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

Written by Coursera Staff • 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 called 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 org chart level. 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 and 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. 


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. You can strengthen your team and the organization with the following seven strategies.

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, and 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

3. Get to know your direct reports.

Knowing your direct reports personally and professionally 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 favourite 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 and 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.

6. Offer regular performance evaluations.

It’s important to provide performance evaluations regularly, such as monthly or quarterly. Performance evaluations 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, and the kind of feedback that best motivates them—it’s important to delegate tasks effectively. Ask yourself which direct reports are best suited for specific tasks or projects.

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