Whether you are preparing yourself for your first managerial leap, or learning how to become a better manager, it remains beneficial to zoom in on the key areas of leadership and work on them along the way. According to Victor Lipman from Forbes.com, these are the five areas where it’s easy to stumble, but where improvements can make the difference between good and bad management:

1. Patience

Who doesn’t need more patience in a managerial role? There are about 600,000 things – from your own boss, to deadlines, to the grinding pressure “to do more with less,” to those nettlesome customers and employees! – that can stress you out. Besides, patience has a long tail.  Employees appreciate being treated with patience when things go a little off track. They’ll often remember it and reward you with better effort.

2. Courage

Have the fortitude to hold your people accountable for the big stuff they need to get right. It’s easy to default to pesky micromanagement on trivial details, but what most matters as a manager is keeping the important work on track: the complex projects, the big-ticket budget items, the key strategic initiatives. Numerous studies show managers have chronic problems with accountability. So focus your energy in the areas where it’s most needed – with the courage to hold people responsible for the results your organization requires.

3. Thoughtfulness

Have the thoughtfulness to take the modest amount of time required to praise your people when it’s deserved.  Avoid the all-too-common trap of being parsimonious with praise.  To what end?   Well-placed praise is one of the simplest and best management investments you can make.  It costs nothing and motivates effectively.  Why don’t managers use it more?  I never fully understood the reticence.

4. Fairness

Playing favourites, whether intentional or subconsciously, is a perfectly natural human tendency. Good managers keep their personal emotions in check, regardless of their relations with other workers. Resist the understandable tendency toward favoritism and you will earn respect for it. Moreover, understand that there could be little correlation between likability and competency and in the worst-case scenario, to favour a sweet, pleasant co-worker who is under-delivering could mean neglecting the honest, introverted high-achiever.

5. Execution

Business is no academic realm of abstract ideas. To the contrary, execution counts for much more. An excellent idea counts for nothing if not properly executed. As Ross Perot used to say, “The devil’s in the details.”  Operations matter. As a manager, you’ll be judged on execution. On results. How effectively does your team get done what they need to? Were desired targets reached? Keep your eye always on the executional ball – it can make the difference between managerial success and failure.

Management is a fundamentally practical exercise. Tangible and results-oriented. It’s by no means a simple job, but small improvements can yield big results.

This post was originally published here on Forbes.com in July 2014. TheYoungProfessionalGroup.com takes no credit for the work of the author.

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