What Makes a Great Manager?

what makes a great manager

You have the people skills, you’ve put in the time and you’ve earned the trust of leadership. The most important thing you need to know now is what it takes to be great when it comes to managing people and processes.  We’ve all had managers that fall short of greatness, but that won’t be you!

So what makes a great manager? It’s not a single sentence answer because there are dozens of management styles and countless opinions. At the same time, when you ask enough people, you begin to see patterns.

We caught up with a handful of managers and professionals to talk about daily duties, human relations challenges, career development strategies and communication styles of great managers.

Day-to-day duties of a great manager

There are many daily duties and unforeseen tasks that a manager juggles every day. Here are some intuitive, yet integral, tips to effectively managing your day-to-day.

Communicate, don’t micromanage

Nobody likes to have someone watching over their shoulder, but at the same time, it can be maddening to feel like you’re never certain about your manager’s expectations. “You need to make sure that expectations about what is to be accomplished are clear to everyone, and then to hold people accountable,” says Dave Waring, co-founder of Fit Small Business.

Be a chameleon

Try not to get stuck in the rut of one leadership style. Be a chameleon so your direct reports will look to you for guidance and respond to your leadership. “For those who always deliver results and don't like to be micromanaged—leave them alone to do their job and be there to support them when needed,” says Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting. “For employees who like more hands-on involvement, be more engaged.”

Human relations duties of a great manager

As a manager, you are not the entire human resources department, but you are definitely on the front lines of any issues, challenges or difficulties your direct reports face.

Listen more than you speak

"Behavior that gets praised gets repeated."

People can usually recognize good leadership and they can always sense a manager on a power trip.  Most people respect leaders who take the time to truly listen to the ideas and input of those they lead. “Managers who ‘tell’ instead of spending time asking and listening miss the richness of their employees' insights,” says Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC. “Employees might follow directions, but you are not getting their best thinking because you are not asking for it.”

Encourage openly, criticize privately

Nobody liked the teacher who seemed to find joy in shaming a student with late homework. In the same vain, don’t expect to earn respect from direct reports if you are openly critical and keep encouragement to yourself. “Behavior that gets praised gets repeated,” says Michael Timms, president of Avail Leadership. “If someone does something well, let them know they hit the mark so that they will know what to aim for next time.

Career development strategies for great managers

An important part of management is helping your direct reports grow into their careers, pursue goals and evolve into better professionals.

Help direct reports take action

It’s risky to over-train an employee lest they decide to pursue other opportunities further up the food chain. But remember the level of trust you are building when you help your employees achieve their goals. “Realize that if people are going to be happy in their jobs and stay with your company for an extended period of time, they need to feel that they are constantly making forward progress in their careers,” Waring says.

"[Great managers] are constantly seeking unfiltered feedback so they can work on eliminating bad habits and building good ones."

Don’t forget to improve yourself

Helping others develop is an excellent trait and a big piece of what makes a manager great. However, truly great leaders are always working on self-improvement, too. “[Great managers] are constantly seeking unfiltered feedback so they can work on eliminating bad habits and building good ones,” Timms says. “Managers who do this, unshackle their potential to motivate others.”

Communication styles for great managers

Communication styles will inevitably differ between departments and among individuals. Recognizing and embracing the variation is how good mangers managers develop into great ones. 

Be open about your expectations

You may think you’re being rigid, but more often than not, your employees will appreciate knowing your expectations so they can achieve them. “Don't beat around the bush,” Waring says. “Be clear and direct about what is expected and how the employee is performing based on those expectations.”

Communication is a two-way street

Mark Twain once said, “If God wanted us to speak more than we listen, He would’ve given us two mouths and one ear.” This mantra is especially true when managing employees, all of whom have their own priorities, opinions and agendas. “Have the capacity to listen to different points of view,” says Ian St. Clair, SEO specialist at Clicks and Clients. “Create a climate where your employees can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”

Manage your future

Great managers possess a combination of learned behaviors and innate abilities. If you’ve already got some of the skills listed above but you’re lacking the theoretical foundation, your next step should be to go after the education you need. Check out Rasmussen College’s Business Management Degree page to see how you can finish a degree for as little as $9,900.

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She hopes to engage and intrigue current and potential students.

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