Three traits that make a good manager

Recently in our practice we’ve witnessed an increasingly recurring question from our clients: What makes a good manager?

It seems to be a common theme in the work place today.

In fact, most people leave jobs not because of the organisation or their remuneration, but because of their managers and the workplace culture.

Gallup studies have shown that there can be as much as a 70% variance in workplace performance based on the manager.

We spend most of our waking hours working and a bad manager can only make our work-day unenjoyable. We also tend to take these emotions home making us miserable even when we are not at work.

The problem starts with who we choose to be our managers.

The two leading reasons for appointing someone to management is either (a) their successful performance or excellence in a job (that may not have anything to do with management); or (b) tenure in the role or organisation.

In other words most people are made mangers because of seniority or expertise – with little experience, training, or ability to manage people.

It simply does not work!

In one recent example, the most successful salesperson and the most senior employee in the organisation was promoted to become the manager, without any regard for management ability. This decision left the company with an inadequate leader and regrettably without their best performing sales person.

This example is not an aberration!

A recent study revealed that companies fail to choose mangers with adequate skills a stunning 83% of the time

So what does make a good manager?

We’ve listed our top three immutable qualities of a good manager:

1. Servant Leadership

Good managers must have a servant-first mindset towards their people. A litmus test for servant leadership is the manager’s time spent on the front-line with her/his people – being part of the team. Language can also be a key indicator. In our experience good managers tend to use the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ rather than ‘me’ and ‘I’ – when speaking of achievements and performance. Great managers tend to attribute success to others whilst being front and centre when things go wrong, taking responsibility for failures.
Finally, Servant Leadership considers the sanctity of the human person. As the old saying goes, “you don’t hire a hand – the whole person comes to work.” Good managers must pay serious and authentic consideration to their people’s life outside of work and accomodate them as best they can.

2. Understanding the Performance Paradigm

Anyone who is responsible for another must be proficient in what we call the Performance Paradigm. By this we mean not just a Strengths/Weaknesses analysis which has been well documented in management theory lately, but also understanding how a person performs: what are their ideal communication modalities (how they express themselves and conversely how they process information and feedback); their work behaviours and preferences; their life-engagement needs, desires and requirements; their values; their passions; and the way they would like to be recognised and rewarded.
Importantly, a manager must have a good understanding of his/her own Performance Paradigm.
The Performance Paradigm is based on the premise that every person is unique in their abilities and their flaws – including the manger. It requires deep interpersonal learning, honesty and humility combined with a shared sense of vulnerability.
This can be achieved by answering a few key questions:

  • What are the unique talents, abilities and eccentricities of each person and how do I integrate those so they contribute to achieving the organisation’s purpose
  • In my role as coach, what must I do to challenge and encourage them on their journey of: learning, communication, excellence and accountability.
  • How do I maximise a person’s individual strengths whilst protecting them by making their weaknesses irrelevant.
    To be able to say, for example, “I am simply not good at this and I need your help.” And in the same vein to reach out and reciprocate in areas we are truly capable.

We have used the Performance Paradigm successfully in the work place and in professional sport with great results. If you’d like to know more about how to put this to work in your organisation do contact us!

3. Linking organisational purpose with contribution and accountability

Good managers must be able clarify the organisation’s purpose and translate what that means to the people responsible for achieving it. There are few things more powerful than a compelling purpose when aligned to contribution.
We all have an innate desire to contribute, to be challenged and to learn. When we understand the value of our work, the role we play in achieving success we we tend to give our very best.
Finally, good managers must be accountable and hold those around her/him to the same standards. When one person in a team does not contribute and is not held accountable for their non-performance it affects the entire group‘s morale and performance.

Management takes skill and practice, and improves with experience. Critically though, only good people can make good managers. There is no substitute for authenticity and a genuine desire to care and coach those we manage.