15 Ways Managers Can Improve Their Leadership Skills

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As a manager, it’s important to recognize that your leadership style has a direct impact on employee retention. Countless studies have shown that employees often leave their jobs because of bad managers, so as a leader, it’s critical to take a proactive approach to your own professional development.

To that end, 15 experts from Forbes Business Council each explain one thing managers can do to ensure their leadership skills are up to date and not causing employees to leave. They also share why these actions are important for creating a positive and productive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated to contribute to the success of the organization.

1. Listen To Understand

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, which means we need to listen more than we speak. I find that we listen to respond as opposed to truly listening to understand. To be a better manager and leader, we need to truly listen and even read between the lines to understand our team’s needs and what is “meaningful” to our direct reports. Sometimes the answer is simple. – Natasha KoifmanNKPR

2. Focus On Continuous Improvement

I think getting rid of the idea of leadership skills being “current” is a great place to start. Instead of staying current, the emphasis should be on continuous improvement and skill building. Achieving that outcome should involve reading leadership books, having mentors teach and guide you and getting feedback from those you are in charge of leading. – Christopher SmallCMS Law Firm LLC

3. Aim To Understand Others’ Perspectives

Become a great listener. As Epictetus said, “You have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Deep listening is hard work because it involves the suspension of judgment and the quieting of your own ego and thoughts—and a genuine interest in seeing yourself and the environment through their eyes. Mastery of listening is the cornerstone of trust, which is vital for retention. – Barry MarshallP5 Collaborative Consulting, LLC

4. Hold Quarterly Individual Meetings

One simple way to ensure leadership skills are current is to hold quarterly meetings with individuals from your team. For larger teams, this may be time-consuming, but dedicating time to each employee ensures that they feel important and heard. Holding these meetings individually ensures that employees feel comfortable giving direct answers and not dancing around questions. – Blake FortuneHamilton Capital Partners, LLC.

5. Practice Empathy

The most important leadership skill is empathy. Taking the time to understand your employees and their own personal situations, then adjusting your leadership to best support them, is paramount if you want them to stick around. – Heather OdendaalWNORTH

6. Build Emotional Intelligence

The best investment a manager can make is to invest in their emotional intelligence. Increasing their self-awareness using various methods— through feedback, requesting 360 assessments, personality profiling and executive coaching—helps enormously. Understanding their own emotions and the emotions of others will increase their performance, as well as improve their effectiveness and efficiency as a leader of others. – Marian EvansElevate BC Ltd

7. Seek Out Professional Development

One thing managers can do is seek out opportunities for learning and professional development. This can help managers stay up to date on the latest leadership practices and techniques while ensuring they are effectively leading and supporting their employees. – Daniel DaninoVolta Metals

8. Be With The Team

There is a difference between sharing that you are with the team in their efforts to alleviate stress for the business versus the team must do everything to alleviate a leader’s stress. Self-awareness, integrity and a willingness to see how you are being perceived are monumental. Knowing when to stop pushing, removing obstacles and being aware of the effort are critical for the team to feel appreciated. – Sudha ChandrasekharanTrelleborg

9. Remove Fear From The Relationship

If your teams aren’t open and honest with you about what they need to feel successful, then you won’t know how to be a good manager to them. That level of open communication begins with psychological safety. Then, you can ask what they need to feel fulfilled and valued so you can ensure you are being the manager that they need. – Afshan HussainFishawack Health

10. Have Two-Way Performance Reviews

In two-way performance reviews, employees should individually conduct a review of their manager. The employee can use an anonymous survey platform where they can comfortably provide feedback to their manager. This should be shared with the manager’s manager as well. This direct feedback to the manager allows them to not just understand their employees better, but also see their own areas with room for improvement. – Scott SniderExit Planning Institute

11. Invest In Employees’ Futures

Focus on developing the person for the role they want, not just for the one they have. It is easy to look at just what needs to get done versus what needs to be developed. Someone who feels as though you invested in them will ultimately invest in the growth of your company. – Patrick FrankPatientPartner

12. Adjust With Changing Values

The Great Resignation demonstrated that managers should focus on workers’ changing needs. For example, Gen-Z has a different value system than Boomers. Over the course of a career, our value systems change based on external (societal) and internal (aging) factors. Successful managers maintain a constant dialogue with workers so they appreciate these changes and respond immediately. Annual reviews won’t work. – Jerry CahnAge Brilliantly

13. Outline Expectations Clearly

Anger and frustration are the results of missed expectations. A manager should teach people what “right” looks like, give the employee a goal and articulate the left and right boundaries of responsibility. Then, be surprised by the results. If this doesn’t work, replace either the manager or the employee. – Joe CrandallGreencastle Associates Consulting

14. Self-Reflect, Then Adapt

Effective leadership requires frequent self-reflection and adaptation in order to serve the needs of an ever-changing workforce. Managers need to ensure they invest enough time in discovering the most recent leadership practices in order to retain talent and develop a positive workplace environment. A great way to stay current is to make sure managers attend professional conferences and seminars. – Dustin LemickBriteCo

15. Respect Those Under You

Realize that those in positions under you need respect also. Managers must realize that their performance depends on the skill and the level of professionalism they give those under them. Treating employees with respect and helping them through difficult situations will teach them not only to respect managers and leads, but also how to be self-sufficient. – Tammy SonsTn Nursery