Superior management often makes all the difference—better execution from teams, more productivity from individual employees and a rich culture that leads companies to thrive. Having the right talent at the top of your organization builds the best foundation for sustainable success.
So that’s why it’s essential that executives identify the right qualities that make managers great when choosing its leaders. A company’s executives must reinforce the importance of these values when delivering the day-to-day direction for each team. It’s equally important that current management assess their own behavior and determine how to consistently improve for the best outcomes.
The future of your business depends on it.
In this post, we’ll explore some of the vital traits that separate the extraordinary leaders from the mediocre ones. Here are five of the most effective ways great managers set themselves up for success.
1. Demonstrate focus
Great managers know how to steady the ship and keep the target destination clearly in sight. With a consistent focus on what matters most to the organization, employees will be inspired to do their best work for the common goal.
Leaders that panic at the first sign of trouble and burden their team with the job of constantly putting out fires will trigger the opposite reaction—a reliable feeling of frustration that leaves assignments incomplete and key metric goals missed.
How do you remain focused at all times? Commit to essential objectives and key results and motivate your team to use each daily task as a move toward the big picture goals.
Average managers, on the other hand, will expect KPIs to be met while overwhelming their employees with non-essential assignments. It might help you earn a few short-term wins, but in the long-run the organization will suffer. Stay focused instead. Instill confidence in your employees that you know where the team is headed.
2. Find what matters most to each employee
Part of what makes management so interesting, but often frustrating, is the myriad of employee personalities you’ll encounter on the job. But it’s the responsibility of the manager to adjust, not the other way around. As Mark Buckingham argued: “identifying and capitalizing on each person’s uniqueness saves time,” but getting to know what makes everyone tick isn’t always easy.
I’ve often found one-on-one meetings to be the most effective way to learn more about each employee and determine how to better craft your management style to meet their needs and inspire productivity. In these essential sessions, you can also gauge where they find motivation. Don’t hesitate to simply ask for specifics: i.e. why are they doing their job, what do they want out of the role and what are their long-term goals? I have a list of 28 questions that can help spark interesting conversations during one-on-one meetings.
But the most important thing you can do is listen. The truly great managers know they have as much to learn from the people they employ as their employees will learn from them. When you demonstrate effective listening skills around your team, you are gathering crucial data that will make you great and help you tailor your behavior in the office to get the most out of the group.
3. Stay positive
It’s so remarkably simple, yet a good attitude can make a major difference in the mindset of each employee as they enter the office. “When the outlook of the manager is positive, the team automatically gets rejuvenated every Monday,” Bhavik Sarkhedi writes. “They start working positively and expect positive things in the way which enhances their productivity.”
A sizable chunk of leadership focus is reinforcing the idea that your team can achieve what it has set out to accomplish and should expect to win.
In an office culture that leans on the fear of failure as motivation instead, employees will be too afraid of screwing up to truly exceed expectations. This limits your entire organization’s success and can lead to trust dissolving among your team. If your employees are walking on eggshells to keep from upsetting their manager, they are less likely to tap into the unique qualities that make them great workers.
Great managers take responsibility for their mood in the office and know that their behavior will have a disproportionate impact on the workplace atmosphere. They force themselves to remain upbeat in the face of adversity to rally the troops.
4. Be a great communicator
You can’t be an extraordinary leader if you are unable to get your message across to your employees. Great managers excel in communicating with their teams.
They use tools available to deliver regular updates on the progress of each major initiative. They outline a direction for the team to move in and underline the value of these goals for the organization.
To be a great communicator, a manager must be direct with employees on their performance and detail what is expected of them. Ambiguity around expectations will confuse teams and make companies less productive. A straightforward and honest leader is someone who will earn the trust and respect of their employees. They can deliver the hard truths when needed and build strong relationships among their team, so they keep everyone moving together to achieve more.
If employees have clarity when it comes to goals and expectations, and if communication is consistent, there are fewer reasons to carve out unnecessary time to make sure everyone is on the same page. While mediocre managers rely on large group meetings to attempt to get their ideas understood, a great manager understands that there are more effective ways to communicate without spending so much time devoted to team gatherings.
5. Stay fair and consistent
One of the other great trust-building traits of a wonderful manager is the ability to be impartial to employees when possible and have fair expectations in what they ask of them.
Your team won’t be inspired by a leader who expects a great deal from his or her subordinates but doesn’t demand the same effort in their own work. Additionally, a manager that lets some employees slack while others are forced to pick up the unfinished work will breed distrust among the ranks.
Of course, different employees require different needs, but you don’t want to exert all your energy bending over backwards to get low performers to catch up at the expense of ignoring other employees that rely on your guidance as well.
The top managers do their best to inspire all employees to succeed at the level that matches their talent and experience and take the responsibility of leading by example. When employees don’t meet expectations, managers should do their best to implement impartial consequences so everyone feels a responsibility to the team’s outcomes.
These tips and strategies will help you develop the qualities you need to become a great manager. However, any company that plans to staff its leadership ranks with great managers will do so by treating these traits not just as behaviors but as values to be instilled in everyone on the team.
It will be so much more difficult to expect exemplary management amidst a toxic culture. Advocate for a consistent, focused approach to management that values employee’s work and holds leadership accountable. Argue for positive culture as an essential ingredient of any great company’s success.