What Does It Take To Be a Good Manager?

Basically, when it all boils down to it, there are only 3 main characteristics that go to make up an effective manager or team leader.  These 3 traits keep coming up time and time again in our conversations with employees.  What are they?  Look below and take them in. 

Don’t believe that you automatically know how to do the things listed.  Our experience tells us that very few managers or leaders really know what it takes to be a “good leader”.  Sure we all seem to pay lip service to such notions, but it is another to actually put them into practice.

Be Honest

Based on surveys of more than 15,000 people (“Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, Why people demand it” by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner), which trait did people select as the most effective key for leadership?   Being honest – 87% considered this as the most important characteristic!

Honest people have credibility – and that’s what gives managers or leaders the trust and confidence of their staff.  What therefore, do credible leaders actually do?

  • They do what they say they will do. They keep their promises and follow through on their commitments.
  • Their actions are consistent with the wishes of the people they manage. They have a clear idea of what others value and what they can do.
  • They believe in the inherent self-worth of others and they learn how to discover and communicate the shared values and visions that can form a common ground of which all can stand.
  • They are capable of making a difference in the lives of others.
  • They admit their mistakes. They realise that attempting to hide mistakes is much more damaging and erodes credibility.  Also, when they admit to a mistake, they do something about it.
  • They create a climate for learning characterised by trust and openness.

Be Positive

Another important characteristic that sets managers and team leaders apart is the notion of being positive (“The Manager’s Advisor”, by Peter Stark).  For example, try the following:

  • Develop a positive vision. See success before it arrives.  For instance, successful managers when visualising themselves walking across a high wire, see themselves getting to the other side.  Managers who struggle usually have their focus on not falling off the rope or worse still, never see themselves making it to the other side.
  • Think big. Look for ideas that will be contagious and excite people.
  • Encourage others to do their best. Successful leaders believe that people do want to make a significant contribution to their work place.  Coach, counsel and develop people to live up to their potential.
  • Set and maintain high expectations for all who work with you. Mediocrity does not generate a highly motivated work force.
  • Overuse polite phrases. Unsuccessful leaders don’t seem to find the time to say “please” or “thank you”.
  • Be friendly to staff, but don’t treat them like close personal friends. You are the boss and they are the employees.  It works better that way.
  • Never be too busy to laugh. Nothing gets people through a crisis like a good laugh — and a manager who’s willing to enjoy it with them.

Be Communicative

Staff invariably bring up issues to do with the quality and quantity of communication at work.  Many complain that management give lip service to open communication, but do little to really communicate with them.

Without exception, ineffective communication results in gossip and rumours, poor morale, and under-currents of tension resulting in poor cooperation, lower productivity, and absenteeism.

Experience shows that there are a number of ways that managers and leaders can improve internal communication.  Note the following listed below:

  • Communication is a two-way street. It involves giving information and getting feedback from staff.  It isn’t finished when information is simply given.
  • Use face-to-face communication. Don’t rely on pin boards, memos and other written communication.
  • Communicate clearly. Ask yourself each time an instruction is given as to whether the message is clear.  Don’t be vague.  For example, don’t simply tell a staff member to “show more interest in their work” if they are spending too much time chatting with others – be specific about what you want to say.
  • Listen. Show staff respect when they speak.  They will feel part of the team and will tend to be more productive and dedicated.  For example, ask questions to show interest and paraphrase and clarify points.
  • Open-door policy – do it, just don’t talk it. Walk around and talk to staff.  Allow staff to disagree with you and to come up with new ideas.
  • One-on-one meetings. Sit down with each staff member to determine what the employee considers important to get the job done.  Equally important is the opportunity for the employee to see what’s important to the boss to get the job done.