A manager or any individual that is directly responsible for you and your peers' day-to-day activities and tasks can be the greatest asset you possess. Managers are privy to a wide range of information that directly affects corporate expansions, mergers, acquisitions, promotions, layoffs, terminations and hirings. If possible, having a good relationship with your manager is something that every employee should aspire to. Along with a good relationship, having a good or even better, a great manager, can have immediate benefits which can last a lifetime.
Qualities of a Great Manager
I personally am fortunate to have worked side-by-side with some great managers, both men and women. These managers regularly demonstrated exceptional vision, showed strong leadership, motivated employees, exemplified solid decision making, encouraged personal and professional employee development, and placed emphasis on accountability. One common characteristic they seemed to possess is they all were genuinely concerned about me and my teammates as individuals and employees. Let's take a moment to analyze what are considered qualities of a great manager.
Being able to see the unseen can be a highly beneficial skill no matter the setting. Imagine having a person on your side that can do just that. A manager that has the ability to visualize what is to come in the future, based on the company's, as well as the department's direction gives you and your peers an added advantage to succeed. Understanding what the outcome should look like beforehand, inherently provides you and your peers greater confidence to take on your current projects and tasks knowing the end in mind.
A key member of our team was moving on leaving what we felt was a huge void right in the center of the team. He possessed a wealth of knowledge as a result of his direct involvement in the creation of many of our current processes and systems we used daily to perform our jobs. You see...this was no ordinary team member. He was my manager and had hired every member of our team including myself.
This was definitely the five alarm fire version of emergencies with unknown impacts. Understanding the potentially serious effects of his departure to our team and projects, my manager put a plan in place to conduct knowledge transfer sessions, with me and various members of the team, prior to him leaving.
For three weeks straight, we met with him on a daily basis to cover all things related to his current projects, internal and external departmental processes, and essential points of contact. Although his departure initially was a huge blow to our morale, his leadership through this difficult time of transition created a calming effect that is hard to describe. After leaving he even left the door open for us to contact him if we still had questions.
Great managers are great because they care about what they are doing, who they impact, and how it affects the quality of service they deliver. In this situation, this manager could have easily waited out his required two weeks notice, doing just enough to get by without concerning himself with a team and projects that would soon be no longer his responsibility, but that just wasn't him and had never been.
A great leader’s leadership through difficult times, has the effect of calming the storm of our hectic lives while creating respect and admiration for the leader.
One of my most highly respected managers stated the following in a meeting I attended.
"One of my jobs is to get you to accomplish something which you never thought you would be able to do."
Imagine the impact of a statement like that on someone at any level. This statement carries with it the implicit understanding that this manager wants to get the best out of everyone. No matter your previous accomplishments, once you are able to do something that you never thought you could, your confidence level is invigorated. Think of the good that can do for you as a person and employee. Now, think about each member of your team experiencing the same success. The result is a more effective team overall.
4. Decision Making
A part of being a great manager is understanding your team and their various strengths and weaknesses. Once you have that under your belt, the decision making becomes that much easier. Couple team awareness with your own skills as a manager and you are even better equipped to take on the challenges that come your way.
Solid decision making is without a question a very important aspect of being a great manager. Some managers I've had in my past have fallen short in this area, but the great ones, understand what they have in their team and use that to make decisions, simple or complex alike. The great ones make the decisions understanding, if the decision turns out to be the wrong one, they are willing to take complete responsibility and accept any recourse from higher ups without throwing their team "under the bus".
On the contrary if the decision subsequently results in a good outcome, the great ones accept little to no praise and accredit the success to the efforts of the team while highlighting individuals on the team for their contributions.
5. Employee Development
Years ago after graduating from college and entering the workforce, I decided I wanted to go back to school to pursue a computer programming certification program offered at a local technical school. I took out a loan and began attending night courses after work. After a couple of months in the program, I informed my then manager, I was in the program and when asked how was I paying for it, I told her I had taken out a loan to attend.
Her response took me by surprise.
"You shouldn't have to pay for that. The company should pay for this."
What she did immediately was even more surprising. She contacted the head of the department who in turn contacted Human Resources. After approval from Human Resources and my department head, the company cut a check for the entire amount of the training program including payments I had already made. To put this in perspective this experience with my manager gave me the technical skills to launch my career in technology which ultimately led to the establishment of H-Impact.
I feel encouraging both employee's personal and professional development is the most important quality of a great manager. Managers that seek opportunities for employee development are doing a huge service to the employee and company as a whole. Great managers use meetings, one-on-one sessions and annual reviews to discuss employee performance and to come up with Employee Individual Development Plans. When at all possible they use this time to find ways to help the employee grow in their current role using mentoring/coaching strategies, expand the employees role to help them gain relevant experience, and approving formal training to ensure the employee has all the necessary knowledge and skills for current and future responsibilities.
A manager once told our team in a meeting something that has stuck with me to this day.
"Don't put me in a position in which I am unable to defend you."
Take a second to let that sink in. In one profound statement, this manager summarized the ideal working relationship between manager and employee. With this statement, my manager was assuring us that he would fight for and defend our team, as long as, we acted responsibly in accordance with the job functions in which we were hired.
As I think about my experiences at various companies in different roles, as an employee or consultant, I can't help but to reflect upon each relationship with my manager. Each manager has shaped the business owner I am today and for this I am truly grateful for each and every experience. The spoken and unspoken lessons of how to manage a team, grow individuals within the team personally and professionally, while sticking to the mission set forth by the corporation have been ingrained me. I do understand that everyone's experiences with their managers may not resemble mine, but I hope at some time in your career you are able to work side-by-side with a great manager to witness the immediate benefits with lasting effects.