Becoming a manager is a big step in your career. It means going beyond the role of an entry-level employee or individual contributor to run a team of your own. Managers shape their employees into a productive, cohesive unit while efficiently meeting organizational goals.
It’s a position that comes with both challenges and rewards. If you’re interested in developing leadership skills, are team-oriented, and have a knack for multitasking, then you have the building blocks for becoming an effective manager. Becoming a manager takes a combination of dedication, training, and leadership skill development.
What does a manager do?
Different industries and departments have different needs, and managers have to adapt — marketing, sales, and retail all have different priorities, for example. A sales manager might concentrate on growing product revenue while a warehouse manager focuses on operational efficiency and safety.
Although specific roles vary depending on the industry, company size, and other factors, some responsibilities of a manager are universal.
Managers are in charge of recruiting qualified employees, vetting them during the interview process, and providing them the tools and training they need to succeed. Good managers identify potential, but great managers take an active role in developing their employees with ongoing coaching and growth opportunities.
Evaluation and development
Managers constantly evaluate employees to determine their strengths and weaknesses and identify training needs. This process of continual development improves team performance and shapes future leaders.
Managers often decide how to spend company money effectively, minimizing waste and maximizing profits. For example, a manager might decide if their organization should prioritize investments in marketing, capital improvements, product development, or employee benefits.
Mediating between leadership and employees
Managers routinely communicate goals and directives from company leadership to workers, explaining new policies and responding to questions. A key element of communication is listening, and successful managers make their employees feel heard and respected.
In any workplace, team members won’t always get along. Different personality types and the normal stressors of a job can result in conflict, and managers must resolve situations in ways that are amicable, equitable, and impartial.
Disciplining employees can be difficult, but it’s a necessary part of any manager’s job. Discipline can involve verbal or written warnings, suspension, and, in extreme cases, termination. Managers must document disciplinary actions, comply with labor laws, and ensure that company rules are enforced fairly.
Effective managers must be able to lead a team. If you’re not an effective leader, thriving in a management role is difficult. However, leadership skills can be developed with the right training and guidance, if you’re committed to learning. Personality also factors into what type of industry you may be best suited for in a management position. Some companies expect a firm management style, while others prefer a democratic approach that makes their employees feel like they’re being heard.
Successful managers can adapt their management styles to their team’s or company’s needs. As employees change and company priorities evolve, managers have to remain flexible. If you can shift your approach to a specific initiative — whether that’s a sales goal, team project, or product rollout — then you can convey to your employees the specific tasks that need to be carried out to reach that goal. Effective managers are effective communicators.
Other skills of an effective manager include:
Planning and time management
Clear scheduling and proper planning are the foundation of good management. Managers make sure employees understand work schedules, performance expectations, and delivery dates. Their planning responsibilities can range from prioritizing day-to-day tasks to setting quarterly, annual, or even multi-year strategic goals.
Keeping employees on task and projects on schedule requires close attention to detail. Effective managers can juggle multiple responsibilities, from complying with industry regulations and following company processes to maintaining customer satisfaction.
The most successful managers are those who inspire and motivate their employees. Part of this is understanding that people are motivated by different factors. Managers should get to know their team members, learn their individual motivations, and establish short- and long-term rewards that encourage employee performance, such as public recognition or bonuses and promotions.
Field-specific knowledge helps successful managers respond to crises, mentor employees, and anticipate changes in the market. On-the-job training and continuous interaction with employees and customers forms the foundation of a manager’s experience. However, many managers take things a step further with continued education, gaining certifications and attending seminars and conferences to improve their methods. Great managers never settle for “knowing enough.” Just like their employees, they’re expected to continually improve.
Good managers clearly express company goals and expectations, but they’re also skilled listeners. Listening to employees can improve morale and support innovation. For instance, an employee working on the floor might see a way to increase sales of a certain item by moving it to a more prominent location. Customer feedback often channels through employees, and managers provide a crucial communications link between workers and executive leadership. An open line of communication can result in smoother operations and increased sales.
A key aspect of being a successful manager is deciding how to leverage the talents of their team members. Delegating tasks to different employees not only distributes the workload but also helps each person learn new skills and find opportunities for career advancement.
Managers have to react quickly when processes break down or crises arise. Much in the same way that managers are expected to have a plan, they need to have a back-up plan for when things go wrong. That could be any number of things, including an employee calling in sick, running out of stock on a certain popular item, or a key piece of equipment breaking down. These are all problems that companies will eventually face, and managers need to be prepared to deal with them.
Effective managers continue to raise the bar by always striving to meet and exceed company goals. Those goals could be sales-driven, quality-based, or centralized around data such as a website’s performance metrics. CEOs always have quarterly and annual goals they pass down to managers. In order for managers to hit these, they need to set smaller goals for their employees to meet. An accumulation of small wins adds up to a larger one in profitability and increased revenue.
Paths to becoming a manager
Professionals often take one of two traditional paths to management. The first entails rising through a company’s ranks. Many entry-level employees get promoted to leadership positions because they work hard and demonstrate leadership potential. Managers with this firsthand experience working for different departments within their organization can offer unique insight into their employees’ perspective.
The second path starts with furthering your education to develop the skills and training required to be a successful manager. Business administration degree programs teach concepts such as finance, project management, and communication in a formal educational setting, allowing you to learn from knowledgeable instructors with real-world experience.
Many undergraduate and graduate programs allow you to specialize in a certain area — a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in organizational leadership, for example — helping you develop the foundation to be effective in leadership roles. When considering business degrees, consider the industry you’d ultimately like to work in. Business programs offer concentrations in industries such as accounting, advertising, business management, operations, finance, health care, human resources, marketing, and public relations.
Embark on the path to becoming a manager
If you’re interested in becoming a manager, a great way to begin is by researching bachelor’s degrees in business administration or MBA programs. We know there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to education. — the Pearson Pathways recommendation engine can help you find the best program for your schedule, learning style, and career goals.
Take your first step toward a future as a manager with guidance from Pathways.