understands what effective feedback looks like. Training sessions or workshops can help achieve this. 
  2. Lead by Example: Managers should be the first to request and give feedback, setting a positive precedent for the team. 
  3. Promote Open Dialogue: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Regular one-on-ones or team meetings can provide a platform for this exchange. 
  4. Recognize and Reward: Acknowledge those who give and receive feedback effectively. This could be through verbal praise, awards or other incentives. 
  5. Follow Up: After feedback is given, make sure there's a follow-up. This shows that the feedback has been taken seriously and action is being taken. 

CLOSING THOUGHTS 

Empowering managers is crucial for the success of any organization. By prioritizing training, equipping them with resources and tools, creating networking and learning opportunities, implementing collaboration and mentorship programs and encouraging feedback, you set the stage for managerial excellence. This, in turn, drives team performance and organizational success. Remember, the key to this process is continuous learning and adaptation. As your organization grows and changes, so should your management support strategies.  

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly employee engagement newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!  

Here's How to Help Managers Manage
Rowena Diaz
DIRECTOR, PEOPLE OPERATIONS

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