When you think about your favorites managers what about them made them great? Was it the success you earned while working with them? Your employer may have evaluated them based on metrics like team productivity or turnover rates. Great managers are usually good at leading productive, low-turnover teams, but those aren’t the things their employees remember.
So what about them left such an indelible mark on you? Perhaps this manager was easily approachable and worthy of your trust. Perhaps they effectively led your team and always looked out for each member. Perhaps they were always laser focused on developing their team—on developing you.
In our view, the success of a manager is defined by the success of the people they lead.
Bad Management Practices Are Rampant, But That Can Change
Unfortunately, the terrible manager remains a popular character in our collective consciousness—and for good reason. There’s no shortage of managers unwisely promoted into the role or given insufficient training to manage people well.
You’ve got the micromanager, the bully, the leader who plays favorites, and the boss who emails subordinates in the middle of the night. You’ve likely met or heard about the manager who frequently blows off meetings, neglects to give needed details on a project, or takes credit for the work of others.
With bad management practices so rampant, it’s easy for people to forget that there are lots of managers who do their job very well. That’s why we want to look at the characteristics of the best managers and what businesses can do to hire, promote, and develop these leaders.
Qualities of the Best Managers
The best managers work hard to improve the work lives of their team members. A big part of that is setting and communicating clear expectations.They focus on performance, so their people get better at what they do. This includes empowering employees to identify development areas that they want to improve upon. Another huge part is fostering collaboration and cooperation amongst the teammates so that people work well together and with other teams. The best managers also recognize and advocate for their people and listen carefully to what their people need to be successful.
These managers are empathetic, understanding, and supportive. They come to better understand what motivates and inspires the team. They’re always available to troubleshoot problems, brainstorm ideas, and provide guidance on projects. They’re effective communicators and when needed, can deliver any criticism or course correction in a constructive, positive way.
Developing the Best Managers
These traits and behaviors can be taught and nurtured. Managers also need to be managed. Here are some ways you can build more effective managers and nurture the traits that make managers great.
- Train New Managers After You’ve Promoted Them
When you promote a stellar employee into a managerial role, you also must give them the tools to successfully manage people. It is up to the employer to be certain they know the responsibilities involved, and how to execute those responsibilities. Also consider managers that are building a new team. Do they have the resources to successfully interview candidates, perform tasks in your applicant tracking software, communicate with HR about the process?
To build truly successful managers, leadership may need to go back to the basics and provide not only base-level training, but clear avenues for answers, guidance, and support. Should new managers go to their own managers first or to HR with questions or problems? These are things that should be spelled out and communicated.
It also doesn’t hurt to prepare new managers for the role before you hire or promote them into it. Talk with them about what the job will be like, especially if they haven’t managed before. Go over what’s needed and what to expect. Be open about the struggles and the stress the new manager can expect to experience and make sure they have the desire to manage.
- Practice Presence
Most managers don’t want to or have the time to micromanage. They hope their reports have the skills and knowledge to do the job they were hired to do, and so they take a hands-off approach and let their reports get to it. Or they’re too busy with their own projects to do anything more than basic managerial duties. But that’s a sure way to see projects or tasks go off-track, especially if managers don’t make themselves available for troubleshooting, or provide clarity on instructions.
Remind your managers to treat silence from their reports as an opportunity to check in, offer an ear, problem solve, or simply cheerlead. Check-ins don’t have to be formal, overwhelming, or take more time than necessary. A scheduled check in call (at an agreed-upon frequency) gives managers insight into projects and helps employees feel heard and celebrated.
- Guide the Guiders
Good managers don’t necessarily have all the answers—but they know where to get them. Company leadership should aim to provide managers at all levels with the resources and training they need to do their best. Do your people leaders have access to mentors either inside the company or with resource groups, and do you encourage these relationships? Mentorship programs that connect managers from different departments can provide managers with inspiration and support.
Newer managers might not know immediately how to handle a situation where an employee has a health crisis or family issue that suddenly takes them away from work. Do your managers know where to turn? Do they go to HR or to company leaders?
Programs can be robust, such as mandatory manager trainings scheduled throughout the year, or as simple as setting up an internal messaging process (e.g., Slack, Skype, text messaging) or smaller interdepartmental groups of managers that can provide informal support to one another. Whether your company has the budget for a formal training program or not, connections can and should be made to support managers.
- Promote Teamwork Among Managers
Are your managers operating as a team within the organization? Each of your managers has a distinct approach to management that affects their leadership style. Are they self-driven or need distinct deadlines? Are they good communicators, or need coaching there?
These differences can work, but they can also cause confusion and inequality. For instance, employees who report to or work with more than one manager may not know what is expected of them. Or they may find themselves overworked if managers don’t coordinate workloads.
To bring managers together, you need something to unite them around. This is your company culture—the personality of the organization, its mission and values, working environment, policies, and practices. Ensure your managers are following consistent management practices, making decisions aligned with the values of the company, and regularly communicating with one another about their needs, challenges, and workforce changes.
Neither good managers nor bad managers exist in a vacuum. They either have or don’t have the support of company leadership. A culture of poor management can lead to employee dissatisfaction, burnout, and increased turnover, all of which can be costly. An investment in selecting with intention and training your managers is not just an investment in them, but an investment in the company.
Adapted from content from Mineral HR.