What makes a good manager?
This is like asking someone what makes a good vacation, or what makes a good hobby. The answer could go in a million different ways, but is also very obvious when we see it and experience it.
Context matters, too
It also depends so much on context–individual skills, company culture and the ability to herd cats towards one common goal.
It seems like an impossible, but necessary task. And so many businesses, technological and industry changes are forcing managers to change and adapt faster than they may have in the past.
Plus, there are vastly different ways of managing. The hands-on manager who may micromanage, but makes sure everything gets down. Then there is the visionary who casts a sweeping plan, but leaves it up to the team to figure out how to get everything executed. And that’s only a couple of the management styles that people may use.
Not to mention, good managers also need to have expert knowledge in the industry, vertical or field to then execute on a specific vision or task.
We threw that question out to top business leaders and came away with 3 key themes:
- Collaboration and coaching
- Alignment of employee goals and business objectives
- Hire the best–even those better than them
Read all of their answers below.
What makes a good manager?
Good managers fully capitalize on the unique strengths of each direct report and optimize on individual-to-assignment fit. As Peter Drucker put it, the primary job of the manager is to direct the resources of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results. The primary resource of the organization is its human capital. A manager who is skilled at optimizing individual-to-assignment fit will consistently outperform a manager who is challenged at performing this task.
This requires a manager to take the time to discover and internalize what each direct report excels at and then solution on how to best leverage those unique strengths for the benefit of the business. Taking the time to discover individual strengths across the portfolio of individuals who report to you and then aligning work assignments to match those strengths is key.
For any given project, task or assignment the manager needs to understand exactly what it will take to complete it and specify the strengths that will be required for a direct report to complete the assignment in the way the manager needs the assignment to be completed. Weaknesses, on the other hand, present limitations which can rule a candidate out for an assignment. Sometimes an individual has the required technical skills and capabilities but if the assignment requires leading a team and the individual does not have competency in leading teams then the person-assignment fit is sub-optimal. It sounds simple and straightforward and it is. But in my experience this is the most critical and impactful capability a manager can possess.
Managers serve a critical role in the link between engaged employees and business results. The best managers understand it’s important to coach more than supervise. They understand the importance of getting to know employees as individuals. And they know what motivates them both on — and off — the job. When it comes to the manager/employee relationship, effective managers align three factors to target the core coaching zone: employee interest, skills, and the needs of the organization. The ability to target and grow the core coaching zone is a superpower of today’s top managers.
Rather than simply leading and directing the work of employees, today’s managers can — and should be — the catalyst who accelerates the application of learning and behavior change. When managers coach individuals in this way, they bring out the best in their people, they match employee interests to organizational needs — and they’re better able to unlock potential and inspire performance.
One sign of a great manager is the ability to level up with a role through periods of rapid team growth. As teams grow, it’s imperative that leadership rather than management becomes the dominant trait. Leaders give their team the goal and the support and resources they need to do their best work to achieve their targets – without being told exactly how to do it! When teams grow, it’s harder for weak leaders to hold things together, letting the best managers shine through.
– Weak leaders are intimidated by great people and make poorer hiring decisions to protect their ego. Great leaders recognize that the team is only helped by bringing on exceptional talent – and the biggest sign of this is when leaders hire people smarter and better than they are in the domain they’re hiring in.
I believe what makes a manager great is their ability to provide continuous coaching and feedback that helps an employee develop, grow, and achieve that next level of performance. This requires open, honest conversations with the employee about what is working well and where there is opportunity to improve. As a manager, you should hope that every employee who is under your leadership learns something new about themselves, becomes a stronger professional, expands their responsibilities, is promoted, or transitions to a new role that may ultimately be a better fit for them.
Two of the most beneficial qualities a manager can have are:
The ability to recognize and utilize the strengths of individual employees. Great managers instinctively pick up on the strengths and weaknesses of their employees and are able to apply those unique strengths in a way that is beneficial to the company. No two employees are the same and individuals can be much more effective when their strengths are used to their advantage.
The ability to adjust management styles for different personalities. The most successful managers can not only recognize that employees respond differently to management styles, but can also adjust their management style accordingly in order to maximize workplace happiness and, in turn, workplace productivity. For example, some employees need harsh, blunt criticism and use thrive off of the pressure that comes with that. Others shut down at any sort of harsh criticism and respond much better to gentle, encouraging guidance.
The best managers are high-performing individual contributors that reluctantly accept being promoted into managerial roles when they realize the rest of their coworkers yearning for (mostly) the managerial title are incapable of effectively leading and developing the team.
Great managers are talent that recognizes and multiplies talent. That’s what drives the best managers—the identification, development, and multiplication of talent. They also get enormous satisfaction from tackling big problems—the kind of problems that can only be solved by the thoughtfully orchestrated efforts of a team of high-performing and hardworking individuals.
Fantastic managers earn respect by being humble. They leave the ‘my way or the highway’ mentality at the door.. They also roll up their sleeves and work with the team by brainstorming and sharing ideas to work through complex issues. They foster an atmosphere where it’s not only acceptable, but desirable, for the team to ask a lot of questions. Great leaders are also honest about the fact that they don’t know every answer, and that they’ll know a lot more two years from now than they do today.
Do less talking and more listening. Empathic listening is crucial to being a good leader and helps build trust in any partnership. Too often, managers seek to take command and direct the conversation with their employees. However, as a leader and a mentor, it’s important to understand how your employees are feeling and what might influence their behaviors. Understanding the content that has been discussed and repeating back specific points in the conversation is essential in being a good listener. Good listeners are more likely to be effective leaders because they develop a relationship built on trust and understanding.
Create clear-cut objectives. One of the most important aspects to being a good manager is to set specific, measurable objectives—they can be an effective way to drive strategies and improve business processes. In order for your employees to succeed, they must understand what is expected of them, both short- and long-term. It is also important to clearly define team goals and make them relevant to each employee’s overall goals. Creating a plan of action and issuing certain deadlines are also imperative in driving the process. And finally, continue to keep lines of communication open at all times to help individuals who need guidance along the way.https://www.workzone.com/blog/management-styles/
Listen to your co-workers. Everyone no matter what level should have the chance to speak up and make suggestions in the work place. The more senior your role the more removed from the day to day operations you are and your life involves management people not clients or customers. Those employees on the front line dealing with the day to day are your eyes and ears so listen to them. Ask their opinion and for their feedback and make sure they are happy.
Give people responsibility. The best workers thrive on responsibility, make it clear that people are responsible for certain things and what is expected of them. Ensure they are rewarded as well. A good manager will allow their team to take on tasks, they will support them and assist but allow them the sole management of the task and recognise when they have done well.
Say well done! So many managers find it hard to say ‘well done’. Encouragement from your manager is really important it shows recognition and that you are heading in the right directions. Do not be scared employees will stop working because you praise them, those worth their salt will in fact work harder.
What makes a great manager? Adaptability. They must be authoritarian yet remainapproachable. They must be able to see the forest and the trees. They have to think in terms of absolutes(deadlines, budgets) and in terms of variables (personalities, skill sets). They’re responsible for understanding what clientswant, conveying that information to their team, then explaining it in termsUpper Management can relate to. They depend on the ability to recognize talent,nurture that talent … and know when to get out of the way so that talent cangrow. A great manager is one who can keep track ofall the myriad puzzle pieces and produce a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
One unique quality that makes a manager ‘great,’ is that they love the company culture. This term has been getting thrown around in the business world, but it is not without good reason. Company culture is who the company is, what they believe in, and what goals they are all chasing. Everyone within the company needs to share these same values and needs to represent this company culture. Every employee is a small representation of the overall company and should represent the company culture down to every aspect.
If you expect even the lowest level workers to buy into your company culture, then every manager, C-suite member, and the founder needs to wear this culture on their sleeve. If the founder doesn’t truly represent this, then the C-suite won’t, and then managers won’t, and every employee won’t. Your manager needs to truly love the company culture and ultimately become invested into the company. They are always trying to make the company better and themselves better.
GREAT managers do five things really well, every day. They inspire Growth, honor Relationships, inspire Excellence, ensure Accountability, and spur Teamwork. Doing ONE of those things well doesn’t make a manager a GREAT boss – they must do all of them, frequently.
My GREAT Boss Assessment gathers global data on the degree to which leaders model these five characteristics. The attached infographic shares some highlights; it can be used with proper credit.
The most important trait of successful business managers is the ability to maintain a positive attitude. Energy is the fuel that feeds our attitude and it needs to be replenished on a daily basis. Having a positive attitude is a conscious choice, so when negative thoughts creep in, stop them in their tracks and replace them with positive self-talk. Repeat words or phrases that focus on affirming truths about you. Surround yourself with like-minded leaders who are an inspiration and who will provide encouragement. Positivity allows you to see the potential that lies within you and gives you the faith to step outside of the box to achieve your dreams.
One characteristic of the truly great managers I’ve known is that they constantly push their direct reports to grow and stretch themselves by encouraging new projects that are slightly outside of the direct report’s comfort zone or experience.
Another thing that makes a manager great is recognizing that she doesn’t have all of the answers, so dictating a course of action (whether it be for a project, a report, or workflow) doesn’t show her direct reports that she trusts their ability to problem solve and plan.
The best managers are those that bring me a solution when they are bringing me a problem. There will always be problems and typically those fall at my feet. It’s so appreciated when one of our managers brings a problem to my attention but has also already outlined one or two solutions that might work to fix that issue. Even if we don’t end up using that suggestion, it usually kicks off a brainstorming session in which we ultimately decide together how we will address the issue.
I also like managers who project a positive attitude day in and day out. We’ve all worked for a grumpy manager before and nobody likes. It. Managers who exude positivity influence the workplace culture, and for that reason, I’ll take a positive upbeat manager any day over one who simply gets the job done. It’s the one factor I absolutely require in anyone we promote into a management position. Skills can be taught, but a positive attitude is something you either have or you don’t.
If you want to find a manager in your organization with the most loyal team members, look for one who manages up the org chart as much as he does down it. Most employees will tire of a boss who hands down directives from on high without ever pushing back. Employees want a manager who will go to bat for his team, who will argue against policies and procedures that are inefficient or counterproductive, who will fight for needed resources and process improvements. Managers with this mindset often have happier employees and more productive teams, and most smart executives respect this kind of pushback. It can be an excellent source of improved business performance.
There are a few simple things that make a manager great.
First, they lay out clear expectations. They do everything they can to ensure there is no ambiguity around the results they expect from their employees.
Second, they ensure their employees are set up for success. They provide the tools, resources, and development training needed to meet and exceed expectations.
Third, they empower their employees. They allow for autonomy; provide guidance, coaching, and expertise when it empowers the employee and enables them to overcome obstacles and be successful.
Fourth, they expect great work every time. Average, mediocre, or ok work isn’t good enough. They always push employees to do their best work, every time.
What’s abundantly clear is that good managers are also made great by their employees. That sounds like a chicken-or-the-egg dichotomy, but there’s no doubt that good managers are elevated by great teams, and good teams are made great by excellent managers.
Respect and appreciation from both sides also makes for a thriving work environment. That communication, even in the face of disagreement fosters a trustworthy relationship. That give-and-take can allow for bigger ideas and plans to bloom, ultimately benefiting the business as a whole.