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How to be a Good Manager: What We Learned

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Here is what we've learned about being a good manager (and how to avoid being a bad one!) from exit interview data:

- Great communication is key. Listening to your employees is just as (or more than) important than talking to them. Being present (in the moment) is how your employees know you're actively listening and care about them. Continuous communication through multiple channels - team meetings, one-on-ones with the manager, emails, instant messenger, etc. - will help you engage with your direct reports.

- Recognition is important. One of the biggest things we've learned from exit interviews is that not feeling appreciated or valued is a huge employee turnover trigger. Managers don't have to do a lot of work to make their employees feel this way - a simple "thank you" or "good job" can go a long way. High performers thrive on positive feedback, and they love reward programs that acknowledge their efforts. For example, many of them would feel special to be asked to be a mentor to a more junior employee or to participate in a high potential mentoring program.

- Start off the relationship on the right foot with appropriate training. Employees who don't feel as if they know how to do their jobs properly become frustrated and resentful. Make sure your employees are receiving adequate training, ask them how training is going, etc. and be there to fill in the gaps and answer any questions. Even well into the job, be sure to continue to provide learning opportunities. A great source for cost-effective learning activities is Glasstap out of the UK available at (Be sure to download their free sample, "Witches of Glum".)

- Discipline privately. If one of your employee's is having a bad week (or month!), you have to address it. However, this should be done behind closed doors so that the employee is not embarrassed in front of his or her peers. This will earn you respect from the particular employee and other employees that didn't have to witness an awkward moment.

- Deal with your poor performers. One of the most interesting things we've learned from exit interviews is that good employees WILL leave when the manager doesn't address problem employees. After a while, they get tired of having to shoulder the additional workload, correct issues they weren't involved in and watch poor performers getting away with not putting in any effort. Don't let a bad apple (skills or attitude) ruin your solid team.
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