How to Manage Managers (2023)

Leer en español
Ler em português

(Video) 11 Habits Of Highly Effective Managers! (How to improve your MANAGEMENT SKILLS!)

When you’re managing managers, your responsibilities are two-fold: you need to make sure they’re producing good work (as with any employee) and that they’re effectively supporting their teams. You might know how to do the former, but how do you do the latter? Do you need to provide training? Coaching? And how do you serve as a good role model?

What the Experts Say
In some ways, managing managers is similar to managing anyone else — you need to align their goals with yours, provide feedback, and help them advance their careers, says Sydney Finkelstein, professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and author ofSuperbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Manage the Flow of Talent. But there is one important difference —managing managers also requires leadership coaching: you have to coach “managers to develop the culture and capabilities that their team members need,” says Linda Hill, professor at Harvard Business School and coauthor ofBeing the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader. This is especially important because moving from an individual contributor to a manager is an “often neglected transition.” In most organizations, “first-timers don’t get a lot of formal training,” says Hill. Here’s how you can fill in the gap and help your direct reports be great managers.

Model the right behavior
Finkelstein’s research with protégés of superbosses revealed a common theme: people learn how to leadfrom their bosses. But your direct reports don’t just learn from you when you sit down for your one-on-one meetings. “It’s not particularly authentic to say I’m going to be a role model on Thursday from 4 to 5pm. People are watching all the time,” says Finkelstein. So be sure that you are managing your people in the way that you expect them to manage their own teams. “It’s useful to be deliberate and aware that people are paying attention,” says Finkelstein. So always walk the talk. For example, if you want your direct reports to give their team members autonomy, be sure that you are doing the same for them.

Change the focus of your coaching
You spend time with your individual contributors talking about the specifics of their work but with managers, you’ll also need to explore their relationships with their direct reports. Instead of asking, “How’s that project going?” you might ask “How are you working with Clara to get that project done?” or “How might you better support Clara on that project?” Talk directly about how they are coaching and giving feedback. “This sends a signal that these things are important,” says Hill. She suggests you ask them how much time they’re spending on coaching since they might be tempted, like many bosses, to give this activity short shrift, and you might regularly remind them: “We all have a responsibility to develop people.”

Compliment them in public
The people who report to your direct reports look to you for clues as to how they should feel about their managers. If you respect the person and the job she’s doing, they will too. “Give people opportunities to demonstrate their credibility in front of others. When you show that you value someone on your team and their direct reports are watching, it can really help,” says Finkelstein. Praise them publicly, ask for their advice in front of others, or assign them part of a presentation that lets them show off their expertise. And be careful: the same effect can work for negative comments. If you have criticism to offer, be sure to do it in privately.

Use an apprenticeship model
The best training for someone learning to become a manager is individualized attention from you, their boss. This shouldn’t just occur in meetings though. Finkelstein says you should “do real work together, looking for opportunities to explain what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.” This will allow you to not only teach them but also to observe them in action. You’re not going to sit in on all of their one-on-ones (hello, micromanaging!) but you should make time to do things like participate in their team meetings, watch them give feedback, or conduct job interviews. Whenever you’re observing them, give immediate feedback as long as it’s not in front of others in a way that undermines them.

(Video) Managing Managers - What's the big change from managing individual contributors?

Give them space
You don’t want to dictate exactly how your employeesdo their job. “You have to allow that individual to lead in his or her own way,” says Hill. They need to figure out what’s authentic to them. This is especially important when there are differences, such as gender, between you and your direct reports. For example, keep in mind that “a woman can’t assert authority in the same way as a man and have the same impact,” says Hill.

Go through the same training
Some organizations offer formal training for new managers or send up-and-coming leaders to executive education programs. If this is something you can do for your direct reports, select the same curriculum you went through. “Really good exec ed programs teach a common language and that can be really valuable,” for you and your direct report, says Finkelstein. If you participated in a class that you found particularly helpful, suggest that your managers do the same.

Get to know their team
It can be tricky to know how much you should interact with your direct reports’ teams, says Finkelstein. On the one hand, you need to be familiar with the players so that you can give the manager relevant feedback and coaching. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to undermine their authority. “Don’t allow yourself to get into the situation where you’re hearing things they’re not telling their manager,” Hill says. Any interactions should be above board with the explicit goal of trying to better understand the team and helpthe manager. “Be clear with everybody that you’re aligned and there are no secrets,” says Hill. But don’t close off all communication. “If there is a serious concern, it’s best to have an open door policy.”

Find out how you’re doing
You will be most supportive to your direct reports if you understand how you’re performing as a coach and mentor. Finkelstein says you can ask directly or use a 360 tool to assess how you’re doing. “Make sure that the questions get at indirectly and implicitly whether you’re a good role model or not. Are you consistent in what you’re asking for and what your expectations are?” he suggests. Also, don’t wait for your annual performance review to ask for input. “Feedback has to be much more immediate and connected to the work you’re doing,” he says. So set up the expectation early on that you want to hear how you’re doing.

Principles to Remember


(Video) Stop Managing, Start Leading | Hamza Khan | TEDxRyersonU

  • Treat your direct reports in the same way you want them to treat their team members.
  • Look for opportunities to observe them in action.
  • Spend time getting to know their team members.


  • Dictate exactly how they should manage. Instead, give them advice and let them find their own authentic style.
  • Criticize them in front of their team. You should be looking for opportunities to bolster their credibility.
  • Wait until the annual review cycle to ask for input. Regularly seek feedback on how you’re doing as their manager.

Case Study #1: Model the behavior you want to see
Matt Van Itallie, the vice president of customer support at a Maryland-based software company, took on a new role last December. He inherited a team of seven people, five of whomwere relatively new managers. The company was going through a period of significant growth so Matt needed to help these managers “become as effective as possible as quickly as possible,” he says.

He started by doing a “person-by-person assessment” of what each manager needed and what they were working on. With that information, he put together personalized development plans that included a “small customized reading list” on key management topics, such as giving feedback and time management.

He also looked for opportunities to observe them in action. He attended their staff meetings and watched their frontline staff answer calls on occasion. He knew he was “walking a fine line” there. “I wanted to protect their autonomy but I was relatively new to the organization and needed a deeper on-the-ground sense of what was going on with the team,” he says. So he was above board with everyone about his intentions, making clear that he was trying to get up to speed himself and not looking over the managers’ shoulders.

Matt used an acronym to standardize the feedback he gave to his team: WW/?DD. He started his one-on-ones by discussing what was working well and then explored what they might do differently. But before recommending next steps, he’d ask questions (the meaning behind the question mark). “I wanted to emphasize curiosity rather than judgment,” he explains.

This practice was in itself a “role modeling exercise.” Matt wanted his employees to give the same type of feedback to their teams. And that’s what happened: “One of my managers pointed out in a staff meeting that she was using the same technique that I had used with her. She said, ‘I do this now because of you.’”

(Video) Managing Managers : How the one on one is different

Matt’s work with his team has paid off and he’s proud of what they’ve accomplished together. “The managers showed real growth in their skills. And their teams have made a substantial improvement in all of theirperformance metrics.”

Case Study #2: Work closely together
Sarah Grayson, cofounder and partner at On-Ramps, the executive search firm that serves the social sector, has five people on her team, all of whom manage between two to four staff members. Helping her employees be better managers is one of the most enjoyable parts of her job, she explains. “I have some really strong managers who have been managing for years and I learn quite a bit from them but I’m also cognizant that they’re learning from me as well.”

There are several things she does to try to set her managers up for success. First, she gives hands-on advice and coaching. She focuses her weekly check-ins with each person on understanding how they’re doing but also getting feedback on how the team is doing. “The majority of ourtime together is spent problem-solving about their direct reports,” she says. “I’ll ask questions like ‘What does your direct report need to work on? How are they doing? Do you feel there’s trust there?’ and then we spend at least half the time talking about what they could try to help their direct reports.”

Her company also provides structured trainings on topics like active listening, diversity and inclusion, and management best practices, which all managers attend together.

She says that it’s critical that managers and direct reports also be staffed to the same searchwhenever possible. Without that opportunity to work together, “it’s very hard to have a handle on what they’re doing and the feedback is not as rich as it could be.” She’s currently working on projects with all of her managers and she encourages themto do the same with their direct reports.

In order to help her employees grow, Sarah also gives individual contributors an opportunity to try out managing on a project basis. “I try to match them up with the right person, someone who’s working on something that they also have experience in. This sets them up for small wins early on.” And then she checks in regularly. She doesn’t just ask about how the relationship is going — she also explores whether they are enjoying the role. “Being a manager isn’t for everybody and I want to be sure it’s something that’s motivating them, not bringing them down.”

(Video) From Manager to Director: Guide to Managing Managers


What are the 3 things managers manage? ›

But there are three essential things that managers should be doing every day: building trust, building a team, and building a network. These are not discrete tasks for your to-do list; you can accomplish them through the ways you assign, review, and guide your team's work.

What makes a successful manager? ›

Managers become great communicators by being good listeners. They allow time for others to speak. They have a clear understanding of the organization's vision and share it with the people in their team in a way that motivates them. They keep their team up-to-date on what's happening in the organization.

What a manager should stop doing? ›

Stop CCing us on too many emails. Stop being a pushover, be more assertive. Stop being too much customer-centric. Stop imposing ideas.

What are the 3 most important roles of a manager? ›

Managers' roles fall into three basic categories: informational roles, interpersonal roles, and decisional roles.

What does good management look like? ›

Good management involves individualizing every employee to maximize their potential and best utilize their unique skills. Good managers can improve employee satisfaction and development by getting to know the employees personally, consequently promoting greater success and productivity with the rest of the company.

What are the six responsibilities of a manager? ›

But their priority is avoiding that kind of situation. And they do that by focusing on the six key tasks that constitute the foundations of every general manager's job: shaping the work environment, setting strategy, allocating resources, developing managers, building the organization, and overseeing operations.

What is the top reason managers fail in their role? ›

Research conducted by CEB shows that 60 percent of new managers fail within the first 24 months of their new position. And according to Steve Smith, the author of Managing for Success: Practical Advice for Managers, the main reason why most new managers fail is because they were never properly trained to manage.

What do you think is the best quality of a manager? ›

The right qualities of a manager can make all the difference. To be able to listen, not hear, and communicate, not order, is what any employee would find valuable in a leader. If a manager is able to establish trust with his or her team, employee retention, productivity, and engagement can increase as a result.

What makes a toxic manager? ›

A lack of empathy is one of the worst toxic manager traits primarily because this quality lays the foundation for other bad behaviors. A manager who fails to recognize feelings of employees may not think twice about gossiping, screaming, or overworking staff.

What makes an incompetent manager? ›

Common clues include: Inability to make decisions: An incompetent boss often waffles over decisions that should be made instantly. Tendency to make bad choices: Ineffectual bosses often make poorly planned, miscalculated decisions. Miraculously, most incompetent bosses manage to save themselves at the 11th hour.

What is the number one role of a manager? ›

A top-level manager is responsible for creating and implementing organizational plans and policies and is a professional who is at the executive level. They work as a negotiator between the top-level and lower-level managers. These professionals can work to guide the overall direction of an organization.

What is the most important skill a top manager must have? ›

The most important management skill, the survey found, is the ability to build good relationships with people at all levels. For example, an approach to relationship building described in the book focuses on creating "high-quality connections" through respectful engagement.

What is a great management style? ›

Authoritative Management Style

The authoritative manager is one who has a grand vision for his team/organization. These individuals are highly motivated and confident. Using the authoritative management style, a manager can show his ultimate plan to his/her team and how they're going to accomplish that plan, together.

What are the golden rules of management? ›

It simply states that managers are to treat employees as they would wish to be treated themselves. The rule is simple, not as complex as other business philosophies, but it undoubtedly has a hugely positive impact on people's engagement and overall trust in the workplace.

What 4 things do managers do? ›

Managers plan, organize, direct, and control resources to achieve specific goals. In planning, they set goals and determine the best way to achieve them. Organizing means allocating resources (people, equipment, and money) to carry out the company's plans.

What is the core responsibility of a manager? ›

Manager Job Responsibilities:

Accomplishes department objectives by managing staff; planning and evaluating department activities. Maintains staff by recruiting, selecting, orienting, and training employees. Ensures a safe, secure, and legal work environment. Develops personal growth opportunities.

What are the three 3 level of management? ›

The three levels of management in most organizations are top-level management, mainly responsible for overseeing all operations, middle-level management, responsible for executing plans and policies, and low-level management, responsible for direct task execution and deliverables.

What are the three 3 types of decisions that managers make? ›

Types of Decision Making – 4 Types of Decisions that are Usually Taken by Managers in the Organization: Programmed, Non-Programmed, Operational, Strategic and a Few Others. Decision may be classified under various categories based on the scope, importance and the impact.

What are the 3 C's in decision? ›

Clarify= Clearly identify the decision to be made or the problem to be solved. Consider=Think about the possible choices and what would happen for each choice. Think about the positive and negative consequences for each choice. Choose=Choose the best choice!

What is the golden rule of a good management? ›

Be consistent

Consistency is key. Being consistent means rewarding the same good behaviours, discouraging the same bad behaviours and treating each member of your team equally. Successful mastery of this rule will ensure the success of most of the other rules.

What is the secret to good management? ›

One of the fundamental skills of a good manager is the ability to manage yourself, and to do so you need to understand yourself. Conduct a self-audit to establish your strengths, weaknesses, and where you can contribute the most. Ask your co-workers or more senior managers to assist you.

What is the most successful management style? ›

Authoritative Management Style

The authoritative manager is one who has a grand vision for his team/organization. These individuals are highly motivated and confident. Using the authoritative management style, a manager can show his ultimate plan to his/her team and how they're going to accomplish that plan, together.

What is the #1 skill that you need as a manager? ›

1. Good communication. Having good communication skills is probably the most important skill of all for managers to have. Unless you can properly communicate with those you supervise, the rest of the skills really won't matter.


1. How Many Doors Can A Property Manager Manage?
(Marc Cunningham -PMbuild)
2. How we manage without house managers// Working mums in the US// traveler nurse with young kids//
(Jane Kambura)
3. How I Went from Engineer to Manager Overnight, Lessons Learned
(Managers Club)
4. Strategic Portfolio Management Masterclass
(Major Projects Association Knowledge Community)
5. Project Management On The Cloud - Webinar
(Bina Initiatives)
6. 6 Tips to Effectively Manage Layoffs (Like a Human)
(Manager Method)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated: 01/07/2023

Views: 5781

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.