Just as no one is born an engineer or doctor, no one is born a manager; what makes a good manager is a combination of a specific set of soft skills, personality traits, a willingness to grow into their position, and more. As an employee, it can be hard to identify a good manager. Especially when you consider what makes a good manager might be different from employee to employee.
If you’re a manager, whether you’re new to management or a veteran, you may wonder if you are a good manager at all. Those in management positions may feel they never get an honest assessment of their skills, because their employees may be too hesitant to give honest feedback to someone who controls a lot of their career development opportunities. If you feel this way, there may be some management skills you need to work on.
Managing people is an art and one that can take years for a manager to grow into. However, there are certain traits and personality types which thrive more easily in management roles.
Studying What Makes a Good Manager
In a study published by Seyed Sara Hosseini, researchers attempted to see what traits make someone a good leader and what correlation good management and employee happiness had.
The study looked at employee POS (perceived organizational support) which is a measure of how secure an employee feels in their current organization. This study looked at 166 management-level subjects who on average had 11 to 15 years of work experience. The study was almost half women and half men, with 57% of the participants being female and 43% being male.
What the study showed is that the higher the number of good traits a manager had, the more positive their employee’s POS score was. Good management traits that were rated were attributes like the manager’s sense of justice, compassion, commitment to promises and agreements, tolerance of difficulties, and more. The correlation test showed a clear positive correlation between a manager’s number of positive traits and their employee’s POS score.
Overall, this study showed that employees truly feel happier and more secure within their organization when their manager displays more positive leadership traits.
Six Qualities Which Make a Good Manager
We know that good leadership qualities lead to an overall happier team. However – what qualities are these, exactly? There are lots of qualities that make a manager stronger. Below we will highlight some of the core qualities and traits that make an efficient and respected manager.
Excellent Communication Skills
This one may seem like a no-brainer: managers who can communicate more effectively are better than those who cannot. Leading a group of people comes with a lot of nuances. Managers must be able to communicate effectively with all the different personalities on their team to ensure smooth sailing.
This also includes being able to give praise and feedback appropriately as a manager. If a manager does not learn how to give credit where it’s due, it can lead to employees feeling undervalued in the workplace. Conversely, if a manager never learns how to give concise but empathetic feedback, their employees will never grow or learn from their mistakes. Managers must make honing their communication skills a top priority to be efficient.
Although listening skills can be put under the broad umbrella of communication skills, the truth is that someone can be a concise and effective communicator, without being a great listener. However, listening skills are just as important as articulation skills in the world of leadership.
A manager may be able to effectively communicate expectations and feedback but fall short in listening to employee concerns. If an employee comes to a manager with a concern, and the manager simply allows them to vent and then moves along, without contributing ideas to improve on the employee’s concern, they have not mastered the art of listening.
A good manager will take employee concerns and feedback seriously and will put a great deal of effort into hearing out what the employee has to say, understanding where they are coming from, and making any feasible changes they can to support the employee.
No one wants a manager they can’t predict. Managers need to be reliable and consistent with their approach and expectations. If a manager changes their expectations at a moment’s notice, it can be hard for employees to keep up and may leave them feeling frustrated or burnt out from having to deal with frequently changing expectations. Good managers will focus on how to be a stable and consistent pillar of their employee’s day-to-day work life.
Good managers are trusted by their employees. Managers who are not trustworthy are less likely to be respected by their employees. Employees look to managers with sensitive concerns, and for guidance, but if an employee feels they can’t trust their manager, they may hesitate to bring up the concerns or guidance they need to talk about.
Employees need to know managers have their best interests at heart and need to trust their manager’s intentions. After all, managers have a big influence over any employee’s potential to grow within a company. Due to this, employees will want a manager that can be trusted to support them as they grow and develop in their role.
Empowers Their Team
A manager who trusts and empowers their team to get the job done is a better manager than someone who micromanages their team’s every step. Trying to control everything your team does and how they do it is a fast track to causing frustration, burnout, and disengagement in a team.
The best managers trust employees and let them complete tasks and try new things independently, while still overseeing current projects, offering feedback where it’s needed, and encouraging employees to take their job into their own hands and own their roles to the highest degree possible.
Solid Decision-Making Skills
Managers must make decisions, both about themselves and others, often in their day-to-day roles. A manager who has a hard time making decisions, or fears choosing “wrong”, will often be paralyzed by the amount of decisiveness a leadership role takes.
Part of being a strong decision-maker is having strong self-confidence. When a manager is confident in their ability and role, they will feel much more empowered to make decisions with their knowledge and expertise in their tool belt. Managers who can make swift, concise, and rational decisions, even in the face of a crisis, will be respected more by employees. These managers will also be easier to work for and make a better work environment for their team.
Other Key Traits of a Good Manager
There have been several studies across different institutions measuring what makes a good manager. Google’s Oxygen Project, for example, is one of the key examples of this, as is Hosseini’s research, and many more.
In the Google Oxygen Project, the research found some key traits that predicted how well that person would do in their management role, including:
- Good coaching skills
- Avoids micromanaging
- Inclusive (via empathy and good listening skills)
- Strong communication skills
- Supportive of development efforts
- Clear visions for their team and strategy
- Relevant technical skills
- Strong decision maker
Google has used the metrics from their study with great success. Since launching this research in 2008, Google has seen less turnover, more engagement, and an overall happier workforce.
Development Techniques to Make Good Managers
If you are looking to improve upon the skills that make a good manager or improve upon the management techniques at your organization overall like Google has, it’s important to focus on manager development. Sadly, managers often implement lots of development strategies for their subordinates and miss out on development opportunities for themselves in the process.
To understand where managers are doing well and where improvement is needed, consider an anonymous manager effectiveness survey. Employees can rank their higher-ups on a set of skills and traits selected by the company to measure their current effectiveness as a manager. These surveys will show you which managers are good at which key functions of their job and can serve as a guide for choosing which managers should be cross-training other managers on certain skills.
These surveys will also show the company where they need to invest in ancillary training or education for managers and in what areas. Once you’ve identified which areas need improvement and implement training practices for managers in these areas, you can run the anonymous survey again to see how it changes the employee experience with their manager. It’s important for companies to realize that just because someone was developed enough to be moved into a management role. Does not mean they don’t need any more training or development.
When talking about what makes a good manager, there are several key features and traits of a person that come into view. Using past research, it’s easy to see how an effective manager can greatly improve the overall employee experience and vice versa. If you want a thriving company, it’s important to invest in developing managers into the best leaders they can be.