What makes a good Manager?

What, IYHO, do you feel separates a good manager from a bad one? Also, if you are a manager, what do you actually DO to ensure that you are being the best that you can be? Please provide some background info if it adds to quantifying your reply.


people skills. Hands down the most important. Knowing your staffs strengths and weaknesses, listening to and using their input, and giving credit where credit is due. Standing up for your people if the shite hits the fan. Making sure that people who deserve promotions get them. Also having enough backbone to deal with slackers, those who are not pulling their weight and those who create personnel problems.
Second I’d say is planning and organizational ability. Being able to break an objective down into tasks that can be measured, and the appropriate work flow to go with it. Be capable of delegation, and don’t forget about follow up to make sure that any fine tuning that needs to be done to the process gets done. Don’t micro manage.

but hey. Maybe that’s just what I try to do.

I’ve had my share of bad managers and good managers. IMO, the things that make a good manager:

1 - realize that you’re there to HELP your underlings, not BABYSIT them. That includes things like:

  • going to bat against upper management on issues and problems that affect your team
  • doing everything you can to make it so that people on your team can do their jobs as efficiently and quickly as possible. This includes, but is not limited, to:

Ack! Hit the wrong key, trying again:

I’ve had my share of bad managers and good managers. IMO, the things that make a good manager:

1 - realize that you’re there to HELP your underlings, not BABYSIT them. That includes things like:

  • going to bat against upper management on issues and problems that affect your team
  • doing everything you can to make it so that people on your team can do their jobs as efficiently and quickly as possible. This includes, but is not limited, to:
    • minimizing things like meetings and other interruptions
    • bringing in food if people work over late or through their lunch hour
    • making sure workers have all the tools they need to do their job right
    • making sure workers communicate clearly and effectively

2 - Help out and do some of the work yourself, if time and workload permit.

3 - Lead by example, not by force. If you decide that all your workers need to work overtime, you better damn well be there working longer hours and harder than they do. Nothing sticks in my craw more than the manager who decides that everyone will work overtime except the manager him or herself.

4 - Communicate, communicate, communicate.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head…

Be willing to listen. And actually process the information you’re given. Don’t just put on your “listening face”, then do whatever you want anyway.

If you make a mistake, own up to it. Don’t try to blame somebody else or dodge responsibility.

Don’t get so caught up in climbing the office ladder that you forget to do your job.

Don’t assume everybody is as deeply involved in the office politics as you are. Some people just want to do their jobs.

If you don’t know something, don’t try to pretend that you know it. The people who really DO know it can tell and they think you’re an idiot.

Don’t let your “pets” and pet projects rule the company/department/whatever.

Do work. So many managers forget that they work there, too.

In my opinion a good manager(that is a manager of people) needs to be ‘Firm but fair’ and be prepared to get involved at every level.
Bad management is often characterised by dogmatic adherence to ‘procedure’ and aloof detachment.

Every manager I’ve seen fail clearly lacked people skills.

Hands down, it’s the killer.

I have survived very efficiently because people who work for me don’t wan’t to fail and don’t want to see me fail.

Fair…honest…firm…with good people skills.

Heck, we all do stuff any trained monkey can do, but the trained monkey can’t build the same type of relationship as someone who has genuine ‘soft’ skills (peep skills AKA soft skills).

(I tried to post this earlier, but kept getting errors, so I copied it into notepad and figured I’d try again)

  1. Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your employees - this means you have to get to know them. No, you don’t have to be best friends (and you don’t want to be best friends with those who are your employees), but understand where they are coming from and where they’d like to be headed. Some people are to do their job and collect a check - and that’s fine, as long as you don’t put them in a position they don’t want to be in. One manager I had told me that she didn’t want any “placeholders” in her department - a nice idea, but it doesn’t work for everyone or every department.

  2. Understand the lives of your employees - again, you don’t have to know that this person goes out dancing 4 nights a week and this other person pretty much goes to work and comes home, but learn something about them: do they have small children, elderly parents, a sick spouse? Are they a native of the area they work, or did they come from another part of the country (this can be useful information too).

  3. Be careful not to assume that because someone is single and lives far from their immediate family that they are automatically able to work every holiday. In fact, a better system that I’ve seen (in an office situation where the holiday itself was automatic) was to rotate how often an employee can take vacation time off at Christmas or Thanksgiving - this keeps anyone from feeling like they have to be the one working at every holiday.

  4. Listen to your employees. They have ideas about how to do jobs better, concerns about things they see. They’re the ones “in the trenches” and can have a better idea of what is actually going to work. Give them credit for those ideas.

  5. Challenge your employees. Yes, there are placeholders, but they can be pushed to do better in the jobs they’re happy at. Someone loves collecting from delinquent custmers? Challenge them to better their collection percentages every month. Reward employees that meet their challenges or who consistently work to improve their skills.

  6. Learn the jobs that your employees do. No, you’re not going to be doing them on a daily basis, but knowing how to do those jobs helps you to understand problems that come up, suggestions that are made and will allow you to step in if a crisis does come up. Don’t complain to your employees if this need arises. Just do the job - you can gain a lot of respect that way.

  7. Accept that no matter what you do, there will be people who are not happy, who will not do the job they are hired to do or who will either leave or be fired for other reasons.

  8. Respect your employees. All of them, and those from other departments. The mail guy, the cleaning staff, those you supervise…they all have lives to live and this is they job they are doing. No one is undeserving of respect just because they are not a “manager” - often, the ones who don’t manage are the ones getting the day to day work done, and they do it well. Don’t ignore that.
    I have been both a manager and an employee - my most recent job was considered a management position although I didn’t directly supervise anyone. I have been the direct supervisor of up to 5 employees,and I have worked for good and bad managers.

Before I became a stay home mom I took a turn as assistant manager in the bakery at the supermarket I worked in. I had dreamed of my chance to do this job. I knew I could do it well.

I knew every job within the department and I knew all of the paperwork and crap that went with management. I wrote schedules and forecasts and orders.

I worked hard to train the people in my department who wanted to learn something new and did my best to deal with those who just wanted to call in sick 3 days a week and only wanted to chat when they did show up for work.

I was never wandering the store superfluously chatting with the other managers and pretending I was important. I was working in my department trying to make things run smoothly. I tried to set up stations for people before they got into work so they didn’t have to do some of the crappier parts of their job. (like wash muffin tins or pull boxes of cookies from the freezer)

When the department head was on vacation for 2 weeks it was my big “trial by fire” I was ready. I was psyched. I had my full time cake decorator go out on injury. My overnight donut guy pulled 4 no call/no shows. One of my part time morning girls was out sick for almost a week. This is in a department of 12 people!

So… I work hard and my crew works hard and we even manage to get a little “spring cleaning” that store management wants done accomplished and had the best Sunday sales in a year! I’m so thrilled and thankful to the crew that the Saturday before the boss comes back I give them a pizza party.

My reward for all of this? The dept head throws me on graveyard shift as he never wants to see me again and store management (who were so happy with me - or so they said - just shrugged and told me I could get a transfer)

Want to be a good manager? Don’t treat the people who work hard for you like garbage!

At least in my job, a manager *must know more than the people they supervise. When you have a problem that you don’t have the power or authority to solve, you are dead if your manager is too big of an idiot to even have a clue as to what you are talking about.

Just because they aren’t sitting in my desk doing my job everyday doesn’t mean they don’t have to know how to sit at my desk and do my job everyday.

I think a good manager (and I always strived to be one) has to keep a lot of things straight.

  1. Let your people know exactly what is expected of them and when.

  2. Make sure your people have all the training and equipment necessary to do the job expected of them. That doesn’t mean they have to have the latest and greatest of everything (because no budget would support that), but they do have to have the essentials.

  3. Reward them when they succeed or go above and beyond. That could be anything from a small gift or bonus (if you have the means) to a simple one-on-one personal thank you that says you noticed what they did and you appreciate it. A public recognition can also work wonders, but a personal one is usually even more appreciated.

  4. When your people screw up, chew their ass out to whatever degree warranted, make sure they know how and why they screwed up and know how not to let it happen again and then DROP IT.

  5. When it comes to your bosses or your people, always and forever side with your people.

Most importantly keep in mind the following: As a manager, it is your job to remove every obstacle that keeps your people from succeeding. Bosses, lack of training, lack of tools, lack of motivation, whatever; it’s your job to keep all these things out of your people’s sightlines so they (and as a result you) can succeed.

Lastly, something an old VP told me when I was looking to hire my first underling: Don’t look for skills and experience. Any monkey can be taught skills. Hire for attitude and mindset, and you’ll never be disappointed.

Truer words were never spoken.

Praise publicly, criticize privately.

A good manager doesn’t necessarily have to know everything about how to do the job, but he/she has to know enough to know (1) who does know and (2) when the job’s being done right.

This has been mentioned, but bears repeating:

Show up. Put in approximately 40 hours per week, or more.

I’ve worked for city governments for years, and almost every manager I’ve ever dealt with has had a chronic absenteeism problem. It’s hard for me to be inspired to do my work if you don’t bother to show up more than once or twice a week.

Maybe most managers are hard-working, but in the public sector, it seems most of them are slackers, and get away with it because they’re managers. Must be nice.

Treat your employees with courtesy and respect.

Promote a “You take care of the job, I’ll take care of you” atmosphere.

If you hire or inherit a slacker, you’re going to have to do it sooner or later anyway, so get rid of him/her sooner. The others will thank you.

Keep your head if all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.

Be a firewall between your people and upper levels. If your workers screw up, take the heat yourself, after all it is your responsibility. Then address the deficiencies later, in private.

To second what FallenAngel said: Hire high quality people. They’ll learn to do the job. Experience in a specific field is over-rated.

You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.

Keep your hands to yourself.

Never forget the Prime Directive:Don’t Be A Jerk!

Good Luck!

I can’t say anything more in depth than what others have said, except maybe to point out that to be a truly good manager, a person should consider both sides of their equation. That is, they should think of both the people above and the people below them.
For the people above them, a manager should deliver. If a project needs to be done by a certain date, they need to see that their department does what it takes to make the deadline. Businesses really like predictability, since it has a direct correlation to profitability. Therefore, a good manager should make sure his department is never the source of unpleasant (especially unpleasantly costly) surprises.

As for the people under him, a manager should remove everything that stands in the way of their job getting done, including both obstacles and excuses. He should let the smart people under him do their jobs the way they’ve been trained to do. He should also recognize that people deliver for him when they are thoroughly motivated to do so, and seek to motivate his people in a positive way. (Motivation through fear is a great way to lead to things like high turnover, low morale, low employee loyalty, etc. These things can be unpleasant surprises for upper management.)
In truth, I’d say handling the people under yourself as a manager is a lot harder.

First, hire good people. That’s not always possible - when there’s a reorg, you don’t know who you’ll get, and there’s always that boss who hires his niece. That said, I am never comfortable as a manager unless: A) I can pretty much do the job for any one of my charges if need be and B) the people under me are in training to take over my job. And, frankly, I would refuse to work for someone who didn’t have a public project plan and process docs.

Although I’m not good at it, it’s a good idea to be able to manage up. The ability to manage up (also known as kissing ass, being political, etc.) does put you in a position to protect your people.

And whatever you do, don’t dig in your heels and defend the slacker to the end because s/he was Your Pick. I know so many managers that just can’t fire or discipline or do ANYTHING about somebody who was Their Pick. It drives me up the wall.

(Sorry to keep posting, but I have lots of thoughts on this issue).

By the same token, recognize that just because you can/want to/do put in 50-60 hours a week (or whatever) doesn’t mean everyone else should or wants to. And if they do put in overtime and go above and beyond, recognize it properly.

Here’s one I run into at work…

When something goes wrong, don’t try and passively manage your people by sending out generic memos reminding them what not to do. The people who are doing it wrong will probably just keep doing it, since they figure the memo doesn’t apply to them. Yet the good people will think it does apply to them, and that you’re being a stickler for details and will expend pointless energy meeting their vision of your expectations. Sometimes you have to just talk to people one-on-one.

Been there done that, got the T-shirt to prove it.

I’ve had great ones, good ones, bad ones, and asshats for bosses. I’ve even been a manager a time or three.

In no particular order

[li]Lead from the front. If you expect your people to work OT you had better be the last one out.[/li][li]Thirty bucks for pizza and 15 bucks for beer on a late night will buy more loyalty than a 5% raise (short term anyway)[/li][li]So will an afternoon off, or a couple of movie tickets. One company I know has a service clinic once a year and the employees have to work on Saturdays. (normally a M-F 9-5 operation) To thank them, the boss takes all the employees, and SO’s out to a very fancy dinner the following week. This goes with[/li][li]Loyalty goes both ways. If you expect loyalty from the troops, give it back in spades[/li][li]Hire the best.[/li][li]If you give someone a job to do, and they make a decision, back them up (at least in public). If they screwed it up beyond all recognition then in private discuss how they could have matter a better decision*****. Remember you empowered them. This means that you gave up the right to second guess them. If they FUBAREDed the decision that bad, then it’s your fault for giving them the power. You didn’t know your people as well as you should have.[/li][li]If you blow a decision, admit it.[/li][li]Keep the REMF’s off the troops[/li][li]Fight for raises for the troops (if you hire the best, you have to pay for quality)[/li][li]Keep your head out of your ass (use Q-tips if necessary to clean the shit out of your ears)[/li][li]Fight for the assets that your people need (tell your boss that no, your people can’t do 3D rendering with a 286 and 4mb of ram)[/li][li]Always back up your people, to the hilt[/li][li]Don’t be a pointy haired boss (get a clue, buy a vowel if you have to)[/li][li]Walk around and find out what is going on in your department[/li][li]When it comes to goal setting for the year, only allow your people to put down measurable goals that they have control over. Every time I get a new manager I have a fight over this one. I am a training instructor for a large company. Here are some bad goals that PHB’s have tried to give me over the years[/li]1) Teach full classes Hey asshat I have no control if my student get a flat tire on the way to class (not a goal I have control over) or
2) (My favorite) have good attendance in class Say SFB what is good? (not measurable. 1 guy sounds good to me)
3) Develop good communication skills. Good? What is good? (I can order beer in three languages, that seems good to me. Again not measurable)
[li]Talk to your people, keep them in the loop[/li][li]The people doing the job know best how to do it, and what they need. Talk to them.[/li][li]Ask questions[/li][li]If you have an employee that can be developed, develop them. Send them to night school or what ever, they will walk through fire for you because you belived in them.[/li][li]Take a turn in the trenches. One of the things that I admire about Southwest Airlines is that every year all of the bosses have to work for 1 week in a grunt job, cleaning planes, checking in passengers, loading baggage, whatever. This keeps the suits near the job at hand. Just because you got a promotion, doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands dirty. Jumping in to help can buy you a ton of goodwill and credibility. This good will and credibility might be what gets you your next promotion. Jumping in can be something as simple as sweeping a floor, or picking up a empty pizza box or getting the guy on the phone a cup of coffee.[/li][li]Always handle the mission. Teach your people to handle the mission.[/li][li]If one of your people has a suggestion to improve something, pass it along and make damn sure that their name is on it not yours. If you make them look good, they will make you look good. If you make them look bad, well you do the math.[/li][li]When it comes to the good of your department always ask for forgiveness, rather than asking for permission.[/li][li]If you talk the talk, you had better walk the walk[/li][li]Your nickname around the department had better not be Mike Romanger. If it is, you are in deep shit.[/li][li]Never skimp on training[/li][li]Don’t nickel and dime the troops. Spending 15 minutes reaming an employee out over a $15 dollar expense is a waste of time when you calculate the cost of wages for you and them[/li][li]Always praise in public[/li][li]Don’t let your people make their job their only life. Kick them out the door every so often[/li][li]Make sure that your people are free to make (a few) mistakes[/li][/ul]

*****When you employee screws up (and they will, they are human after all) don’t yell, scream and shout. Rather discuss how a better decision could have been made. Oh yeah do this IN PRIVATE!