Climbing up the ladder to become a manager isn’t for everyone. Especially if you learn along the way that, in a way, you are the ladder, and your main role is to help others reach higher levels.
Philosophical metaphors aside, managing a team in an ambitious business is a craft–a skill you need to work on, and one that requires a vision. What you need to become and be a successful manager are strategies.
Because being a great manager today isn’t just about leading teams. You’ll have to know the right tools, understand business ideas and fuel growth, and keep an open mind.
A lot of balls to juggle, but with a plan in place, you’ll keep them all in one piece. Here’s how you formulate your very own strategies for success — whether you’re already a manager or aspiring to become one.
The importance of strategy formulation for great managers
Even if you’re just great with people and have a knack for business, it won’t mean you’ll make a great manager. If you’re in it for the long run, winging it really isn’t an option.
Because being or becoming a great manager is not merely about directing tasks that are right in front of you. It’s a role that comes with the responsibility of guiding both the business and the people in it towards success–which sometimes requires abstract thinking, yet practical planning.
A well-thought-out strategy is pivotal for this journey. Here’s why.
For the business side of things
- You’ll avoid making costly mistakes: a solid strategy minimizes the risk of impulsive decisions that can harm the bottom line.
- Maximizing resources: money, time, tools and people are precious. Strategic planning ensures they’re used efficiently, and nothing burns out.
- Navigating complexity: which market still looks like it did two years ago? Exactly. Having a strategy helps you stay on track, even in sticky situations.
- Ensuring consistent growth: strategy comes with benchmarks and growth paths. By outlining how to achieve milestones, it makes it easier to actually reach them.
For the people
- Building confidence: when you, as a manager, present a clear strategy, your team will trust you more. They’ll see a leader who is prepared, which will boost their confidence.
- Enhanced accountability: a strategy not only sets expectations for the business, but also for the team. This fosters a culture of responsibility and ownership.
- Promoting personal growth: creating a strategy is an exercise in reflection and foresight. It forces you to think critically, which will help your decision-making skills.
- Facilitating work-life balance: with a clear strategy in place, priorities are clear. Clarity helps prevent burnout, as it helps everyone work efficiently with a sense of direction.
- Strengthening team dynamics: when everyone understands the plan and their role, it promotes collaboration–and it’ll be more fun to work together.
5 Types of strategies you should formulate as a manager (to be)
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of formulating one all-encompassing strategy that includes your management style, business goals and people skills, don’t fret. We actually advise you to formulate several smaller, targeted strategies so you cover all the necessary elements. We’ll talk about the following five:
- Tech and tools
- Business goals
- Mindful leadership
- Continuous learning
Let’s start with the first one.
1. A strategy on tech and tools
Every craftsman needs their tools, and modern managers are no different.
Knowing what role you want tech to play in your management style is crucial. Think about what tools you want to familiarize yourself with, which ones are important for your team, and how you want people to use it. How much will you rely on machines, and how much on humans?
For instance, understanding how an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) works isn’t about using it to find a job, but knowing how it can filter out or highlight potential candidates based on specific criteria. This ensures only the most fitting candidates come to the forefront.
Implementing an ATS resume template can streamline the hiring process–for both you and applicants.
Example strategy: adopt a monthly tool audit
Every month, set aside time to evaluate the tools currently in use. Identify which tools are yielding the desired results and which aren’t. Consider new tools that might enhance productivity or fill gaps.
2. A strategy on aligning people with business goals
A manager builds a bridge between the business’s big ambitious goals and those of the individuals working there. Having a strategy in place to connect these two is the cement that a bridge needs to last. It helps keep people motivated and creates a sense of responsibility.
Example strategy: quarterly goal alignment sessions
At the start of each quarter, organize a session where team goals are reviewed and aligned with overarching business objectives. Break down yearly goals into quarterly milestones and ensure every individual knows how they need to contribute.
3. A strategy for mindful leadership
A lot of well-meaning managers turn from proactive to reactive when daily tasks pile up. That’s why mindful leadership is so important. It helps you be present, shows you the implications of your decisions, and helps you lead with empathy.
Moreover, it helps managers prevent their own burnout, which is often what sparks burnout in other team members. Taking care of yourself and the way you lead is actively taking care of those around you.
Example strategy: weekly reflective practice
Self-reflection is something most of us drop immediately when things get too busy. But not you, if you really want to become the best manager. Allocate a specific time each week for self-reflection, to contemplate on decisions made, challenges faced and feedback received. Do also share anything important you learn in these sessions with your team.
4. A strategy for continuous learning
If your team doesn’t get the tools and time to learn and evolve, you might as well go back to using dial-up internet. As a manager, it’s your job to motivate your employees to learn, but it’s even more important to enable them to do so without it overloading their schedule.
Align with higher management on what you think your team needs, and propose a structure and strategy to make continuous learning happen.
Example strategy: monthly learning challenged
Introduce monthly challenges where every team member (including yourself) picks up a new skill or topic related to the industry. At the end of the month, conduct a knowledge sharing session. Do make sure this is part of the work people do, and not additional to their normal work load.
5. Communication style
Maybe it should’ve been first on the list because it is the most important thing for managers–but we’ll end with it, so it’s the last thing on your mind. How you communicate is how you manage. You can’t be a great manager and have below-par communication skills.
So, find out how you are communicating with your team–even though that might be hard at first, and actively work on ways to do better.
Example strategy: bi-weekly feedback loops
Establish a routine where, every other week, a team member provides feedback to you. This will help you get multiple perspectives, but it will also teach you a lot about communication styles, what works on who–and what’s right for you. You can streamline this by creating a template for one-on-one meetings with employees, which you can perfect over time to make the most out of these sessions.
Questions to ask yourself to find a strategy that suits you
Of course, our examples only scratch the surface of what you can do. Here are some questions to ask yourself to define strategies that fit your style, personality and goals.
- What are my core strengths as a manager?
- What areas do I need to improve upon?
- What values are non-negotiable for me?
Understanding your team
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my team?
- What motivates them?
- How do they prefer to communicate and receive feedback?
Understanding the business
- What are the company’s short-term and long-term goals?
- What external factors (e.g., market trends, competition) might affect our department or team?
- How does my role as a manager align with the company’s vision?
Understanding your own goals
- What do I want to achieve in the next quarter, year, or five years?
- How do these objectives align with the broader company goals?
- What benchmarks can I set to measure progress?
Selecting the strategies
- Which strategies have the highest potential impact?
- Are there any strategies that might be redundant or contradictory?
- What can I start, stop, or continue doing based on the strategies I’ve identified?
- How did my team respond to this new strategy during the trial phase?
- What unforeseen challenges arose, and how can they be addressed?
- What adjustments need to be made for the broader implementation?
What’s your strategy as a manager?
It’s not just about getting things done–it’s how they get done. As you formulate your own strategies, reflect: how do you want others to describe you as a manager now, and after having worked with you for five years? Keep this in mind when defining your plan, and check in every so often. It’ll make being a great manager so much more…manageable.