What managers do? 10 key activities you need to master as a manager

Manager at the company I advised asked me a question, the answer to which should be obvious but it is mostly not at all. At the time we were discussing first what he should not do as a manager and what kind of activities do not bring desired results – from business, from employee and from management perspective. Shortly after we finished our discussions, he said that we did discuss, what he should not do, but he would like to know not only what he should not do, but even more so what he should do as a manager.

I believe that his question is spot on and is rarely answered in simple and easy to understand manner. You can find tons of content regarding management all over the internet and in various books, but it is rarely right to the point and is almost never easy to understand or implement – it is also usually focused only on specific aspect of management, rather than on management of company in general. To better prepare myself to answer him in connection with his specific situation – in connection with his company and their processes – I decided to put together a short list of 10 key assignments that manager has to master – together with a few practical tips and tricks on how to do it. Therefore, here it goes… The list of key assignments you have to perform as a manager is comprised of the following:

  1. Know your customers – successful companies are always oriented towards their customers and as the manager you should be as well – if you know your customers, you can adapt your products and services accordingly and lead your company towards success; practical tip 1: take every chance you get to talk to your customers and ask them questions about your services and products and listen to them (do not try to persuade them that your services or products are the best, just listen to them closely), think about your customers – about who they are and why they use your services and products, and last but not least, find out who your customers are in terms of a demographic profile or in case of business customers, in terms of a company profile
  2. Know your products and services – if you want to manage your company successfully, you have to know what your company does – what kind of products it makes and sells and what kind of services it offers – if you do not know your products and services well enough, you will not be able to lead your company successfully; practical tip 2: use services and products of your company as if you are the customer, real, ordinary customer and not the VIP customer – go also through all the procedures that customers need to go through – keep in mind that you do not need to be an expert regarding your products and services, but you should still know them in enough detail (and from the customer’s perspective)
  3. Know your company and its processes – in order to be able to improve anything in your company, you need to be familiar with organizational structure of the company (formal and informal) and with its processes (actual processes, not only written processes); practical tip 3: review everything you can find written about your company’s organizational structure and its processes – then talk to your employees, to managers of individual departments and to individual employees from specific departments – take enough time to get to know the company and its processes well enough, otherwise you will not be able to manage successfully any changes that need to be implemented in the company, because you will not know and understand your starting point
  4. Prepare your business plan – you need to establish your company’s position at this moment (your starting point), where you want the company to be in 1 month or in 1 year or in 3 years (or more) and how your company is going to get there – this helps you get the big picture and concentrate on those activities that bring you and your company best results; practical tip 4: use the term business plan loosely – you do not need to write a lengthy document for it, instead opt for business model canvas or a similar method – just make sure you have a clear overview of where you are currently, where you want to be in the future and how are you going to get there – and if you got to know your customers, your offering and your company well enough, you will be able to prepare the business plan relatively easily
  5. Monitor and control – one of key aspects of being a manager is that at any point in time you need to know, where you, your colleagues and your company are at (in terms of KPIs and development) – if you know your status and position, you can act accordingly, if you do not, you will make wrong decisions; practical tip 5: make sure that your controlling function in the company is providing your with timely and relevant information – define what kind of reports do you want to receive (what kind of data, comparisons between plans and budget and realization etc.) and how often do you want to receive them – please, keep in mind that too many reports and too much information will obstruct your ability to see your company’s general position and will also drain your company’s resources (be reasonable with what you wish to receive)
  6. Decide and act – the key assignment that you took with your management position is making decisions – this is also the main distinction between the top management and others – the higher your positions is, the more you need to decide; practical tip 6: do not try to stall your decision and stay undecided for too long – keep in my mind that you can always take the decision to keep status quo for a certain period of time and review your decision again after that time – the difference between not deciding and deciding to change nothing at the moment is huge – with the latter you know, where you stand, while with not deciding you leave everything to chance
  7. Inform – always make sure you explain reasoning behind your decisions and actions – your colleagues will appreciate it, because they will know and understand why certain decisions are being taken and will accept them more easily; practical tip 7: share as much information as possible with employees – let them know the company’s business results, its current standing and the current goings-on in the company – people like to know where they stand and will usually positively surprise you with increased motivation, improvements and adjustments of their work and activities
  8. Manage people – companies exist because they enable people to work together towards common goals more efficiently than if individuals would be on their own – without people, there would be no companies; practical tip 8: make sure your decisions are constant and transparent and your colleagues are sufficiently informed (when in doubt, over-sharing information with your colleagues is better than not sharing at all) – in turn, your colleagues will generally be willing to follow your lead
  9. Manage relationship with the company’s owners – lots of times, the relationship with the shareholders tends to be overlooked, when speaking of what a manager’s tasks are – as a manager you need to make sure you are aligned with the shareholders of the company, if you want to implement your plans and if you want to be successful; practical tip 9: shareholders of the company are not enemies – they are the ones, who sign off on your reward and they are people like yourself (or at least represented by people, if your company’s owners are other companies) – therefore you need to make sure to invest enough time to build positive relationship with them
  10. Keep the focus – do not let yourself be consumed by tiny everyday operational issues – make sure you keep your focus on where you want to take your company, otherwise you will not be able to successfully manage your company; practical tip 10: re-read your business plan at least once a month – it will enable you to set your current priorities properly, keep your focus and execute your business plan successfully

If you cover all of the above successfully, then you should be on your way towards becoming a good manager. And you can then start to occupy yourself how to improve your management skills – the managing people and managing owners part of the list – and how to ultimately become a great manager.