Your Ultimate Guide to Understanding What it Means to Be a Manager

We all know people who were promoted to a managerial position just because they were good at their craft, whether that means hitting sale quotas, improving marketing strategy, great customer reviews, etc.

But they don't necessarily have the skills to lead.

Thus limiting the growth capacity for themselves and the team they manage.

This phenomenon is extremely prominent in many startups.

Dr. Laurence J. Peter, a sociologist, lecturer and business consultant, calls this the Peter Principle.

The idea is, that if a person performs well in the job, they will likely be promoted to the next level of the organization's hierarchy.

"In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence," he said.

Meaning people will continue to rise up the ladder until they reach the point where they can no longer perform well. Peter called this level "final placement."

This is one of the main flaws in hierarchical structures, but it doesn't have to be this way.

In this blog, we are going to break down three components to understand what it means to be a manager, and hopefully avoid incompetent managers at your organization.

After reading this blog, you’ll understand…

👉 What are the 3 P’s and how to use them.

👉 How to set day-to-day tasks as a manager.

👉 And common fears and misconceptions of a management role and how to avoid them.

Overall, remember learning to manage takes time.

If you're still asking yourself  “how do I start to be an effective manager?” watch this quick motivational video, then continue scrolling through.

Three “P’s” of Effective Management

Marcus Lemonis, a Lebanese-born American businessman, television personality and philanthropist, said a successful business comprises People, Process, and Product.

The three Ps, as they’re often called, act as a cornerstone for everything inside a business.

As a manager and head of a team, it is critical to understand how to manage people, process and product of a company to grow and succeed.

Why are the 3Ps so important?

Well, without good people in the right roles, your growing business will struggle to serve customers and clients, thus affecting your potential revenue.

If you don’t have an effective process in place, whether that’s for sales, production, billing, accounting, and customer relationship management, your overhead cost will increase, reducing profitability.

Finally, if you don’t have a product or service that meets the needs of your market or ideal client, then it won’t be long before your company fails.

And we don’t want that, of course! That’s why we will break down the 3Ps and how to use them to be an effective manager.

The People

Even if you’re going into a business as a solopreneur or a digital nomad, people are an integral part of any business.

When we talk about “people,” it must be put in the context of your workforce. For example, if you have on-site employees or remote freelancers.

People also include the other relationships needed to keep your business afloat, such as customers, vendors, suppliers, advisers, partners, investors, etc.

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, people are at the core of ay businesses. They should be a priority, which is why they are the first component of the people, process, and product trilogy.

“Without people, your business would flounder.”

Here is a great resource with People Management Tips for First-Time Managers.

People’s issues can come to the surface at any point and level of the organization.

As Lemonis said, “if you have trust with somebody, it can survive any downturn, any mistake, any problem. And if you don’t have trust, it won’t matter how good the business is; it will fall apart eventually.”

That’s why the first level of high-performing teams is psychological safety, a stage where there is trust and vulnerability between people. Trust and confidence are well established that the business and team can continue to function regardless of conflicts.

The Process

Businesses of any size have various processes, including delivering a service, creating a product, making sales presentations, responding to emergencies and customer inquiries, keeping track of supplies, etc.

A process is the action plan, if you will.

Having a process in place is essential to answer the questions, “how do we do X, when do we do Y, why do we do Z?”

A good layout process will ensure your business and team can run effectively without your overseeing every tiny detail.

Why is the process the second of the 3 Ps of business? It’s because your people need to work most efficiently and productively.

A practical action plan includes carefully looking at your operational processes to understand every step of the chain, from receiving orders to the finished product/service.

“Control your cash, stick to your core business, and know your numbers,” Lemonis.

The Product

With your people and processes in place, it’s time to take a close look at your products. Your product is what your business has to offer.

Whether you serve consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B), your small business needs to offer the right products for your customers.

As Lemonis said, your product line should be “practical, purposeful and profitable.”

Some businesses develop their products without listening to customer feedback.

Product-related problems stem from an unrealistic approach to the market.

That’s why so many startups fail within the first year.

Your product — including your brand and your image — is the most visible part of your business and, as such, deserves the lion’s share of your focus.

It’s crucial to view people, process, and products as a system in which each separate part depends on the role before it. It’s a connected cycle.

👉 Now that we've covered the basics of the 3 P's, here is How to use the Three “P’s” of Effective Management.

Day-to-Day Roles and Responsibilities for New Managers

Managers shape the culture of their teams and workplaces in countless ways.

They play both an administrative and leadership role, meaning often, they have to balance their day to meet their needs and those of their employees.

Additionally, managers act as a bridge from senior management for translating higher-level strategies and goals into operating plans that drive the business. And they require a diverse set of skills to be successful.

But what exactly does a manager do?

“It is common for managers to feel as if they are pulled between the demands of top leaders and the needs of the individuals performing the work of the firm.” F. John Reh.

As a bridge between strategy and team, the manager is accountable to senior executives for performance and front-line employees for guidance, motivation, and support.

That’s why managers must be organized and prioritize their daily tasks to ensure they are being productive and completing their work on time.

Here are some of those responsibilities:

Communicating Information

Communicating is one of the most essential skills and roles anyone in a managerial position can fulfill.

But it is usually one of the biggest barriers.

When team members cannot communicate effectively, they don't coordinate, their productivity is low and their quality of work also decreases.

Leadership comes down to conversations.

In our conversations, we establish psychological safety for our team members, in which we lean into vulnerability and signal belonging cues.

It is in our conversations that we adapt our language and style to their personality types, show emotion, empathize, and emotionally engage with the team.

👉 Here are the 6 must-have conversations for managers.

Setting Meetings & Goals

Meetings are a vital glue of every organization’s daily operations.

They provide opportunities for discussing priorities and challenges, alignment, decision-making, collaboration, feedback,  check-in with the team, and communication to propel things forward.

Despite the great potential of meetings, there’s also an opportunity cost when not done correctly.

On average, people can attend between 11 to 15 meetings per week.

A study by reported that meetings cost companies anywhere between $43,008–$56,448 USD per year per manager.

Now, imagine the additional managers, executives, and individual contributors who also partake in several meetings each week.

On the opposite end, when done right, meetings can be a massive boon for optimizing your most potent tool — communication.

Let’s take a look at 5 best practices to implement for a great meeting 👇

Clear Purpose It's helpful for all attendees to be prepared ahead of time.

This will facilitate cohesion between team members. Even for the personalities that don’t typically need extra time to chew over ideas

Help all your DISC personalities by defining a clear purpose or goal for the meeting.
Prepared Agenda Prepare and collaborate on an agenda then make sure you follow through.

Invite collaboration to boost engagement and make room for diversity of thought, especially with the individuals that might not always initiate voicing their thoughts.

Sticking to the agenda will also help keep attendees engaged, given they now have a trajectory of what information to watch out for.
Psychological Safety Meetings are another avenue where a team’s psychological safety is tested.

Recall that psychological safety involves the freedom to express oneself without fear of serious repercussions.

This also means positive conflict and debate to continue innovating and stretching ideas beyond the first anchoring thought.

This way individuals can contribute their voices to the goals and questions at hand upon coming together.
Active Collaboration Engagement comes from collaboration. It increases ownership and significance of the tasks and ideas at hand.

In meetings, increase collaboration levels by introducing a singular source of truth document for meeting notes for everyone’s reference and interpretation of information.

This allows us to address clarification earlier on in the value chain rather than building a faulty foundation on misinterpreted information.
Actionable Takaways Ensure to dedicate time at the end of the meeting to establish and assign clear actionable takeaways.

Including a timeline to follow up on the next steps’ progression.

This creates accountability and helps individuals understand the decision-making model.

Note: Documentation of meetings also ensures that these decisions don’t fall through the cracks, especially with a concrete follow-up plan.

👉 Learn more about each item by reading this blog on the 5 Tips for Managers on How To Hold A Great Meeting.


Gallup discovered that the number one reason people change jobs today is "career growth opportunities." And that reason is on the rise.

Gallup research found that 59% of millennials say that opportunities to learn and grow are significant when applying for a job.

Comparatively, 44% of Gen Xers and 41 % of baby boomers say the same.

And 87% of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job — far more than the 69% of non-millennials who say the same.

This is why you, as a manager, need to become and act as a coach. Helping your employees grow is creating a high-performance culture.

One crucial way to ensure growth is through training.

Research shows that when team performance grows, employee output and revenue grow, too.

👉 If your startup is struggling with managers who don't know how to lead through change as your business grows, or if you want to create a high-performing organizational culture, check out the Unicorn Labs 12-week management training program.

Providing Evaluations & Feedback

Feedback and evaluation are one of a manager’s most important day-to-day responsibilities as it is closely link to a company’s ability to innovate.

Companies that can’t keep up with the fast-paced and ever-changing consumer society will be indeed left in the dust.

At the core of innovation is feedback.

This is the best way to ensure your ideas and those of your employees move in the right direction.

Feedback allows room for personal improvement, avoiding recurring mistakes and help establish strong connections between managers and employees.

This is what makes feedback culture a vital element of Unicorn Startups.

👉 Read this blog to learn How to Create a Feedback Culture in Your Startup.
👉 You might also consider reading this crucial Manager’s Guide to Cultivate Accountability and Effective Feedback at any Startup.
👉 And finally, here is How to Use Unicorn Labs' Feedback Principles at your Startup.

Hiring or Terminating Employees

Although the hiring process usually falls under the HR team, as a manager, is important you are involved in the conversations to ensure the right hire is selected.

👉 Here is How a Solid Recruitment Process Increases your Impact.

On the other flip side of the coin is firing.

Whether you're giving or receiving the message, the firing process isn't fun for anyone.

Unfortunately, firing is a necessary evil. As a manager, you have to keep in mind the good of the business, your clients, and the rest of the team.

Keeping a poor performer is a disservice to your entire organization.

Low standards are infections and bring down the engagement and motivation of other team members and give your company a bad name with clients.

Action taken against low performance raises the team's standards, helping managers meet business objectives and ensuring clients get the value they deserve.

In this blog, we break down The Right Way to Fire Someone.

And if you think you’re not ready to fire someone yet, here is a good resource on How to Deal with Difficult Employees as a New Manager.

Overall, setting daily tasks is primordial for managers.

👉 That's why we recommend you read this blog on How to Set a Day-to-Day Roles and Responsibilities for New Managers

How to Overcome Fears as A New Manager

Whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned manager, there are always new responsibilities to the role.

Most importantly, you should never forget every new manager needs time to adjust to these new expectations and responsibilities.

You aren’t alone. In fact, there are many common fears and worries new managers have across the board.

Below are six strategies to overcome them to become a better manager.

‘I don’t know what to do’

Linda A. Hill, a Harvard Business School professor, wrote a book, Becoming a Manager: Mastery of a New Identity (Harvard Business Press, 2003), which describes the profound psychological adjustment involved in going from star individual performer to competent manager.

In the conversation, Hill explains that as a new manager, there are two responsibilities to learn: One is to manage the team, and the other is to manage the context of the group, which means managing boundaries and setting goals.

“Becoming a manager means coming to terms with the difference between the myth of management and the reality.” Linda A. Hill.

They will also not have the resources necessary to do their jobs.

The feelings managers experience as they adopt these new attitudes and views have a tremendous impact on the evolution of their professional identity.

‘What if I’m bad at this?’

We’ve all had bosses in our lives — great ones and bad ones.

Now is your time to take their management techniques—what worked? What didn’t?—and implement those yourself.

When you encounter someone who manages people well, find an opportunity to ask them how they learned and what they read.

You’ll quickly learn what not to do by looking at people who don’t know how to manage.

Continue to look at other management styles, copy what you like, ask questions, and find your own groove.

‘I don’t have people’s skills’

“Instead of feeling free, smart, and in control, new managers feel constrained, not so smart, and out of control in the first months, if not the first year. They feel stretched.” Linda A. Hill.

New managers feel out of their comfort zone regarding their people skills—maybe this is you too.

And it’s normal, as many stresses can be associated with leading others.

That’s why learning how to improve your people’s skills is crucial for this new role.

Adjusting to this aspect of the managerial role is a significant part of the transformation.

‘How do I define my success now?’

As a manager, you may be many steps removed from the outcome of the product/service of the company.

Therefore, your relationship to the outcome is often more ambiguous.

So, to feel satisfied with your new responsibilities, you must learn new ways of defining success.

You must learn to like seeing others succeed and helping them do so.

That’s why managers must focus on developing their team members and helping them grow.


Being a new manager doesn’t have to be a problematic transition.

For starters, you need to understand the 3 Ps of your business, who are your people? What is your product? How does your process works?

Then, establish your daily routine and prioritize your tasks to finish everything effectively.

Finally, identify the myths vs realities of becoming a manager. From understanding your responsibilities to letting go of the power mindset that comes with a promotion.

We all fear we are not good enough, especially when it comes to something new in our lives or our repertoire of skills. That’s why learning from others’ successes, and failures is essential. Find a mentor, asks questions, and mimic some good habits.

If you want to kickstart your role as a manager in the best way possible, look at Unicorn Labs’ leadership and development training for managers.

And remember, learning to manage takes time.

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