What Makes a Great Manager
April 20, 2017
What does it take to be a great manager?
It’s unfortunate but true that we all know what it’s like to work for a bad manager. Either we have experienced them personally or have heard from others the horror stories of working for a terrible manager. Tales range from extreme micromanagement to new levels of passive-aggressiveness. There’s no faster way to a miserable work environment than to have a bad manager.
But if you flip that script, it’s easy to see the positive impact that an adaptable, attentive manager can have. Employers want (and need) to hire the most skilled candidates. That’s why we need great managers who can adapt their styles to the requirements of their present circumstances. Adaptability is an essential skill of the effective manager.
Here’s a few examples of management styles. Knowing when and how to apply these approaches makes the difference between “just another boss” and a manager you’re excited to work with.
The Stand by Me Manager
“My manager always has my back. He goes to bat for me and roots for me in conversations with other leadership within the company.”
Getting to experience this kind of manager is awesome. People love working for a manager who will stand up for them and speak positively about them behind closed doors, when it matters. This manager fights for their employees on the issues that are most important to them, whether it’s getting resources, allowing casual dress, or changing a method that has not been working.
At TSG, this is what we call the IGYB style, which stands for “I got your back.”
The Slow Reveal Manager
“I have recently been assigned two additional projects. My manager saw I mastered my first project and recognized I am ready and willing to take on more. It was cool he saw I could take on more…but I am glad he didn’t give it to me all at first.”
The best managers see and appropriately delegate who can take on responsibilities based on tenure, experience, and training. In the first month, they don’t expect the work of a Junior PM to be that of a Senior PM with 10+ years of enterprise experience. They know the capabilities of their employees and never ask anyone to bite off more than they can chew, all while still providing opportunities to grow skills and take on tougher projects, when the employee is ready and capable.
The Flex Manager
“My boss lets me work from home on Fridays and understands when I need to take my son to the doctor.”
Times have changed. In most families both parents are working full time. Productivity ought to mean more than mere presence at your station. These managers know that, and they build rapport with their staff through an understanding of flexibility that is malleable but not meek. The Flex Manager’s team might not always be at their desk, but they are so appreciative that their projects always wind up completed on time.
The Glass House Manager
“On the first day, we sat down and the manager explained to me her expectations all at once. It really helped me know how to communicate to her.”
Great managers set clear expectations around what is expected of each person regarding performance, appropriate attire, behavior/attitude, best means of communication, and crystal-clear timelines.
This type of management saves people from guessing what is expected and wondering if they are behaving correctly. This type of manager also provides constant feedback, communicating to the team and individual what went well last week, areas of improvement, and articulates a game plan for achieving the goal.
The Let Freedom Ring Manager
“My manager doesn’t micromanage me. She gives me my assignment, and then leaves me alone. She doesn’t hover, she just trusts that I get it done.”
No need to explain. Some people just don’t need a manager to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong (and doesn’t benefit the team). As long as expectations are clearly set, this empowering approach can be a very effective management style.
The On the Spot Manager
“The other day I found a bug that had been undetected by any of the other testers. I was having issues getting this resolved due to another team’s non-cooperation. My manager saw I was struggling to get this team to comply and stepped in to show me on the spot the best way to get the other team’s buy-in.”
The best managers don’t wait until later to step in and correct; they fix issues before they spiral, and they show—not tell—their team how to act, communicate and approach problems. This ties into the classic phrase, “Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish.”
The Here When You Need Me Manager
“My manager is extremely hands off, he doesn’t micromanage me, but he is there when I need him. He lets me do my work, get my job done, but if I need something he is there to help and offers great insight and advice.”
This one is referred to by most as a manager with an “open door policy.” Managers have a lot on their plate. It’s unrealistic that your door is always open. I’d bet a lot of your day is spent in mandatory meetings. But the best managers allow for an open door to their team on important matters. They don’t micromanage, similar to the “Let Freedom Ring Manager,” but they are accessible to help offer insight and advice to the team.
The Ra-Ra Manager
“Each meeting I leave feeling fired up, I can’t help but attribute this to my manager. He just knows how to get the team on the same page and excited about the project.”
This manager encourages a positive team environment. He or she is the captain of the team, rather than the coach. They get the team hyped and bring together the common goals of the team, keeping everyone on the same page about the task at hand. This manager offers positive feedback and reinforcement to the team when goals are hit.
So, what makes a great manager?
The above styles can all make for good managers, but a great manager isn’t married to any one of those particular styles. Instead, a great manager listens to the team, learns what they need to be successful, and then finds a way to give them exactly that.
To simplify it: hire good people; let them work; set expectations; allow the freedom to mess up with small things first, then slowly add more important tasks to be released and entrusted; and be there if and when you are needed. Do your best to allow open lines of communication.