Traits of a good manager

Following on from easily one of the most popular blog posts on my site (5 reasons why everyone needs Hank Voight in their lives), I delve into more “real world” traits of a good manager!

Your immediate superior is often the source of happiness or depression in your working life and the reality is that a lot of people aren’t simply cut out for life as a manager.

This doesn’t make them incompetent – because they could be perfectly skillful at their craft, but may simply lack the skills required to manager other people.

In my time working across companies of different sizes in 3 different cities, I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a manager but also about what it takes to be a great manager, based on my immediate superiors.

I found that when I tried too hard to be a friend instead of a manager, I came off as weak and lacking in authority. I’m not one to demand respect because I believe you earn and command respect by your actions. The moment I was firm but polite and diplomatic with those I managed, I was in a better position to lead my team.

I also found that I got on best and performed at my best when my managers gave me a bit of rope. This ranged from everything to coming in a bit later in the morning (or occasssionally being a bit late) to working half days or whole days from home or even just using my office time in a differnet location in order to focus and get things done. By not stifling me and making me worry about the small things, they allowed me to focus on what really matters. I’m all for punctuality but people aren’t always late coming into the office because of traffic or their alarms. Give them the benefit of the doubt and give that rope more slack.  Of course, if someone is clearly taking the mickey and abusing your trust, you need to reel them in.

On the topic of discipline, a mature manager never resorts to public displays of aggression and humiliation. Regardless of how colossal the problem is, it never warrants a public hanging. I’ve made my fair share of royal screw ups and they were best resolved when I was taken aside in private to get a full idea of what happened and how to fix it. Labouring the issue and having a fixation on finger pointing doesn’t resolve the issue faster. If you must go on a witch hunt, save it for later – get the problem sorted first. And if you really feel to dig into your team member who dropped the ball, play nice.

Being a jerk to your staff is a surefire way of losing them. Someone may have stuffed things up big time but you once made mistakes too (and still do) so give them a break. Never resort to namecalling, putdowns and generally unflattering speech. I know it can be hard to point out issues and problems without coming across as ‘mean’ but that’s what tough love is all about. You can still be their manager when you’re being their friend. I once got a bit sidetracked with things and my manager simply said to me that they were worried I wasn’t going to get things done in time and it wouldn’t reflect well on myself, them and our teams goals. After all he had done for me, I felt rather ashamed that I had let this happen and his diplomatic stance made me even more motivated to do the right thing by him and get the job done.

A good manager never looks for faults on a constant basis. A good manager knows that they’re not perfect and come with their own set of flaws that others can easily point out too. A good manager knows that we all benefit when we bring out the best in each other, and that we shield the flaws of others for the better good. I haven’t always been great with time management or client management but coaching me on these matters and supporting me in my growth has made me improve significantly. I am a better person now because of the nurturing attitude of my managers.

It really just comes down to not being difficult, rigid and unrealistic. You have to remember that you’re human too. Your pay packet might have an extra 0 at the end of it but it doesn’t make you better than those who sit under you in the organisation chart.

The best people I’ve ever worked for have always played nice and given me the benefit of the doubt. In return I’ve given them my unwaivering support and dedication to my work. And we’ve succeeded together as a team and reaped the rewards.

Be a good manager. Don’t treat others like dirt.

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