Top 7 Qualities of a Great Manager

What causes you to do a better job at something? What keeps you working on a project long after others have given up?

On the other hand, what would cause you to walk away from a satisfying job that suits your talents and experience?

While conventional wisdom has pointed to money as the great motivator, new research is showing that we are driven by relationships not dollars. In fact, according to a Gallup poll of more than one million American workers, the main reason people quit their job is their boss, not their paycheck. In fact, workers get so bent out of shape by the way managers treat them that, despite the recent recession, job quits have slowly but steadily increased since 2009.

Almost 2.5 million Americans quit their jobs each month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as compared with has 1.7 million quits a month in 2009. While that figure does reflect retiring Baby Boomers, it also shows that people are willing to risk unemployment rather than to work for a poor manager.

The role of manager- whether it is in a business or a volunteer organization -- is just as important as ever, but the rules have changed over the past two decades. Sweeping technological changes have required successful mangers to adjust from mostly managing data and schedules (which computers can do) to mostly managing people. In addition, changes in society brought on by all that technology have caused employees to value flexibility more than stability. This new mindset has made personal relationships at work even more important.

Gone are the days when an effective manager was more like a drill sergeant who made sure the job got done. Good managers today do more than point workers in the right direction and then sit back and watch; they are likely to jump right in alongside their workers to get the job done.

Today's managers are moving away from the Oxford Dictionary definition of a manager as someone who is responsible for "controlling or administering an organization or group of staff" and embracing its etymological meaning. The word "manager" is derived from the Latin "manu agere," which means "to lead by the hand."

Twenty-first century technology has caused the core way many organizations do business to change. We can receive and send information instantaneously. We have sales figures and employee statistics at our fingertips, and we are competing in a fast global marketplace in which clients can take their business to the lowest bidder across the globe in the blink of an eye.

How can a manager effectively both "control that group or staff" and "lead by the hand" in this rapidly changing environment? No matter what your business is or what your staff looks like, there are seven qualities of a great manager.

1. A great manager is a good communicator . The previously mentioned Gallup survey indicates that many workers quit their jobs because of unclear expectations from their supervisor. Poor communication is the cause of this problem. A good manager needs to be clear on every level. From the first hire, a clear job description lays out goals and expectations. A good manager continues this level of communication with regular reviews and opportunities to give workers feedback on their work.

Frequent and clear communication - in person, over the phone and through emails - is something you can develop through practice. Make sure your staff members know you are available to them and let them know the best ways to reach you. Then, when they do get in touch with you, get back to them promptly.

Consider ways you can give both praise and constructive criticism to your employees. Avoid blanket statements and vague generalizations, striving instead to give specific examples of when someone exceeded expectations or when he or she fell short. Keep these conversations and messages private, and encourage the employee to ask you questions about anything that is not clear.

We often think of communicating as talking, but listening is an equally important component. You can show your employees how much you value them by listening carefully to what they have to say. You may gain valuable insight that will change your opinion or make you think of a situation regarding that employee in a new way.

Listening is especially important when emotions are high. Ask follow-up questions to make sure you understand a problem and to see if the employee has a solution in mind. By concentrating on the possible solutions, rather than on the problems, you will go a long way to moving past the conflict with everyone's ego intact.

2. A great manager is a delegator . We use the phrase 'team player" so much today that it has lost its meaning, but it is true that you cannot effectively manage a group of people if you "hog the ball" by doing everything yourself or at least controlling how it is done.

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Since managers are ultimately responsible to their superiors for a project, we often think it is "easier" if we do much of the work. However, when you micromanage you staff, you undermine their creativity and squelch their enthusiasm. Over time, these negative feelings can translate into overall job dissatisfaction.

Many managers have difficult delegating a task that they once performed themselves. There is a certain sense -even if it is an unconscious one - that no one can do it as well as you can. It's time to turn your thinking around and to trust the people you have hired.

When you are able to do this, everyone benefits. For example, hiring someone to manage a project, frees up your time to do research. Hiring someone to manage the website means you can develop that new marketing strategy idea. You're right that your staff members probably will not approach the job exactly the same way that you would, but, with your guidance and direction, they may even do better!

Marcus Buckingham, the co- author of First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently writes that the true job of a manager is to turn an individual's particular talent into job performance. In order to do that task well, a manager needs to identify the strengths and weaknesses of his team members and then place them in the areas that will both challenge them and offer them the best opportunity to shine. In an article Buckingham wrote for The Harvard Business Review in 2005, he likened effective delegation to playing a game of chess. Average managers play checkers, according to Buckingham, while great managers play chess.

Showing the time-tested importance of delegation, Theodore Roosevelt once put it this way, "The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."

3. A great manager is flexible . Did you know today's young workers, known as Millennials, value a home-work balance more than any other generation? Raised in the digital age and accustomed to streaming TV shows and movies whenever they want and being able to be in constant contact with friends and family via smart phones, these young adults think of time in a whole new way. As a result, a nine-to-five job seems archaic to them.

This new way of thinking does not mean these workers want to put in fewer hours on the job; it simply means they would like to have some control over when those hours are. Depending on your organization and the kind of work you do, be open to an employee's need for flexible scheduling for certain projects rather than holding to rigid weekday hours.

Flexible scheduling could come in the form of telecommuting several days a week or working on Saturday instead of a weekday. It's a growing trend. In a 2013 study, Randstad, a human resources firm, found that one out of seven survey respondents had some sort of flex time at work, and 91 percent of those respondents said it improved their overall morale. About 80 percent of the respondents said they felt that having flexible scheduling increased their overall work productivity.

Some opportunities for flexible scheduling can be:

  •          for parents to attend their children's school events and doctor's appointments
  •          for employees who are moving
  •          during the summer when employees may need a break from the office setting
  •          during times of illness or divorce

    Now there is a big difference from being flexible and being a push-over. As you get to know your employees, you will be able to tell when you are being taken advantage of with too many "sick calls." However, most employees will reward the opportunity of flexibility with renewed interest and vigor when they are on the job.

    When considering a change such as flextime or other new scheduling ideas that might aid productivity, try to keep the phrase "That's the way we have always done it" out of your mind. That philosophy just doesn't fit the modern workplace.

    4. A good manager displays integrity. You can call it "leading by example or "saying what you mean and meaning what you say," but your employees look to you for more than a paycheck. Employees will be loyal to a manager they can trust, and that means someone who is honest with them and someone who acts honorably.

    Create a culture of telling the truth. This sense of honesty can be revealed in many ways, such as with a no-questions-asked customer service policy, with blog articles that emphasize transparency or with a no tolerance for office gossip and damaging rumors.

    Leaders don't just tell others what to do; they follow the same directions as well. Be someone who shows up for meetings on time, who arrives for work early when there is a looming deadline, who attends employee social events and who shoulders the blame when something goes wrong. You cannot be perfect - no one can - but a good manager can hold himself or herself to a high standard. When you do that, you will be surprised at how people will respect you for it. This respect often translates into loyalty.

    5. A good manager motivates workers . What makes employees work harder? For many of us it is the desire to take that next career step. As a result, organizations that retain their key employees are ones that are committed to professional development.

    A 2014 LinkedIn job exit survey of more than 7,300 members found that the top reason workers left their jobs was because they wanted more opportunities for advancement. Effective managers take the time to discuss their team members' career goals with them. Make this topic a regular part of your employee review conversations. Ask your staff members how the company can help them learn and grow on the job.

    Options for career advancement that you can help facilitate are:

  •          A mentorship program. Pair up newer employees with more experienced workers so they can share ideas and expertise. This relationship can also enhance job loyalty.
  •          Continuing education. Point out classes and workshops your employees can take to learn new workplace skills. Provide incentives to those who are taking these classes.
  •          Reward an employee who is seeking an advanced degree. Think about ways the company can offer help with tuition.
  •          Plan retreats. Well-organized events held out of the office setting can offer opportunities for employees to network and brainstorm new ideas.
  •          Share ideas. Offer workers the chance to share their expertise with each other via informal talks, blog articles or videos.

    Whenever you can, attend learning sessions with your team. As technology changes, you can keep current along with your staff members, for example. Also when you have attended a professional conference, share the new ideas, strategies or methods you have learned with your team either on a formal or informal basis. Your interest and enthusiasm will be contagious.

    6. A good manager is creative . The average American worker spends about 30 percent of his or her life at the workplace. That's a big chunk of time, and a good manager knows that in order to keep a staff productive, the workplace needs to be an enjoyable place.

    What can you do to make your office or workplace setting more of a desirable place to be? Your ideas will depend on your line of work. What will work for a retail store will not work for a legal firm, and what will work for a marketing company will not work for a construction company. Use your imagination and your knowledge of your employees to develop the ideas that will work for you. Here are some suggestions:

  •          Offer an employee exercise program. You could offer incentives for your team to work-out at a local health club or you could hold morning or evening exercise classes via video or live instructor at your offices. Not only will you be giving your team a chance to get to know each other better, but you will be showing that you care about their health and well-being.
  •          Plan recognition nights/award ceremonies to honor employees who have met workplace goals. These events can be fun and light-hearted and do not need to be at the office.
  •          Use team building exercises and employee contests to encourage friendly competition and to help employees get to know each other better. When you post these on your company's social media Facebook pages, you get the added benefit of showing the world that you have a fun place to work.
  •          Volunteer together. Pick charities that reflect your company culture and take off workdays to work together as a group. These projects can be anything from helping to serve at a soup kitchen, to helping to build a home for the homeless, to sponsoring or helping coach a youth sports team. When you get away from work and serve together for a good cause, you strengthen relationships. These bonds can help deepen work commitments as well.
  •          Attend important employee family events, such as weddings and graduations, together. Be each other's rooting sections and send cards and/or notes to acknowledge smaller milestones.

    7. A good manager keeps things in perspective . Literature and films are full of bad managers who hover over their employee trying to get every ounce of work for the least amount of money (Think Ebenezer Scrooge) or use the fear of humiliation as a motivator (Think Blake of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross). Sent to motivate four real estate salesmen, Blake, who was played in the film by Alec Baldwin, instead berates and belittles the men. One example is when he announces "We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

    Although Blake is fictional, Mamet based him upon real situations he had encountered, and each of us has probably suffered at the hands of a mean boss at one time or another. Even bosses who are not as cruel as Blake may feel that showing kindness is a form of weakness for a manager.

    Amy J.C. Cuddy, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, wrote in an article "Just Because I'm Nice, Don't Assume I'm Dumb" for The Harvard Business Review that her research reveals that people tend to see "warmth and competence as inversely related." However, you can debunk this myth, and a big step in the right direction is to take your responsibilities seriously but yourself lightly.

    The reason Americans like to use the sports metaphors like "team player" and "team spirit" is because it connotes comradery. Good managers do not place themselves above their employees. They realize that everyone is working for the same goal. When appropriate, good managers use humor to poke fun at themselves and the unusual situations that life can offer us. When used well, a good laugh can diffuse a tense situation like nothing else can.

    Show your employees that you believe that people are your company's most valuable asset. Value your employees' opinions and efforts by praising them in person and by acknowledging their contributions to others.

    Great managers are those who put together the right team, who guide that team with a mixture of experience and humility and who then let that team operate freely within those guidelines. By setting a consistent tone of respect for your company and respect for the people who work for it, you will gain new insights into what works and what doesn't work for your firm and, ultimately, you will become a stronger and more confident manager of others.

    Former Shell Oil Company president H. S. M. Burns said, "A good manager is a man who isn't worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him." When you are able to have this mindset - and, yes, it will be more of a process that a one-time event -- everything else will fall into place.