Three Ways to Be a Better Manager in 2015

Three Ways to Be a Better Manager in 2015

Have you set your resolutions for 2015 yet? Or maybe you have set them, and the new year shininess is already wearing off. Either way, if you wanted to improve your business management skills in 2015 but weren’t sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find three places to start–with not just the why, but the how, for each one:

Avoid the common time-sucks.

For both you and your employees. The more time is wasted, the longer you’ll have to work to make up for it, and as a manager, it’s on you to set a good example for employees. If you have bad habits, everyone winds up wasting more time.

Two of the most common time-sucks in business are meetings and email. We just published a post about running more productive meetings–make sure to check that out. Scott Belsky has also shared a great (and brief) summary of tips to run more action-oriented meetings over at 99U.

Plenty has been written about email and how to improve your email habits. You could spend hours reading about and implementing these strategies, but here’s some quick places to start:

  • Batch your email processing. Instead of checking your inbox throughout the day, do a quick 15-30 minute run through at the end of the day. One study found that it takes 1.5 minutes on average to read an email and then get back to the task at hand–that adds up over the course of the day.
  • Make sure you’re optimizing your inbox. This is easiest if you use a popular platform like Google Apps to manage your email. There are plenty of free add-ons like Boomerang, Streak, or Mixmax. There are paid options like Sanebox, if you want something really powerful. And the Gmail Labs tab has you covered, too–turning on the “auto advance” and “send and archive” options has sped my email processing time up measurably.
  • Use “if this, then that” wording. For example, let’s say someone has a question on what they want you to do–but their email is unclear about another factor in the decision. You could write an email back and say, “I need to know more about whether this relates to X or Y in the product,” but that would create more email back and forth. Instead, you can reply with, “If this is related to X, then…” and follow that up with, “If it’s related to Y, then…” That way, the other person can take action immediately after seeing the email.
  • Share these tips and apps with your employees. They save time, you get more productive workers, everyone wins!

More reading on email:

Learn to communicate more effectively online.

With the rise of freelancing, remote work, and distributed workforces, there’s a more-than-decent chance that at some point, you’ll be working with someone and communicate with them almost entirely through online tools.

If you’re working with a distributed workforce, having one location online where all team tasks, projects, files, and as much communication as possible are stored is ideal. It’s difficult to remove email from the equation entirely–but having an online “office,” so to speak, to keep everyone on the same page and productive is a must. (We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Projecturf does just that!)

We’ve already touched on communicating more effectively via email. One thing that wasn’t mentioned above is how difficult it can be to give directions via a text-based medium. Luckily, Skitch and Jing make it much easier. Skitch is a free app from the makers of Evernote that lets you easily annotate screenshots with arrows, text, and other notes. You can give someone step-by-step instructions as easily as you can mark up a wireframe.

Jing is a similar idea, but video based. You can record screencasts of up to five minutes, ideal for showing someone how to do a task without writing an 800 word instructional email. Both apps are available for Mac and Windows, and are free.

And it’s a slight tangent off of the topic of communication, but scheduling can be a real bear. If you’re having a hard time coordinating multiple calendars at once, consider using a tool like Doodle to poll meeting attendees about the best time. Or, if you want an open-door policy but dislike unscheduled meetings, you can set up a Calendly link for your employees to use when they have something to discuss.

Respect your employees’ boundaries.

Especially if you’re the owner of the business, it can feel like everyone should be giving 200%, all the time. The problem is that your employees will never be as invested in your business as you are. Which makes sense–if the business succeeds, it’s you who will reap the majority of the rewards, not your employees.

That doesn’t mean you should hire under-motivated slackers. By all means, hire the most passionate, motivated people you can find. But don’t expect them to work long hours–as has, sadly, become the norm. Americans work longer hours than most other developed countries…but it doesn’t pay off in productivity.

It’s the opposite tactic–working shorter days and weeks, with more breaks–that seems to increase worker productivity. And those more realistic work schedules also help prevent employee burnout, which leads to lower quality work and unhappy employees–not exactly the recipe for business success.

You’d do well to follow this advice, as well. You have a life, family, and friends–make sure to enjoy them as we enter a new year!

About the Author: Michelle Nickolaisen is a freelance writer/business owner based in Austin, TX