What does it mean to be a “good” manager?
Is it using your charisma to get people to follow you? Is it about having an overpowering personality that gets things done?
Or is it all about being empathetic?
In an era where people are obsessed with efficiency but are also advocates of employee-friendly practices, it’s critical for every manager to have the necessary skill sets and the perfect personality— the complete package.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what it all means by highlighting the key skills and qualities great managers possess.
What It Takes to be a Good Manager
Time and again, history has proven that organizations fare well under good managers.
After all, without a qualified captain to steer the ship, the crew is at risk of running into one iceberg after another.
Before diving into the details of what it means to be a good manager, here are some timeless quotes from legendary leaders and authors:
- “A good manager finds satisfaction in helping others be productive, not being the most productive person in the room.”
Successful management isn’t about doing everything yourself and carrying the whole team. Instead, it’s about enabling your team members to do more—and be more.
- “Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.”
Great managers don’t use intimidation as a tool to get things done. Rather, they inspire and motivate their team to achieve goals. It’s about lighting a fire inside of people—not under them.
- "Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another."
–John C. Maxwell
More than hierarchy and hard skills, good managers are focused on how they use their privileges and talents to make a difference in their companies.
The 12 Key Qualities Shared by All Good Managers
To become a good manager, you need to develop a cocktail of qualities, ranging from identifying hidden potential to being more understanding toward your employees.
Here are 12 key traits of great managers, along with tips on how to add them to your own repertoire.
1. Good managers are great leaders
Managers should focus on becoming good leaders, rather than being stern and unapproachable bosses (in fact, if you’re headhunting, you should actively seek out leadership qualities when hiring a manager).
Being a good leader is not only about motivating, inspiring, and coaching everyone towards success, but also about providing the constructive feedback, resources, mentoring, and support that enables them to do so.
Additionally, great team captains should always consider the best interests of the people they manage, be transparent about their operations, and stay ready to help complete any task a team member is struggling with.
2. Good managers show empathy
Being emotionally distant and indifferent to the feelings of your subordinates is one of the worst traits a manager can have. It can also negatively impact the employee experience and decrease retention.
Unfortunately, it appears as though many workers don’t get the support they need from their managers. For example, one study revealed that 96% of employees felt that it was important for employers to be more empathetic.
As such, managers should focus on understanding the day-to-day tasks of their teams, the pain points that prevent them from performing at their best, and cultivating a work environment and culture that allows them to work comfortably, efficiently, and openly.
3. Good managers are skilled at delegating tasks
Good managers have a knack for identifying potential within their teams.
They use this talent to their advantage by delegating tasks and splitting responsibilities accordingly.
This, in turn, helps their employees achieve maximum productivity and be satisfied with their performance.
4. Good managers have high EQ (emotional intelligence)
Being a good manager requires resolving conflicts, dealing with nerve-wracking stress, understanding and relating to the emotions of others, and much more.
Emotionally-intelligent managers—those who are aware of and have control over their emotions and understand the emotions of those around them—can better manage troubling situations, lead the team out of a slump, and resolve internal conflicts with relative ease.
5. Good managers are knowledgeable
A great manager is knowledgeable about their line of work and their industry as a whole.
They’re open to learning new skills and regularly consume knowledge that could help them become better at what they do.
As a manager, you need to strive to become the most knowledgeable person in the room—not just for the sake of your position but because your team looks up to you for guidance.
6. Good managers capitalize on the strengths of their team members
Good managers need to be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their team members and enable their employees to play to their strengths.
By creating responsibilities focused on their skills, managers can:
- Motivate team members
- Enhance employee experiences
- Send productivity and results through the roof
To do so, here are a few managing hacks you can use today:
- Closely monitor the performance of everyone reporting to you and create a list of their strengths. For example, if a certain marketer is particularly skilled at producing copy, you can leverage their talent to produce high-level collateral.
- Have one-on-one discussions with your team members about their areas of expertise, the type of work they enjoy, and other skills they’d like to explore.
In the end, it’s also important to share the results with your team and let them know how their work is helping the organization achieve its goals.
7. Good managers mentor and develop their teams
All good leaders have one thing in common: They’re great at mentoring others.
Ultimately, no employee would complain about having a manager who’s always there to guide, inspire, and advise them through different aspects of work—and life—as the situation warranted.
To accomplish that, here are some things you can try today:
- Provide clear and constructive feedback on an individual basis.
- Learn to identify the thin line between “guidance” and “micromanagement.”
At the end of the day, it’s about being ready to lend a helping hand to the right person—and at the right time.
8. Good managers set clear expectations
One recent survey revealed that 42% of employees were stressed out because of unclear goals.
All good managers understand the importance of setting clear (and realistic) expectations—thereby leaving no room for ambiguity.
One way of doing that is by overtly defining goals.
Use the SMART methodology to figure out what your goals should be:
- Specific – use specific words or details while setting a goal
- Measurable – use a metric to track performance and provide a target
- Attainable – ensure that the goal itself is realistic
- Relevant –ask yourself why it’s necessary, i.e., how it will help your team/organization
- Time-based – set a time-based deadline to provide a clearer target
For example, instead of having a goal that says “boost website traffic,” you could have a goal that says, “boost website traffic by 25% using content marketing within six months because it will help us increase brand awareness and generate more leads.”
Whether it’s a small, day-to-day task or a long-term project, managers should know just what to expect from every employee (based on their capacity)—and clearly communicate those expectations.
9. Good managers take accountability for their teams
One of the key differences between a good and a bad manager is that the latter always finds a way to blame others for any hiccups or outright failures.
A good leader, on the other hand, always takes accountability for their actions.
Instead of blaming specific individuals, they identify specific weak areas, try to find the lesson in defeat, and emerge on the other side in a stronger position.
To do that realistically, you can have post-project meetings where you briefly discuss any shortcomings then provide constructive feedback and ideas on how to improve within the same area moving forward.
10. Good managers promote an open-door policy
Communication is key in leading any company towards success. For that very reason, a good manager promotes an open-door policy.
To empower your employees by being more welcoming, you can:
- Encourage your employees to come to you about anything—and at any time
- Become easily approachable (e.g., remove all formalities, such as email appointments)
The end goal here is to get to the point where your team is comfortable in discussing their challenges and concerns with you.
11. Good managers strive to relate to the challenges of their employees
Instead of neglecting the feelings and day-to-day challenges of your employees, strive to understand and relate to them.
And don’t just stop there. Go the extra mile and:
- Ease the workload or provide flexibility to help employees cope with their personal challenges.
- Offer a personal helping hand, if necessary and appropriate.
Again, the key here is communication.
At times, employees might not feel comfortable reaching out and sharing their problems. If that’s the case, it’s up to you to take the first step and let it be known that you’re happy to listen.
12. Good managers is fair in evaluating performance
Last but not least, the best managers always give credit where it’s due.
In fact, nearly 70% of employees believe that they’d be more productive if management recognized their efforts.
Therefore, a good manager needs to understand the importance of fair evaluation and believe in rewarding their employees for their hard work.
The best way to get started is by:
- Having an effective performance review process in place (and using performance reviews to boost happiness)
- Rewarding your employees from time to time for their accomplishments (even if it’s as little as a pat on the back or public praise)
In the end, remember not to hog all of the credit. Share the glory with the entire team instead. You won’t regret it.
Good managers vs. bad managers
To summarize everything and provide you with quick dos-and-don’ts of being a good manager, here’s a general comparison:
|Bad Managers||Good Managers|
|Are quick to blame their subordinates and other departments for hiccups and failures||Take accountability for their actions, identify all the potential drawbacks that could have caused the failure, and view them as an opportunity to grow and become better|
|Don’t offer their guidance and constructive criticism when necessary and tend to get overly involved in tasks||Understand that there is a fine line between working with team members and micromanaging them|
|Believe in rigid policies and use the one-size-fits-all approach for everything||Are flexible and promote creative thinking in their teams|
|Take the credit for their wins while ignoring or short-selling the contributions of their employees||Stand behind their team members when celebrating success and give credit where it’s due|
|Are only focused on getting results||Are focused on mentoring and developing individuals, and using their skills to achieve success|
Needless to say, without the right management, it’s impossible to grow and scale.
Here are a few eye-opening statistics to back this up:
- A study by the American Psychological Association revealed that 75% of employees considered their bosses the most stressful part of work.
- According to TINYpulse’s Employee Retention Report, 40% of respondents who didn’t think highly of their managers had interviewed somewhere else over the past three months (it’s a well-known fact that employee retention saves companies money).
- Believe it or not, U.S. companies collectively spend somewhere around $360 billion in health care costs that are linked to bad managers.
Considering the above, it’s clear that being a manager isn’t a mere privilege. It’s a burden on your shoulders that can impact the very lives of your employees—and the scalability of your company.
Wrapping it up
In a nutshell, being an ideal manager boils down to becoming a great leader, recognizing the efforts of your team, consistently learning, and developing and improving emotional intelligence.
Unfortunately, taking your managerial skills to the next level won’t happen overnight. It’s a long game. The good news is that by actively making efforts to improve and being consistent, you can gradually become a great manager. And that’s the ticket to happier, more engaged employees, a healthier business, and a better bottom line.