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7 Skills You Need to Be a Good Manager [Data + Expert Tips]

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7 Skills You Need to Be a Good Manager [Data + Expert Tips]

What does it take to be a good manager? Some say it’s empathy, others will say it’s transparency. The truth is, it’s a combination of many elements.

I surveyed and spoke with internal and external employees to discover the makers of a good manager. Whether you’re currently managing a team or are interested in doing so, keep reading to discover what we found out.

7 Skills People Managers Must Master, According to HubSpot Employees

Why do people really quit their jobs? Many will say it’s because of salary, benefits, or workload. However, studies show it’s usually due to management.

Studies show companies need good managers to retain good employees.

But what exactly does a good manager look like? What skills or strategies can you develop to ensure you’re considered a good one?

To explore this issue, we polled people and asked them to check off all the qualities they felt were most important for a great manager.

when asked about the qualities and skills of a great manager, 58% responded "They trust me to work autonomously."Respondents listed these top three qualities or skills:

  • 58% said, “They trust me to work autonomously.”
  • 46% said, “They are empathetic and understanding.”
  • 45% said, “They give me useful, clear feedback.”

Other answers included a willingness to teach, interest in career growth, strong communication skills, awarding credit, and inviting fresh ideas.

Along with this data, I consulted my colleagues to get their thoughts on what makes a people manager effective. Here are 7 crucial qualities of a great team leader.

1. Good managers help employees navigate change.

Consider the last time you experienced change within your organization.

I’m willing to bet the change felt daunting at times. Fortunately, good managers can mitigate the negative or ambivalent emotions that arise from change.

“The strongest managers are ones who can help their teams navigate change in a very personal way,” Christine McLaughlin, a senior project manager on HubSpot’s Sales Leadership Enablement team. “I’m a firm believer that every challenge presents an opportunity. But, because we’re human, we can’t always see the opportunity from the start.”

McLaughlin adds, “Our personal life, mental health, physical health, the last meeting we had, the next meeting we’re preparing for, all play a role in influencing how we perceive change. Do we view it as a challenge? An opportunity? A setback? A relief?”

“Strong managers can translate change for each individual on their team. They meet their teammate where they’re at and help to answer their questions and concerns to bring them to where they need to go.”

How can you do this? Start by fostering psychological safety, so your employees feel comfortable mentioning how they feel about a certain business change. Then, listen carefully to their concerns and work on providing solutions for those issues.

For instance, let’s say your team has experienced a reorg and one of your direct reports is concerned her role is going to change as a result.

To mitigate those concerns, consider creating a document that outlines which (if any) of their responsibilities might change as a result of the reorg — along with some new opportunities they can pursue to continue developing their professional skills.

2. Good managers are open and transparent.

Trust and transparency are undeniably critical components of good leaders — and, post-pandemic, this is continuing to rise in importance.

In fact, Edelman’s most recent 2021 benchmark barometer on trust in leaders found employees ranked “good employee communication” 44 points higher than in the previous year.

Keri Polmonari, HubSpot’s Manager of Customer Success on the SMB team, believes transparency to be one of the most important attributes a good leader can possess.

“Business changes — like changes in department goals, processes, or personnel — can be difficult and overwhelming,” she says, “when everyone understands the why behind these business changes, they are more open and understanding of implications this could have on their jobs, both positive and negative.”

She adds that transparency builds trust, fosters relationships, and creates organizational alignment, all key components of a company’s and individual’s success.

quote from manager Keri Polmonari on what does it mean to be a good manager?

3. Good managers encourage vulnerability.

When was the last time your manager started your 1:1 with a slightly more personal question, like, “How was your birthday this past weekend?” or “Read any good books lately?”

These questions ultimately help encourage vulnerability by creating space for you to share information about your life outside of work — and they can go a long way toward creating stronger bonds.

“Whenever I start a new role or inherit a new team, I begin by enabling and encouraging vulnerability,” said VP of marketing at Trusted Health, Jill Callan. “This helps me forge strong bonds with my direct reports and allows them to be comfortable to share ideas and admit weaknesses.”

Callan adds, “I’m also very intentional about getting to know my team as individuals and learning about their lives outside of work. Taking the time upfront to build a strong, authentic relationship with my direct reports helps us tackle inevitable tough challenges down the line.”

To encourage vulnerability, consider how you might increase your own openness with your team. For instance, perhaps you admit when you’re feeling overwhelmed with childcare duties, mention a Netflix show you’ve been binging, or simply chat about the gardening hobby you’ve picked up.

And embrace vulnerability by admitting when you’ve made a mistake or you’re feeling overwhelmed — it will help your employees feel comfortable admitting the same.

what does it mean to be a good manager? Jill's quote on the importance of building authentic relationships.

4. Good managers find ways to supplement their team member’s weaknesses.

I once had a manager who repeatedly sought out learning and development opportunities for the areas we’d determined as weaknesses of mine. She would often email me public speaking courses, or data & analytics workshops.

As a result, I continued to grow professionally, and I felt challenged. This is what a good manager does: Continues to keep a direct report’s weaknesses in mind, and provides guidance to help them improve.

Former HubSpot Senior Manager Christina Perricone concurs.

“Good managers find ways to supplement their team member’s weaknesses,” she said. “Each of us has skills that come naturally to us, as well as skills we’re not so great at.”

“An attuned manager can identify an individual’s weak areas and will surface resources or offer guidance to assist in those areas.”

With this in mind, take stock of your team’s weaknesses and actively pursue resources that can help your team develop their weaker skills.

Additionally, use the hiring process to create a more well-rounded team by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of existing employees.

As Perricone says, “Good managers are skilled at balancing out their teams by recruiting talent that can fill in the skill and experience gaps, thereby creating a more well-rounded unit.”

5. Good managers work for their employees — not above them.

You might be thinking, “Managers work for their employees? Isn’t it the other way around?

Actually, a manager, like an employee, is more effective when they’re an active team player.

While an employee’s job is to fulfill tasks within a job description, a manager’s job is to make their team successful. To do this, a manager shouldn’t be afraid to chime in during meetings, assist on projects, or help their team grow or succeed in other ways.

For instance, consider asking your direct reports during a 1:1, “Is there anything you need me to do?”

This question can be translated in multiple positive ways, including:

  • “Are there any blockers I can remove for you?”
  • “Are you waiting on a decision from me on anything?”
  • “Are you working on an idea that you want to share with me?”
  • “Is there something going on in your world outside of work that’s competing for your time and attention?”

Ultimately, a good manager considers it their primary job to make their employees successful.

6. Good managers are always aiming to improve their emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence — or the skill that requires you to understand your own emotions, learn how to manage them, and know how to respond to the emotions of others on your team — is a vital component of good leadership.

Emotional intelligence can help you ensure you’re giving clear directions and allows you to be empathetic to the needs of others. In short, it can help you foster stronger professional relationships and communicate effectively.

Most importantly, emotional intelligence enables you to stay calm during high-stress or unexpected situations — which can prevent you from making rash decisions as a leader, or stressing your team out unnecessarily.

7. Good managers can establish and promote psychologically-safe environments.

The ability to cultivate psychological safety is a critical asset that Jennifer Brault, team manager on HubSpot’s social media team, values in her own people manager.

“Feeling supported, heard, and understood is the foundation I need to be able to come to work every day with the right mindset to do good work,” Brault says.

Brault adds, “Genuine empathy and psychological safety are hard to fake, and it’s something that I think everyone should master before they consider the people management path.”

Psychological safety fosters innovative thinking and the ability to adapt well to change — and yet, according to a 2020 McKinsey Global Survey, only a handful of business leaders often demonstrate the behaviors associated with psychological safety.

If you’re a manager or hoping to be a better leader, it’s important you take time to identify aspects of your management style or overall office culture that could benefit from psychological safety.

For example, rather than using language that makes your team members feel scared of missing deadlines or goals, keep an open and supportive dialogue.

You’ll find that they will confidently come to you with successes, learnings from failure, or concerns while they’re working on high-pressure projects.

Alternatively, if a team member is having trouble with a project, you should offer advice or assistance to help them remove blockers, rather than telling them to just get it done.

Supportive communication with team members allows them to learn from mistakes and grow as employees, rather than work tirelessly on projects because they fear that they’ll lose their jobs.

Tips for Being a Good Manager

As outlined in the data above, there are a few key traits required of any good manager. These include:

  • Providing coaching and mentoring when necessary, but enabling your team to work autonomously and trusting them to get the job done.
  • Showing empathy toward your direct reports as people with lives outside of work, and creating a sense of psychological safety for your employees to feel comfortable admitting when they’re struggling or need help.
  • Being clear and direct with feedback.
  • Going the extra mile to help foster your employees’ professional growth through training, learning & development opportunities, or 1:1 sessions in which you coach them on certain skills.

However, a good manager looks different depending on the department or role — a good sales manager, for instance, requires different skills than that of a good marketing manager.

Let’s dive into those, now.

How to Be a Good Sales Manager

Being a good sales manager requires a few unique skills outside of those listed above.

Along with setting clear expectations, communicating effectively, and inspiring your sales reps to perform at their best, a good sales manager needs to demonstrate a positive mindset, build team unity, and learn how to best support each sales rep in the unique way that will serve him or her best.

Good Sales Manager Examples

  • Using a dashboard or task management tool to easily track metrics for each sales rep. With this approach, you avoid taking up too much time in your meetings discussing metrics and focus on how you can help, support, and coach your reps.
  • Planning team outings or events that allow your team to build relationships with one another. Sales can be high-pressure and stressful, so it’s important you provide dedicated time to enable your sales reps to connect with one another and feel that they’re part of a support system.
  • Looking for training and development opportunities so your sales reps can continue to improve. In 1:1 meetings, focus on how you can help them achieve their goals; in team meetings, figure out what types of training can help the entire team perform better.
  • Motivating your team by focusing on the ‘bigger purpose’ to ensure they feel intrinsically motivated. Sales isn’t just about hitting quota and making money — remind your team of your company’s bigger purpose to ensure they feel fulfilled and motivated.

Looking for more sales manager tips? Take a look at what sales leaders should prioritize in 2022 and things every sales manager should know.

How to Be a Good Marketing Manager

Marketing managers are often responsible for a content property or program, which means their tasks can vary greatly.

Good Marketing Manager Examples

  • The ability to think big-picture by leveraging data to create a strong long-term strategy.
  • Knowing when to pivot when an existing strategy isn’t working out as expected.
  • Communicating effectively with various stakeholders — this includes inspiring and motivating your direct reports, communicating team goals cross-functionally and to leadership, and creating clear external communications, as well.
  • Delegating and organizing tasks effectively.
  • Facilitating your direct that growth by giving them projects that align with their interests.

To learn more about managing a marketing team, take a look at What Is a Marketing Manager?

How to Be a Good Project Manager

To be a good project manager, you need a few additional technical skills compared to the other managers on this list.

A few other project management skills and responsibilities include:

  • Setting realistic goals and understanding what resources are required.
  • Having good organization and communication skills. A good project manager is organized and detail-oriented to effectively delegate tasks to the right teams, and can clearly articulate the full scope of a project to various stakeholders to ensure alignment on the larger strategy.
  • Analyzing and determining potential risks. A good project manager foresees potential roadblocks in any given project and analyzes metrics and data to determine the best way to mitigate those risks.
  • Using the best project management software options at their disposal to create a streamlined process and keep track of responsibilities and timelines.

That’s it! With all of this information, you’re well on your way to becoming a better manager.

Remember, like any other role, becoming a good manager requires time, patience, dedication, and a consistent desire for feedback from your direct reports to iterate and grow over time.

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.



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