Anyone can be a manager. I’ve seen people given managerial responsibilities by their superiors so that they can tick a box on a promotion form. But it takes a certain type of person to be a Great Manager. I think about all the people I have worked for over the years and think about what made them a good or bad person to work for and with. I use that experience to try and be the best manager that I can be.
1. They Absorb
Not just listen to you. They absorb what you have to say. They learn about how you feel about what you are doing, and they understand that your opinion is very relevant. They understand how your role affects them, and also how their own role and the decisions they make affect you.
2. They Could Do Your Job
Not replace you, because what would be the point of you being there? But if push came to shove, they could do your job at least for a few days. A Great Manager will have listened to you enough to understand what it is that you do. They wouldn’t ask you to do anything that they wouldn’t do themselves. And they should know exactly how your role fits into the organisation. If they don’t have this fundamental understanding of what you do, how can they possibly guide you and help you to improve?
A part of this comes from you being a good teacher and communicator. If you keep everything held close to your chest, then everything will fall apart while you are not there. While that can make you feel good about yourself for being indisposable, it takes a certain amount of humility for someone to realise that it is not in the company’s best interests to have you as their key man risk.
3. They Have Your Back
A Great Manager will make sure you know that unless in an exceptional circumstance (where you really fucked something up) they will have your back no matter what. For little things they will even take the flack for you from senior management and sugar coat it by the time the message gets back to you.
They will stick up for your decisions and always make sure that you get all of the credit that you deserve.
A Great Manager would never claim your work as their own, and they should never drop you in it.
4. You Learn From Them
A Great Manager doesn’t just pass tasks to you. They teach you about the role and give you the opportunity to learn from them. They make time to give you feedback on your work (both good and bad!) and they show you how you can improve. This might not be every day, but as a minimum you should be given some of their time on a monthly basis.
5. They Know The Right Questions To Ask
The great Henry Ford once said “If we asked customers what they wanted, they would have asked for Faster Horses”.
A Great Manager knows that if you ask standard questions, you will get nothing more than standard answers. Working out what questions to ask is the trait of a Great Manager. How many of us have filled out Staff Surveys asking us to scale from one to ten how we rate our levels of pay? Or to give feedback on how the Leadership are performing? Nine times out of ten, these surveys do nothing more than tick a box to say that Management are listening to their staff. They then give the feedback that all salaries are set at market rate and then the surveys go out of mind until the following year.
Management, let me tell you. Staff Surveys mean jack-all. All they tell you is that 15% of your employees are so bored that they filled it in to begin with.