The role of a manager: a guide for new managers
‘Manager’ is one of the most common additions to any job title, and we all understand that it suggests a level of seniority and responsibility for a given business area, whether that’s a group of people or a particular business function. The role can vary massively, from sales manager to hotel manager. The question is, what is a manager generally expected to do? What are their responsibilities and what skills do they require? If you’re looking to move your career to the next level and into management, or you’ve just been promoted and want to arm yourself with all the knowledge, then this article is for you. We’re going to look at the different areas of responsibility applicable to most managers, and then the skills that are required.
This is probably the most commonly understood and most important responsibility for any manager. It’s your job to ensure the smooth running of whatever you’ve been given responsibility for. This will vary hugely from role to role, but there are going to be quite a few skills that will translate to pretty much any position. To be a successful manager, you’re going to need to be constantly on the ball, able to deal with multiple things happening at once, and you need to know exactly what should be happening throughout the day. No more can you be concerned only about what you’re doing in the moment; you have to consider the bigger picture.
Organisational skills will be critical here, because it’s these that ensure nothing is forgotten, and that everyone else has what they need. You could be managing a kitchen, for instance. Have you made sure all the stock is ready and available? Do you know all of the service times for the day? Have you got a plan to make sure that everything will run smoothly, even as little things go wrong?
Alternatively, you might work in an office, where things aren’t necessarily as hectic everyday as a kitchen, but organisation is no less important. You’ll have many more responsibilities as a manager. Do you know which reports need to be sent from your department and when? Do you know who is working on them? Do you have a plan if deadlines aren’t hit? Managers bear a lot of responsibility in their day-to-day lives, and you need to be ready to take on and manage this.
Organisation is thankfully something that can be worked on and improved, and there are lots of techniques to help you. In the early stages, you’ll want to make best use of note-taking, calendars and email categorisation, for instance. Here at Virtual College, we’re pleased to have a variety of types of management training to help you build on these skills. Click here to be taken to our online management training section.
Following and enforcing policy & process
Even in the smallest of businesses, there are likely to be policies that must be followed. These policies form the framework that allows a business to run according to the wishes of senior business leaders, and it’s the responsibility of all managers to follow and critically enforce these policies. They can range from company-wide policies that cover things like dress code and behaviour, to specific policies such as when certain paperwork has to be completed, or how certain tasks are processed. As a manager, you’ll be held to a higher standard than others, so it’s paramount you stick to them. If you’re being promoted, and you perhaps followed certain policies loosely in the past, then you’ll need to make a conscious effort to better adhere to them.
In many cases, managers will also be involved in the creation of policy, particularly in areas for which they’re responsible (though they may be asked to give input on larger functions). Creating policy isn’t always as easy as it seems, and requires a good understanding of how to balance what’s essential and what’s achievable.
Where there are different business groups within the organisation as a whole, it’ll be your responsibility to represent the people and areas for which you are responsible. You’ll need to negotiate and liaise with other managers to work towards a common goal, or even to resolve conflict. This can sometimes be one of the more challenging aspects of being a manager. It’s far more likely that there’ll be friction between you and other managers, than between you and those that report to you. This is especially true with similar responsibilities, or where there’s overlap. In order to be successful here, you’ll really need to work on making sure that you have great communication skills. You’ll need to be able to negotiate well, and give a good account of yourself, but also know how to resolve issues and potentially work with people who you don’t get on with.
Not all managers have direct reports, but for the ones that do, this is possibly their biggest responsibility. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into looking after employees, which we’re briefly going to cover now.
The most obvious aspect of this is delegation and the organisation of what your employees are going to do over the working day, week, month or even further ahead. If we go back to the kitchen or restaurant example, anyone managing in this space would be responsible for deciding exactly what everyone else is doing. Who is responsible for what? When do shifts start and finish? What happens when priorities change? You cannot simply leave people to determine their own responsibilities, because if the process as a whole goes wrong, it’s your responsibility as far as your seniors are concerned.
In an office environment, again, things are more likely to be longer term. If you’re working on a project, then you’ll need to ensure that everyone has a particular task delegated to them so that everything comes together in the end. Account managers, for instance, might be responsible for ensuring that all of the moving parts of an account culminate in success for the client.
And you’re not just there to tell people what to do either; managers must guide and motivate their staff to get the best out of them. Part of this is being a good leader, which is often considered to be something slightly different to management. Consider a leadership online course if you think you need to build the skills that make a good leader.
Aside from those day-to-day considerations, you’ll also be expected to think about things like general development and training, along with building a good culture within your team. These aspects can be tricky to master, which is why we’d suggest looking into courses that help you learn how best to coach others. It’s not necessarily something that comes naturally.
You may well have staff underneath you who are responsible for administrative tasks, but as a manager, you’re certainly going to have to deal with considerable paperwork and process. This is one of the areas of management that isn’t seen as being quite as enjoyable, but it does need to be done. You’ll be required to sign off on things, make decisions, and potentially look after budgets, all of which generally means sitting down and going through documents and spreadsheets. Some managers might be lucky enough for this to be a minimum, but as a general rule you need to be prepared for paperwork.
Evaluation and goal setting
As a manager, you’ll undoubtedly have a certain degree of autonomy, which means that you will need to be able to successfully evaluate the performance of the business function or people for which you are responsible. More entry level employees will not necessarily have to concern themselves with this aspect of working life, because it’ll be someone else’s job to evaluate them. That’s now likely to be you. You need to be able to effectively understand what you’re working towards, and whether or not you’ve achieved that. Where things haven’t gone well, you’ll need to identify why and take steps to improve in the future. Of course, to do all of this, goals will need to be set. Effectively setting these goals means finding a good balance between pushing and motivating everyone to do better, and being realistic.
Management is all about taking responsibility, being able to work independently, and ultimately ensuring that a business function works as it should. It doesn’t matter what type of manager you are, whether you’re responsible for staff or not, you need to be able to see the bigger picture of how the business works, and your place in that. How can you use your responsibilities for the betterment of a business? Figure this out, and you’ll be successful. If you’d like to go one step further than this article, then consider taking the Virtual College course titled ‘Understanding the Role of the Manager’. Click here to find out more.