Everyone can recognize a great manager a mile away, so why is it so hard to find one? We all remember a few that are “legends in their own mind”, but that doesn’t do it. In fact, the clue here is that the view in your mind is the only one that matters, rather than the other way around.
Almost every one of us in business can remember that one special manager in their career who exemplifies the norm, who commanded our respect, and treated us like a friend, even in the toughest of personal or business crises.
I’ve asked many peers for the traits or attributes they saw in that person, and most will list the following positive functional traits of a good manager:
1. Leadership. Shows outstanding skills in guiding team members towards attainment of the organization’s goals and the right decisions at the right point of time. As Drucker said, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
2. Plan and delegate. Possesses foresight and skills to understand the relevant capabilities of team members, and then scheduling tasks and delegating to the right people to get tasks done within deadlines. You are a guide, not a commander.
3. Domain expert. Demonstrates complete knowledge of his field and confident about that knowledge, with the common sense to make quick productive decisions, and ability to think outside the box.
4. Set clear expectations. Employees should always know what is expected of them. One of the easiest ways to do this is to set deliverable milestones for each employee over a set period of time. Then review the performance vs. the roadmap or deliverable at least six months prior to a performance review and discuss ways to improve.
5. Positive recognition. Immediately recognize team members, publicly or privately, when they complete something successfully or show initiative. Congratulate them on a job well done. Most employees are not motivated by money alone. Good managers know that employees want regular recognition that their job is being done well.
In my view, these are all “necessary” attributes, but are not “sufficient” to put you in that ‘great’ category. Most people recognize that it takes more to be ‘great,’ but the attributes are a bit more esoteric, and harder to quantify. Here are a few:
6. Active listener. Shows traits such as listening with feedback, optimistic attitude, motivating ability, and a concern for people. Listening to what is said as well as what is not said is of the utmost importance. It is demoralizing to an employee to be speaking to a supervisor and be interrupted for a phone call. All interruptions should be avoided.
7. Shows empathy. This refers to the ability to “walk in another person’s shoes”, and to have insight into the thoughts, and the emotional reactions of individuals faced with change. Empathy requires that you suspend judgment of another’s actions or reactions, while you try to understand them, and treat them with sensitivity, respect, and kindness.
8. Always honest. Simply put, today’s managers live in glass houses. Everything that a manager does is seen by his employees. If a manager says one thing and does another, employees see it. Managers must be straightforward in all words and actions. A manager must “walk the talk.” That also means recognizing weaknesses, and admitting mistakes.
9. Sense of humor. People of all ages and cultures respond to humor. The majority of people are able to be amused at something funny, and see an irony. One of the most frequently cited attractions in great personal relationships is a sense of humor.
10. Keep your cool. A great manager is an effective communicator and a composed individual, with a proven tolerance for ambiguity. He/she never loses their cool, and is able to correct the team members without emotional body language or statements.
Whole books are written on this subject, but hopefully you get the picture. Great managers must do the technical job well – and they also must do the people job very well. Now that you understand these things, I’m not sure why it is so hard to find a great manager. I guess an even harder question I should ask is why is it so hard to be one?
CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups; ATIF Angels Selection Committee; Entrepreneur in Residence at ASU and Thunderbird School of Global Management.