Five Characteristics of Good Managers
Many of us have worked for a manager who may have lacked the qualities of a confident, capable leader. For some, the desire to escape such an environment and be one’s own boss was a main motivator for starting a small business.
At some point, however, most successful small business owners are likely to find themselves bringing in one or more employees. When that happens, you aren’t just your own boss anymore; you’re also the boss of whomever you’ve hired to help your business grow. In smaller office environments, it’s especially hard to withstand clashes and personality conflicts with your staff, so it’s important to lead effectively.
In order to avoid becoming the boss you always resented, make sure you understand and take every opportunity to adopt these five characteristics that make good managers.
A positive attitude and the ability to motivate
Cynicism and negativity are the enemy of business success, especially when projected by someone in a senior position. They’re the easy way out whenever problems or roadblocks appear. Think of them as an infectious virus that saps your staff of their collective energy, excitement and desire.
A good manager rejects these damaging emotions in the face of difficulty and adversity, choosing instead to project a positive attitude and maintain their passion for the job at hand. Such behaviour will also infect your employees in a viral way, but with belief, hope and confidence. By refusing to let stress, failure and frustration get the better of you, you’ll be helping to foster an environment where morale is high and people are happy and productive.
Excellent communication skills
No one likes a manager who’s unapproachable or won’t listen. Bosses who wall themselves off behind a communication barrier become distant from their staff, unable to connect. And while a manager who claims to have an ‘open door policy’ has become something of a cliche, those who follow this approach tend to be viewed more favourably. These days, of course, it’s about more than opening the door – you’ll need to answer your phone and stay on top of any emails and text messages sent by your employees.
The best managers are active listeners who indicate through their replies and resulting actions that they’ve heard the concerns and comments voiced by their employees and are willing to do something about them.
Of course, listening is only half of the equation. Just as important is the ability to clearly and honestly express yourself in a variety of situations, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting, a group address, a phone call, or an email. Good managers are able to clearly express guidelines, responsibilities and expectations. They won’t sugarcoat bad news, but can be diplomatic and discerning when the situation requires it.
Finally, don’t forget about non-verbal communication. Even if you don’t say something, your staff will pick up on visual cues, whether it’s slumped shoulder or raised eyebrows. Practice your poker face in order to prevent your body language from undercutting the message you’re trying to deliver.
A willingness to delegate and the ability to prioritize
A frequent complaint about bad bosses is that they ‘micromanage’ their employees, meddling with work in progress or taking over tasks entirely. Not only is this a poor use of the manager’s vital time, it robs employees of the freedom they need to fulfill their responsibilities and makes them feel undervalued.
Most managers are busy people with lots to juggle. Monitoring the minute-by-minute actions of their staff is neither necessary nor helpful. More often than not, it’s important to let people work through their problems without outside interference – they’ll learn from their mistakes, develop skills more quickly, and will eventually be able to handle a broader range of responsibilities.
Of course, a little direction here and there isn’t such a bad thing. That’s where decision-making skills, strategic vision and prioritization come into play. It’s incumbent on good managers to keep the bigger picture in mind, to understand what’s important and what can wait, and to allocate resources as required, all without making decisions under pressure whenever possible. Practice good planning and organization skills to avoid wasting anyone’s valuable time while keeping your business on track.
Flexibility and adaptability
While routines can often be helpful in a business setting, no one wants to be bound by them, either. That’s why the best managers are flexible enough to encourage change and accept new ideas. Just as every situation needs to be handled differently, different people also need to handled as individuals, not with a one-size-fits-all approach.
In the same vein, good managers know they need to adapt and remain current to stay successful. Whether that means being aware of technological advances and other industry trends, or just being open to new attitudes and changing cultural perspectives, it’s important to avoid being labelled a ‘dinosaur’ – it’s the first step toward business extinction.
Empathy and humanity
Your employees are not robots. They all have lives outside the office, some of them full of family problems or other pressures. No matter what’s happening in their personal lives, your employees won’t always be at their best and will inevitably make the odd mistake. Rather than ruling like a tyrant when such things happen, remember to express some empathy. Don’t miss an opportunity to deliver the message that you care more about people than the bottom line. Express understanding and concern if someone has a problem that requires them to miss time or adjust their hours. Be willing, and able, to make light of a situation, as long as nothing serious has gone wrong. Show your human side, be caring and considerate, and your staff will pay you back many times over with their loyalty and productivity.