What Separates A Great Manager from The Crowd?

What Separates A Great Manager from The Crowd?

You’re a manager. Congratulations! The good news is you’ve worked your way up to management and now have people reporting to you. The possibly bad news is you now have people reporting to you. That means your feet are being held to the fire. No waltzing into work at 9ish and leaving at 5ish, at least if you want some street credit. You have your own job responsibility plus you have to manage people in a way that brings the best out of them. So what makes a great manager and what can you do to make sure you are one?

There are a few scary statistics we need to get out of the way:

These numbers are pretty sobering but they don’t reflect the opportunity managers have to change course. If you are in the top 10 percent of managers who are rocking it, good for you and keep it up. For the rest of you (roughly 90 percent), it’s a new year and a perfect time to work on your weaknesses. Isn’t that what New Year’s resolutions are all about?

Here are 5 steps to becoming the manager you always hoped you would have and the one you want to strive to be. Your employees deserve it and if you do this right, your life will get a whole lot easier, too.

Step 1: Understand Your Audience

Your employees are collectively and individually unique. There’s likely a “vibe” in your office, a culture. How would you describe it? Is it positive, collaborative and energetic or do you have a bunch of complainers who only do enough to get by and then frequently fail at that? If you want to turn the ship around, it’s going to take you understanding where they are coming from so you know which direction to take.

Employee engagement really isn’t about the employee as much as it is the managers who create or enable bad environments that make it hard for employees to be enthusiastic about. Disengaged employees translate to employees who don’t really give a crap about their work or their coworkers. This attitude often doesn’t stay isolated to one person. It’s like a bad stomach bug that wiggles its way into the guts of surrounding employees and makes them all sick.

You have to “quarantine” the toxic people. This doesn’t mean they go to time out. What it does mean is they need a good talkin’ to so you can understand what’s going on and if there’s anything you can do to relieve it. You’re the doctor here and you have to first diagnose the problem before you can treat it. According to studies, there’s a good chance you’re part of the problem.

As a manager, you may feel one-on-ones are too tedious or time-consuming and they hamper your ability to get anything done in the office. According to Gallup, this would be time well spent because they found businesses who have the most engaged employees are 17 percent more productive, experience 70 percent fewer safety issues, experience 41 percent less absenteeism, have 10 percent better customer ratings, and are 21 percent more profitable compared with companies who have disengaged employees.

If you can treat the illness, you can be a hero. So put on your cape and let’s move to Step 2.

Step 2: Understand Yourself

We all have different management styles but Gallup has identified five characteristics that when combined, make a great manager. Gallup studied the behavior of high performers in every industry and sector, from the military to truck drivers and found one common denominator: “Successful people have similar talents.” Look at their chart below to see how many you possess:

Gallup chart

A manager’s engagement is even more important than that of his or her direct reports. The manager’s attitude has a significant impact on those he or she manages. Managers set the tone. If you are struggling to stay engaged, you need to first work on yourself before you can help your employees. Talk with your manager to voice your concerns, your frustrations and your needs. Be sure they understand that your capacity to manage and your ability to motivate your employees is dependent on your work satisfaction.

Step 3: Focus on The Strengths

It’s easy to point fingers and put the blame on the employee. They may have screwed up or may be a constant pain in your backside but they were hired for a reason so figure out why. Many research studies show that employees who have managers who focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses perform better and are more engaged. In fact, 67 percent of employees who strongly agree with this statement are engaged, while only 2 percent of those who strongly disagree are engaged.

How do you begin to implement this practice? We’re not going to reinvent the wheel so I’ll tell you what the experts say. Gallup has worked with hundreds of organizations to discover the characteristics common to companies who reaped the most benefits from their strength-based management strategy. They worked to build a strengths-based culture. These strategies include:

Begin to view your employees as your company’s greatest assets. Each one brings skills and talents that can benefit the company as a whole. Once you discover them, leverage them, celebrate them and grow them (see Step 5).

Learn more in this related guide: 4 Ways to Find Out If Modern Org Chart  Software Makes Sense.

Step 4: Communicate Well

Communication is the foundation for any good relationship, including the boss-employee relationship. Employees often cite poor communication with management as one of their biggest job complaints. Employees understand the value of good communication and 91 percent of them say communication issues can “drag executives down.”

Related: 6 Effects of Poor Employee Communication

What exactly are “communication issues?” Here’s what 1,000 U.S. workers said:

HBR chart


How many of these sound familiar? Either you have experienced it with your own manager or you recognize that you’re guilty of some of them. This chart shows us that what employees want most from their managers when it comes to communication are managers who:

Take the time to get to know your employees and connect with them. Have an open-door policy that encourages employees to approach you with concerns and feedback. These connections build trust and respect because employees feel valued and appreciated. These good feelings spill over into their work and their relationships with others.


Related: Relationships, Not Money, Prove More Valuable to People


Step 5: Give Them Wings

When you were hired at your company, chances are you envisioned yourself moving up, developing your skills and challenging yourself. Your employees are no different. Few people begin a job and settle for no advancement. One report discovered 59 percent of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job, while 44 percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of baby boomers agree. In fact, millennials say this is the number one most important job attribute.

Another report found that fewer than half of employees are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities offered by their employers.

When you focus on their strengths (see Step 3), you can see where they can use those strengths in different areas of the business, develop those strengths further, or learn new ones to fill in any gaps. Some managers look at org charts to visualize where an employee might be able to move or collaborate with different teams to enjoy career development in house.

Employees will value their job and be more loyal when they know their employer cares about their professional growth. Encourage them to engage in cross-team collaboration, propose opportunities for specialized training, show them a path that moves them both laterally and horizontally. You can present your company as an ecosystem full of possibilities so they never have to feel they’re in a rut.

Being a good manager may not come naturally but if you follow our 5 steps, you can make 2017 the year you actually stick to your resolutions. Both you and your employees will be glad you did.

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Cameron Nouri
by Cameron Nouri
I am the Director of Growth at Pingboard. I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart. I love trying new things and taking educated risks on new ventures, both professionally and in my personal life. I bring that passion to work everyday where I enjoy helping others discover the power that Pingboard can unlock.
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