What Makes a Good Manager – 7 Qualities

What makes a good manager?  This is an excellent question to ask as you are getting promoted to manage others or have already been managing for awhile.  There are many managers out there but few are good ones.   The goal of a good manager is to achieve stellar results (results you cannot achieve alone) through inspiring, leading, and developing your team.

Developing skills to become a good people manager is not easy.  Just because you were a good team member does not automatically make you a good manager.  The good news is you can learn and develop your manager skills over time.  The fact you are reading this post means you are aware you need to know what makes a good manager before you can develop skills to become one.     Based on 8 years of experience in managing people, I recommend 7 qualities of what makes a good manager.

  1. Have confidence and provide clear direction – One of my favorite quote at work is “Vision without action is a daydream.  Action without vision is a nightmare”  This first manager quality speaks to the latter part of this quote.  You will lead the team in a set of efforts.  It’s important to set and communicate clear direction to your team on what needs to be accomplished and how it can be accomplished at a high level.   There are many ways to get things done.  Choose the best one based on your experience and stick with it.  If you lack the confident to set direction, your team can easily get overworked and it can turn into a nightmare for everyone.
  2. Delegate issues not tasks – This second manager quality speaks to the first part of the quote above.  Make sure you delegate well in order to accomplish greatness with a team.  If you delegate only tasks, then you are restricting your team from helping you solve the larger problem.  Assess your team members’ skills early and delegate issues accordingly based on what you think they can handle.   Your job is to own a large issue, break them down into smaller ones and then let each team member help you solve the smaller ones.  If you hold on too tight and only delegate tasks, then you will end up doing most of the work and your team members can also be de-motivated from not being challenged.
  3. Support open communication – Even if you are already good at #1 and 2 above, it’s important to realize that you can never be 100% clear to your team.  This is why this 3rd manager quality is ultra important.  Find a way to encourage your team members to ask clarification questions and get feedback on their work progress.  This will make your job easier in the long run as you cannot easily guess where someone may be confused or stuck.  By encouraging communication, you can create a safe environment for your team to ask questions, get feedback and escalate concerns.
  4. Invest time in people development – Being  a manager is not just about getting more things done.  You also need to invest time to develop your team.  This means understanding each person’s skill level, career goals, and creating opportunities for them to learn new skills while at the same time accomplishing what the company need this team to accomplish.  This may sound like a lot of extra work, but it’s worth it.   When you care about the success of each of your team members, they will in turn care about your success and go above and beyond to perform.   This 4th manager quality also set the foundation for you to become a great leader.
  5. Provide constructive feedback – In conjunction with a mindset to develop others, as a manager, it is critical to know how to provide constructive feedback.  No one is perfect and all will have strengths and development areas.   It is your job as a manager to let each of your team members know how to leverage their strengths and provide good examples of where and how to develop.
  6. Give credit to team – This may sound simple but if you worked hard to get something done with your team, your ego may instinctively want to claim the credit since you are the team lead.  Resist!  Nothing demotivates a team more quickly than a manager who claim all the credit.  My advice is to always give the credit to your team.   Your team will appreciate it and frankly leadership is smart and will naturally credit you even if you don’t claim it and will also think you are a great manager.
  7. Define your own management style – At the end of the day, the qualities of what make a good manager may be the same but the style you will use to manifest these qualities depends on your personality.  Don’t try to copy someone else’s style exactly just because you admire them as a good manager.   Find a few role models in management and incorporate a little bit of each into your own management style.  Only when you take time to develop your own style, can these manager qualities be manifested consistently and genuinely.

All these qualities are easier said than done.  Becoming a good manager is a process.  These 7 qualities of what makes a good manager is only the beginning to help you set a vision of how a good manager should behave.  If you invest time, you will become a good manager over time.  Best wishes on your journey.

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Your comments:  is there a quality of what makes a good manager that I missed?  Which of these 7 qualities do you think is the most difficult to develop and why?  I look forward to your comments.  I am always in your corner.


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Marty Pollard

Regarding #4: I think one of my strengths was developing promising employees. I also learned that there are some employees who don’t have a plan for the future. You can work with them on this but ultimately it is their responsibility. There are others who are happy where they are and are not interested in further development.

Marty Pollard

Regarding #7: There are lots of different management styles. You can read about them. They all have their upsides and downsides. I specifically was NOT a Micro-manager. When things went wrong I was vulnerable to the charge that I didn’t provide sufficient oversight. On the other hand, if you are a Micro-manager then you will probably have very unhappy employees.

Marty Pollard

I think this comment falls into #1 and #2: Prepare yourself for the fact that when you delegate an assignment the employee will not likely do it exactly the way you would do it. You need to focus on results. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide some oversight. But resist the urge to micromanage.

Marty Pollard

In my experience, #5 is the most difficult skill for managers. Constructive feedback doesn’t have to imply a negative interaction but often does in the form of disagreeing with an employee’s suggestion or action and trying to improve a employee’s performance. I have two suggestions: 1) learn about the different types of people so you can understand their perspective before addressing a difficult conversation and 2) work with a consultant to role play different scenarios learn how to say and deliver feedback.