What Is a Direct Report? + How to Manage a Team

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover how to support direct reports and set your team up for success

[Featured Image] A manager in a jacket and white blouse prepares for a meeting with a direct report.

What is a direct report? 

A direct report is an employee who reports to a manager, supervisor, or person in a leadership role within a company. People in charge of direct reports may also be referred to as direct reportees.

You may find it useful to learn more about how organizations function, including how companies structure their teams, with direct reports at every level of the org chart. One of the most common ways to visualize a typical organizational structure is to think of a pyramid, with the CEO at the very top, followed by several departmental directors who report to the CEO. Managers would report to directors, and individual contributors would report to managers.

Within an organization, the direct reporting system can make it easier to:

  • Define roles and responsibilities 

  • Align expertise with the projects and deliverables 

  • Delegate tasks 

  • Improve communication

  • Deliver feedback 

 

Did you know? Direct reports work under a manager or supervisor, while indirect reports work under managers’ direct reports. 

Placeholder

How to support your direct reports 

If you are in charge of direct reports, you may be interested in how to support them in their roles and enhance the relationships among everyone on your team. With the following seven strategies, you can strengthen your team and the organization. 

1. Set aside time to manage your team directly. 

Reserving time to coach, mentor, collaborate, and develop your team can result in higher performance. The amount of time you devote to managing your team and individual direct reports may vary. When scheduling time to manage your team, consider how many direct reports you’re in charge of, other tasks and responsibilities, as well as their schedules. 

If your time is limited, you may find that shorter one-on-one and group meetings with focused agendas can be productive, especially if you ask for questions and feedback in advance. 

2. Adopt inclusive leadership.

As a management style, inclusive leadership can increase engagement among direct reports and inspire innovation. Inclusive leadership entails:

  • Welcoming new perspectives

  • Ensuring direct reports feel valued, heard, and supported

  • Exhibiting cultural intelligence and sensitivity

  • Listening without judgment 

Placeholder

specialization

Inspired Leadership

Leading to inspire and engage others. Learn concepts and skills to inspire and engage others for performance, innovation and satisfaction.

4.8

(1,147 ratings)

27,998 already enrolled

INTERMEDIATE level

Average time: 8 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Emotional Intelligence, Coaching, Appreciative Inquiry, Leadership, Negotiation, Mindfulness, Assertiveness, Communication, Active Listening, Change Management, Positive Psychology, Facilitation

3. Get to know your direct reports. 

When you know your direct reports personally and professionally, you can create rapport and make it easier to coach and motivate them. When leading team or one-on-one meetings, ask icebreaker questions like, “What is a unique skill you bring to this job?” or “What is your favorite line from a movie or book?” These kinds of questions can encourage everyone to open up in a low-stakes conversation and learn more about one another’s personalities. Also, make time to ask direct reports about their career and life goals. 

4. Establish open communication. 

Invite direct reports to reach out to you with questions and concerns about their work, as well as suggestions and ideas for new projects or processes.

5. Seek their feedback. 

Direct reports often operate on the organization's front lines, from interacting face-to-face with customers to designing and creating products. Their feedback on work processes, schedules, and other details can be invaluable when envisioning new directions for the team. In addition, you provide direct reports with the opportunity to influence team or company decision-making. 

Placeholder

specialization

Organizational Leadership

Successfully Lead in an Ever-Changing Business Environment. Master key strategies to successfully lead an organizational change effort in just five courses plus a final capstone project.

4.7

(2,374 ratings)

36,176 already enrolled

INTERMEDIATE level

Average time: 7 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Design Leadership, Negotiation, Leadership, Marketing, Team Management, Collaboration, Communication, Innovation, Crisis Management, Communications Management, Advertising, Data Analysis, Analytics

6. Offer regular performance evaluations.

It’s important to provide performance evaluations regularly, such as monthly or quarterly. Performance evals are important in understanding how employees contribute to an organization’s growth and when employees need coaching or training to improve their performance. 

Different methods of performance evaluation include:

  • Objectives-based evaluation: Managers and direct reports set goals together and evaluate whether goals are met.

  • 360-degree feedback: Evaluations come from all directions, including direct reports, managers, peers, and customers.

  • Human resource accounting method: Employees are evaluated according to the monetary value they bring to the company.  

7. Delegate tasks effectively. 

As you get to know your direct reports well—how they perform, the goals they’ve set, the kind of feedback that best motivates them—it’s important to delegate tasks effectively. Ask yourself which of your direct reports is best suited for specific tasks or projects. 

Learn leadership with Coursera 

Taking online courses can be a great way to build leadership skills and prepare to take on new responsibilities. Explore the course options below: 

Placeholder

specialization

Inspirational Leadership: Leading with Sense

Shape Your Life With Leadership. Become a better leader, manager, colleague, parent, or friend in three courses.

4.7

(1,371 ratings)

28,853 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 5 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Confidence, Communication, Leadership, Strategic Hr Leadership, Human Resources (HR)

Placeholder

specialization

Leading: Human Resource Management and Leadership

Get ready for the Future of Work. Leading people and organisations to adapt, compete and succeed in a complex, global environment.

4.9

(1,544 ratings)

26,476 already enrolled

INTERMEDIATE level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Strategic Thinking, Human Resources (HR), Visionary leadership, Organisational design, Value Chain, Organisational leadership, Organisational alignment, Change planning, Motivation, Diversity and Inclusion, Communication, Staff Management, Leadership Development, Leadership, Brand Management

Placeholder

specialization

Strategic Leadership and Management

Leadership and Business Skill for Immediate Impact. Apply practical strategies to becoming an effective organizational leader.

4.8

(5,611 ratings)

86,566 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 8 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Strategic Management, Negotiation, Leadership, Business Strategy, self-awareness, Ethical decision-making, Defining Leadership, Trust in relationships, Leadership Development, Develop team culture, Navigate growth and change in teams, Create space for DEIB, Facilitate psychological safety, Manage motivation and engagement, Organizational Structure, Knowledge of General Business Functions, Organization Design, Organizational Theory, Organizational Culture, Ethics, Decision-Making, Strategic Leadership, Organizational Change, Business Model, Strategic Thinking, Mergers And Acquisitions (M&A), Diversification, Global Strategy, Corporate Governance, Management

Related articles

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Learn without limits