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What Makes a Manager Great?

Scott Tremper

Creative Director at Traitify | Lover of Film, Games, Music, and Wiener Dogs | Inventor/Planner in Work

We’ve all had bosses in our lives.

Unfortunately, many of us have had to experience terrible ones. They become people we dread engaging with, killing whatever happiness we might have been getting from our jobs. And we know that happiness is a key element in retaining employees.

So what exactly makes a good manager? If you explore the internet, you’ll find dozens of examples, but most lists are specific to a certain type of industry or person. Looking at the commonalities, however, I think it’s safe to boil down what makes a manager great to a few simple concepts that anyone can work on.

Understand Yourself

It’s impossible to manage anyone else if you don’t have a strong understanding of yourself, from your practical skills to your personality. A simple assessment can reinforce and expand upon what you already know about yourself, as well as illuminate things you might not have considered. It’s important to know how you best communicate your needs to your team and understand the level of risk you’re willing to take. You might even find out at this point that you aren’t best suited to be a manager.

Knowing the limitations of your skills is also crucial. Delegation becomes essential once you’ve reached your limits, as does the ability to accept that you might be the boss of people who outperform you in some areas. Nick Campbell of Greyscalegorilla continuously advocates surrounding yourself with those smarter than you, not only for personal growth, but to put the big picture ahead of your own ego.

Understand Your Team

Being aware of what your employees are made of is equally important – if not more – as being self-aware. To keep everyone on the same page, whatever method chosen to assess a manager’s personality should be provided to the whole team. Having a general sense of what makes each member unique gives a manager the ability to approach them in a fashion that feels personal and important.

Great communication is potentially the most needed aspect of a strong team, so understanding the best ways that different types of people receive and deliver information can make or break your team’s success. Victor Lipman’s Forbes article adds to this, suggesting that communication is “fundamental to sound management,” enabling employers to direct the focus for teams and gather feedback efficiently.

Employee happiness and retention comes into play as soon as managers consider skills alongside personality. Knowing what someone can accomplish and the best way to do it – group projects, solo work, open workspace, etc. – allows productivity to climb without sacrificing anyone along the way.

Understand Your Culture

Great managers should be reflections of their companies’ cultures. Not only that, but they should love the culture itself. It’s impossible to serve as an example to employees of what your organization stands for if they never see it living in you.

Casual office environment? Wear a t-shirt on Friday, and keep your door open. Free snacks and catered lunches? Be the first in line for a plate of food to go along with the Red Bull you got mid-morning.  

It’s important to know the ins and outs of your product or service, but carrying the culture of your company and radiating it to everyone around you is just as vital. Consider what can make the company better as a whole, and act on it. A great manager should serve as an inspiration to all employees, even those not on their own teams.

While these ideas are definitely high-level concepts, they’re the building blocks for any manager worth their salt. And more important, without understanding yourself, team, and culture, you’re bound to slip as a leader, and you won’t retain employees or keep them happy. Instead, you’ll simply end up as the “worst boss” story for them to tell at their next job.

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