The trope of the bad manager is everywhere in our culture. Entire shows have been built on that premise, and they’re not just fiction. It’s a common problem in our modern workforce.
Good managers need to rise above that. If you want a productive workspace, a happy team and an increased revenue for your business or department, you’ll need to understand what makes a good manager.
Fortunately, a good manager is not hard to spot. Inspiring leaders aren’t a rarity, so it’s important to be mindful of the 5 traits that I’m going to outline today.
How To Identify A Good Manager
What I’m going to show you isn’t an exhaustive list. Good managers come in different shapes and sizes, and throughout my career I’ve met a lot of very different people that still fit the model of a good leader.
However, these five traits are very common in good managers. If you want to hire someone to manage a team, they should definitely display these particularities.
By far the most important trait in a manager is ownership over their actions. If they make a good decision that puts your company forward, they should take pride in that, without putting anyone down or discrediting the help they got. But the opposite is true as well. If they make a mistake, good managers don’t try to cover it up. They’ll come out honestly and publicly declare what went wrong, and what solutions they see fit.
Good managers need to have accountability for a few reasons. First, because that’s how they’ll earn the trust of the team they’re leading. Honesty and owning one’s actions is a universally appreciated trait.
Second, because good managers lead by example. Your employees should be accountable as well, so it all starts at the top. It’s a trickle down trait.
Lastly, because good managers can be held accountable in front of higher-ups or even company owners. If you want to hire someone as a manager, you need to be sure they’re trustworthy, and there’s no better metric of that than accountability.
How can you spot it?
Try to gauge their career for mistakes in an interview. Notice how they talk about what went wrong, at any point. If they’re honest about making a mistake and mention how they fixed the situation, they understand accountability.
Pushing papers and tracking KPIs doesn’t require courage. But you’re not just hiring a manager for the day-to-day operation of a business. When an emergency happens everyone in your company should be able to rely on the manager.
And good managers understand that. They have the courage to step up and take the right decision in difficult situations. Conversely, good managers have the courage to make a call in times of booming growth, which secures even more opportunities or revenue for your company.
When you boil it down, management has a lot to do with risk-taking. Just like entrepreneurship, managers can always play it safe and take diminishing returns on their work, or they can see an opportunity, seize it and take your business to the next level.
How do you spot it?
Ask potential managers about their extraordinary feats and how they react in times of pressure. If they have results in critical moments, they will display courage as a manager.
First and foremost, good managers can be trusted. If they promise something they’ll follow up, and if an unforeseen situation arises, they’ll know how to navigate it.
But it’s not just about being able to trust a manager. They need to be able to inspire trust in your team, and they need to understand when they can trust an employee. Good managers see the weak and strong points of each team member, so they understand when they can delegate tasks, and to whom.
On top of that, a good manager will build a strong team around them, so they’ll know not to micromanage any employees. Instead, good managers will trust them to complete their tasks so they can focus on the big picture.
How can you spot it?
Expertise is most important when understanding who you can trust to be a manager. When it comes to inspiring trust and trusting other employees, try to find out how a potential manager goes about their day. If there’s a lot of interference with employee tasks, they might not be that great at delegating.
When thinking about what makes a good manager, it’s important to look for assertive people. Good managers will speak their mind bluntly and they won’t budge at the slightest bit of resistance, either imposed by social norms or reluctant team members.
You need that assertiveness in order to meet strategic goals without hindrance. However, assertiveness needs to be balanced by diplomacy and an open mind. Only bad managers will not budge if they’re about to make a mistake that’s pointed out to them.
So you don’t just need assertiveness, you need assertiveness balanced by the ability to share a vision with a team, and the critical thinking to see a flaw if it’s pointed out to them. Sounds like a lot, but I never said that finding a good manager was easy.
How do you spot it?
Assertive people stand straight and speak their mind. Look for that in a manager, and make sure you notice how they respond when they’re put on the spot. However, make sure you don’t confuse it with obtusity or meanness.
Lastly, adaptability is an important aspect of being a good manager. First, because managers need to balance different needs and traits of their employees. Second, because business is ever expanding in complexity, which means good managers need to adapt fast to market shifts.
It doesn’t even have to be a big market shift. Just pivoting a marketing campaign or prioritizing projects for your team might be enough to navigate a slight change in customer demand.
Good managers understand that.
How do you spot it?
Ask managers about their reaction and decision making process in crucial times of change.
Again, what you read today is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start to understand what makes a good manager. You can use that to figure out whether a manager in your company is doing well, whether you yourself are the best manager you can be, or whether that person you’re interviewing fits the role.