How would you define "manager?" Google will tell you a manager is "a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization." That sounds easy enough ― like anyone can be a manager.
But what makes a good manager? Is it the kind that inspires a team, fosters growth and productivity, and frequently asks for feedback on their management style? Simply managing a team doesn't make a good manager. It's the amount of effort and leadership they put into making their team successful.
According to the Harvard Business Review, there is one quality that sets truly excellent managers apart from the rest: the ability to see what is unique about each team member and play to their strengths. So how do you learn how to do that?
Don't fret if you have a poor manager (or think you are one). If your manager is dedicated to your team's success and is passionate about leadership, learning how to become a good manager just takes a little effort. After all, you and your manager should be working together towards the same goal.
What are good manager traits?
Here are some best practices of good managers:
They have their team's back
Do you have your team's back? During one-on-ones, it's easy to side with your team members, but are you consistent around your boss?
Good managers aren't afraid to stand up to their directors and defend the team's ideas and efforts. However, good managers won't always take their team's side. They're upfront and honest with their team when it comes to pushback from executives.
They have their team's trust
It's important to ask yourself: Does my team trust me? Managers often say one thing to appease their team and then do another — which leads to manipulation and mistrust from the team.
Good managers keep promises to their team and provide explanations (not excuses) when plans change. Earning trust is a form of respect, and respect is fundamental to leadership.
They aren't afraid to get their hands dirty
Many poor managers believe busywork should be left to their employees. They leave tedious tasks to the team, no matter how many fire drills are thrown at them.
Diving in and getting involved with your team on important projects is the difference between a boss and a leader.
Good managers understand that failure reflects both on the team and on the manager, which is why they jump in to help out in any way possible, no matter how mundane the task.
They want you to succeed as individuals and as a team
Part of what makes a good manager is remembering that your team is made up of individuals who strive to reach their personal goals as well as the team's goals.
Good managers make it a priority to meet with each individual on their team to discover strengths and find ways to work on weaknesses.
They are transparent
When it comes to important decisions, big project updates, and crucial changes within the organization, good managers keep their team informed.
They believe that being honest and transparent instills trust and demonstrates leadership.
Except for confidential company decisions, a good manager should always communicate with their team and be open to answering questions or addressing concerns.
They take risks
Playing it safe might be the easy way out, but meeting your goals doesn't always come easy. Taking risks and experimenting should be encouraged, and managers should set the example by being the first to jump in and test the waters. Failures will happen ― being agile and making mistakes is a key component to learning and growing as a team.
They say no
As hard as it may be, a good manager is not afraid to say no. They understand it might not make everyone happy, even if it's the right decision.
This also applies when new work requests come from directors and executives that the manager believes cannot (or should not) be handled by their team.
They encourage collaboration
Learning to be a better manager will encourage your team to be better collaborators. Collaborating on projects and ideas improves communication and overall productivity.
Each team member can have separate roles and tasks, but finding ways to encourage collaboration, such as organizing brainstorming sessions and team-building activities, will boost morale and innovation.
They give credit where credit is due
A good manager recognizes when their team works hard. Outside of bonuses and promotions, there are many other small ways to show appreciation for their hard work and dedication. Organizing a small party, having cupcakes delivered to the office, or sending a simple email shoutout acknowledges their excellent performance and increases morale.
They find time to have fun
Yes, you are constantly busy and focused on being an effective leader, but good managers always make time for fun. Scheduling happy hours, lunch outings, and scavenger hunts are great activities for keeping things light and entertaining. Remember: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
It's never too late to start implementing some characteristics of great managers.
Whether you've received A + feedback from your employees or know there are some areas you could work on, the definition of a good manager is someone who makes the success and happiness of their team a top priority.
What are the qualities of a good remote manager?
Traditional managerial skills may not translate seamlessly to a remote work environment.
Cultivating a fun, transparent, and creative workplace is essential to being a good remote leader. Here are three key skills every remote manager should aspire to learn:
Clear and effective writing skills
When a team works remotely, most communication is in writing. Therefore, remote managers need to write with clarity to eliminate team confusion. Teams also save considerable time in back-and-forth communication.
See if you can have a quick video chat or send a video message rather than having an hour-long meeting or writing multiple emails.
Help your team set boundaries
Research from Buffer states that failure to unplug is one of the biggest challenges of remote work. Other challenges threatening a remote team include difficulties in collaboration and struggling with loneliness.
Take the initiative to check in with each employee, even once a fortnight. Encourage regular virtual meet-ups, birthday celebrations, and informal drop-ins to strengthen team bonding. Help the team set boundaries and make yourself available for them.
Set clear KPIs
When you establish clear KPIs for each team member, productivity instantly rises. The workplace starts rewarding doers rather than clock-watchers.
Tips for hiring good managers
Organizations experience turnover all the time. The reasons for this can range from disengaged employees to lack of person-job fit to poor hiring practices.
The great resignation is another reality that continues to trouble employers after the pandemic. Businesses have been disrupted as people quit their jobs en masse. According to a McKinsey report, 19 million US employees left their jobs in 2021 alone.
While employee turnover can’t be controlled, you can use these best practices for hiring good managers.
- Consider internal promotions by keeping an eye on employees who go above and beyond their current job roles.
- Focus on the candidate’s previous management experience and innate ability to lead people.
- Prioritize soft skills over hard skills, as they are critical for managerial success.
- Bring in new perspectives by hiring with diversity and inclusiveness in mind.
- Expand your search beyond college degrees or geographical limits to find the right talent.
- Offer competitive compensation and benefits and a flexible working environment.
- Keep your applicant pool engaged and address their concerns promptly.
How to develop strong management skills
Great managers can increase company revenues, grow team productivity, and keep employees happy. Here are the best tips for developing strong management skills, whether you are an aspiring manager or an experienced one:
- Build trust: Encourage inclusive dialogue with your team and make an effort to know them outside the workplace.
- Boost decision-making skills: Learn to analyze complex business problems, make a plan, and implement it.
- Grow self-awareness: A higher level of self-awareness is one of the top traits differentiating an average and a great manager. Spend time on introspection and discover your strengths and weaknesses.
- Better communication: Keep communication channels between you and your team open, clear, and multi-dimensional. Be transparent and keep your employees updated.
- Have a regular feedback cadence: Teams are twice as likely to be engaged at work if their managers provide regular feedback. Act as a coach, have informal discussions, and help your team improve their performance.
Additional resources for improving your leadership and management skills
- The 12-Step Process For Improving Your People Management Skills: Discover tips for team management and building a curriculum for success.
- Google's Quest to Build a Better Boss: Learn leadership secrets from the top thinkers at Google.
- What Great Managers Do: You already know what makes a good manager. Now you're wondering how to be a great manager! This excellent read takes you through the journey and into the minds of great leaders.
- 7 Secrets Smart Leaders Use to Master Their One-on-Ones: Discover tips directly from good managers, find examples of questions to ask, and get a free PDF to download as a guide for your future one-on-ones.
How Wrike supports good managers
Now that you know what makes a good manager, it's time to master these skills. Sharpen your soft skills, increase self-awareness, and continue your professional development to gain the competencies you need to succeed at work.
Use Wrike's project management software to get 360-degree visibility on projects and team workloads, so you can manage resources effectively and prevent team burnout. Wrike acts as a single source of truth for your projects, making collaboration effortless whether you're working at home or in the office.