O Captain! My Captain! Becoming a Better Manager

4 Key Steps to Becoming A Better Manager

O Captain! My Captain! Walt Whitman’s famous elegy poem was a nod to the death of Abraham Lincoln. Fun Fact: Whitman never met Lincoln, but was so inspired by his leadership, he felt compelled to honor him. Why does this matter and how does it apply at work as a manager of people or projects?

How can I become a better manager?

Leadership is a key component in the work force and does not just apply only to those in management. Everyone, at all levels, can manage better and even those in entry-level positions must ultimately learn how to “manage up” in order to thrive. Before merging my previous agency with Double Forte, I had the experience of hiring and managing everyone from interns to senior-level contractors. Each level brought its own opportunity and challenge, but all along, my mantra has always been: “people don’t want to be managed, they want to be inspired.” So then, why should someone follow you into the foxhole?

Earlier this year I attended a seminar by Beryl Loeb and sponsored by the PR Council on “Becoming a Better Manager.

4 key takeaways on how to become a better manager

It takes a village. AKA, If you see something, say something.

First, acknowledge that it really does take a village to manage a team. That means EVERYONE within a company is responsible for providing feedback, being specific with direction, and listening to each employee. Feedback should not solely be the responsibility of the person managing a particular person or group. Especially for small agencies, it is imperative that if you see something, say something. Direct feedback from the source is most effective, doesn’t need to be scary, and should be given often.

Vagueism is the enemy of effectiveness. Be specific.

How many times have you gotten feedback like this: “You didn’t quite get the tone,” “Don’t spend too much time on this,” “Be more creative,” or “Good job!”  What does that mean?! Most of the time, vague feedback is given because people don’t know what THEY want. To the person providing feedback or instruction: drill down on what you expect (the ask, format, by when), and spell it out as clearly as possible. To the person on the receiving end: push back! “What do you mean by this? How is this different than what was provided?”

Like FROZEN, “Let It Go.”

Control is a big thing; for some more than others. However, if you (the manager) end up doing most of the heavy lifting at work because “it’s too hard to explain” or “I can do it faster/better” you ultimately do not grow your own staff. The entire point of hiring employees is to scale a business. If the work cannot be replicated, the bottom line is that the company’s revenue will stagnate and will ultimately loose talent. The solution is not to delegate everything, but to provide opportunities for growth wherever possible.

Listen to understand, not reply.

Regular check-in’s are important but in order to truly trust the people you manage you must learn what drives them. Open ended questions are a great way to do this: “What can this agency do to help you? Do you feel you are learning and growing professionally?” The hard part, for some, is not to respond first, but to listen to understand.

Loeb’s truths about leadership are simple but require effort. To start, we must acknowledge that communications professionals are not always the best at communicating internally, nor growing and leading their own team.

Not everyone will write poems about you after you die, but how would people describe you as a manager?


-Rena Ramirez