Great management is a skill that isn’t easily defined, but you know a great manager when you see one. They’re leaders, they’re mentors, they’re coaches, and they inspire people to do their best.
At its essence, being a great manager is all about leadership. John Wright, in his article, “The Best Managers Are Leaders Too,”1 cited a survey by marketing company TSN that showed that fewer than one-third of all managers are perceived as strong leaders.
So what’s the secret? Here are five things great managers know for sure.
1. It’s good to be human, according to Jan Gordon in her article, “Top 10 Qualities of an Excellent Manager.”2 Management is not a science; it’s an art. And dealing with people and finding out what motivates them is never a clear-cut endeavor. Great managers must connect on a human level with their employees and develop a sense of trust. Managers who hide behind their authority, never admit mistakes, and don’t recognize how important it is to be recognized for one’s work aren’t able to lead effectively. Be comfortable being yourself, and people will respond.
2. Structure matters. It’s a delicate balance to maintain a steady, comfortable structure for employees that doesn’t stifle creativity and make people feel boxed in. Great managers are well-versed in the structure of the company and should be able to help employees navigate that structure. It’s part of the job.
For instance, if one of your employees has a good idea about how to streamline productivity, she should be able to count on you as her manager to get it into the right hands and move it through the proper channels. Part cheerleaders, part fixers, managers who understand leadership know it’s important to set the stage for their employees’ success.
3. Set the example. Probably the most important aspect of successful management and leadership is setting the example you want your employees to emulate. All the time. If you are lax about getting to work on time, you send a message to your employees that being on time isn’t that important. If you gossip about people at work, you can be sure you’ve set the tone for your employees to do the same.
And doing the right thing most of the time doesn’t count. Consistency is the only thing that counts. Your employees need to be able to count on you for steady leadership over the long haul. It requires discipline and commitment to set the example every day, but no one ever said leadership is easy.
4. Have clear expectations, Julie Fuimano wrote in her article, “The Elements of a Great Manager.”3 Your staff members should know exactly what is expected of them at all times. It’s a manager’s responsibility to make sure each and every member of the team understands his role and how success is defined. Otherwise, people will make assumptions about what they should be doing and will be likely to waste valuable time and resources on the wrong things. Provide employees with a detailed and comprehensive look at how their jobs affect the success of the group, and set clear standards of excellence. If you show your team members what you want and how to get there, they’ll bend over backward to do a great job for you.
5. Be open. Open office doors, open to new ideas, open posture—all are the hallmarks of a great manager. When you’re open and available, you set the tone for everyone else.
The people who work for you should know where they stand at all times. Give feedback openly, both positive and negative. It’s important for people to trust that you’re not holding back or being less than truthful.
Being open also means being available for all the daily stuff that pops up. Your employees need to know and trust that you will be there for them.
Being open with staff members requires continuous and thoughtful communication. When you have news to share from management meetings, let your team members in on the details. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure your staff members have all the information they need to perform. And all of that starts with the manager.4
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