How to Be a Great Manager When You Have 57 Other Things to Do

10 things you can do every day to be the leader people want to follow.

By Brad Karsh, President, JB Training Solutions

“Time is the quality of nature that keeps events from happening all at once. Lately, it doesn’t seem to be working.”

It’s not easy managing people—especially when stress levels are up and you have 57 other urgent things to do. No matter the circumstances, being a great manager takes time and dedication. But let’s get real: You literally have no time to spare!

  • 71 percent of workers feel stressed.
  • 40 percent of adults get less than seven hours of sleep on weekdays.
  •  34 percent of lunches are choked down on the run.
  • The average person receives 156 e-mails a day.

Despite the grim statistics and seemingly daunting prospect, the bottom line is that you can get MORE than 57 things done if you know how to manage your team effectively.

The key is finding the time. There are a few small things you can do every day to be the leader people want to follow:

  1. Make the time. Set two hours of “managing” time on your calendar every week. It may seem impossible, but you’d rather spend the time now than deal with turnover—and bigger time drains—down the road.
  2. Provide direction. Provide a project list in priority order. Highlight tangible deliverables and key dates so your team knows exactly what is expected.
  3. Run efficient staff meetings. Newsflash! Your team dreads attending meetings, and they likely think they are a waste of time. Do everyone a favor and enforce a start/stop time, make an agenda, assign responsibilities and next steps clearly, keep things moving, and devote time for Q and A. Most important of all, only hold a meeting if you actually need to. Remember: “You rarely get outstanding results from standard procedures.”
  4. Delegate and set stretching objectives. We know no one can do it as well as you can, but you need to delegate to give yourself time to complete tasks more appropriate for your level and to make time to be a good manager. It may seem scary to push them, but your team wants the challenge. They’ll be empowered by the extra responsibility.
  5. Get organized. If you are unorganized, your team will be, too. Lay out work in a well-planned and organized manner. Put specific dates/times on the calendar (when, how often, what to bring/discuss) and identify tangible deliverables.
  6. Discuss your style. You don’t have to make a grand proclamation or formal speech, but in the day to day, talk openly and candidly about your management philosophy. Be transparent about goals and expectations (yours and theirs). This can include hours, travel and client/management interaction, and decision-making styles.
  7. Defy the golden rule. Management is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Consider experience level, attitude, personality, communication style, and motivation level—it is different for everyone! When it comes to managing people: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”
  8. Wait for it! Don’t jump in with your opinion or the answer right away. Sit back, listen, and let your team come up with ideas. Put down the red pen when you are evaluating work, and mull over ideas. Challenge your employees with thoughtful questions and let them think through it. Require that they present you with solutions instead of asking you for answers.
  9. Step away from your desk. To limit distractions and give an employee your undivided attention, try going to a conference room table or stepping away from your desk. Your employees would rather have five solid, uninterrupted minutes of your time than 15 barely there minutes.
  10. Do what you say you will do. Walking the talk is incredibly important to get the trust and respect of your direct reports. You have an enormous influence, and it is important to understand your effect on people. Under promise and over deliver to your most important constituents—your team. They’ll follow suit!

Managing a team is challenging, but it’s rewarding and worthwhile if you invest the time and the effort. When you’re struggling to take time away to focus on your people, remember the reality:

  • Engaged employees are 3.5 times more likely to stay with your company.
  • Empowered employees are more productive, creative, and resourceful.
  • The more you trust your team to do great work, the less stress for everyone.
  • The higher the morale—the more FUN for everyone!

Once you’ve developed an empowered team you can trust, you’ll be able to spend more time on the 57 other things you have to do.

Brad Karsh is president and lead trainer at JB Training Solutions, which offers interactive programs to assist professionals in achieving success in the workplace. He has worked with companies including Abbott Laboratories, Quaker, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Redbox, and GATX. Prior to starting JB Training Solutions, Karsh spent 15 years at advertising giant Leo Burnett in Chicago. He began his career in account management, working on clients including McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, and Pillsbury, and then moved into HR. For information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.