Remember this nursery rhyme? “What are little boys made of? Snips and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails; that’s what little boys are made of. What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice; that’s what little girls are made of.”
Many of us pose a similar question: “What are good managers made of?” Yet there’s no simple response to that query. No nursery rhyme providing us with winsome “answers”.
When hiring managers, we ask questions like these:
- How much managerial responsibility will this person hold?
- What values would be most important for the manager to possess?
- How well do the person’s values need to align with organizational values?
- How strong do a manager’s communication and problem-solving skills need to be to achieve success?
- Are innovation and technical skills more important for the manager to possess than organizational and leadership skills?
- Should the manager be a leader who plays it safe or one who is willing to take a few risks in the effort to move the company forward?
- Do we want to hire a manager who is a thinker or a producer at heart?
- Do we need a manager with strong work experience or one with obvious leadership potential who possesses the character and passion to learn well and make things happen?
What are good managers made of?
Whether you are a business owner needing a strong managerial candidate to oversee some major aspect of your company or a business manager simply hoping to hire someone you can trust and depend on, some personal characteristics should be regarded as standards when evaluating potential managers.
Here are what men and women from both our past and present have to say about leadership and some of the qualities most needed for managerial roles.
Managers with integrity
One aspect of management I’ve most appreciated in my work experiences has been integrity. Possessing strong core values and the ability to discern what is good and right for a team based on personal integrity makes it easy to respect those in leadership roles, even when they are less than perfect, which all are.
“Six essential qualities that are the key to success include sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, and charity.” Dr. William Menninger
“Freely admitting mistakes is a sign of leadership.” Skip Prichard
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson
Managers who work hard and value the hard work and dedication of others
Hard work is not necessarily about the time invested or the level of difficulty of the work being performed although these aspects certainly matter. People can work a mere 15 hours per week and still be hard workers. It has to do with the desire to do all things well and the intention never to allow a person or business feel like they are getting the short end of the stick. Hard work involves both dedication and diligence. The result? I’d like to say . . . a job well done, every time. Honestly, however, hard work doesn’t always result in success; sometimes we fail, especially when we attempt more challenging tasks. The point is, a good manager will set the standard for excellence and will appreciate employees who do the same.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven played music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell
Managers who value good ideas
Employees should feel honored when they are asked for ideas by their managers; this opportunity is even more satisfying when the manager follows up and/or follows through with the idea and then gives credit where credit is due.
“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” Ovid
“No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered.” Winston Churchill
“Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys.” Sam Walton
Managers who are focused
One of the things I love to hear when I am employed in a busy, stressful position is this: “Let’s not do this anymore. I don’t really see any value in that task.” It is thoughtful when management considers the workload and specific tasks of those working under his/her authority. It shows that they are aware of what is going on and focused on the main goal.
“Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?'” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Here is the prime condition of success: Concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it.” Andrew Carnegie
Managers with courage and compassion
Sometimes a manager talks about an employee’s shortcomings with others but never addresses those directly with the individual. What a nice change when a manager has the courage, compassion and willingness to address a failure, a mistake, an on-going problem, or a shortcoming of most any type directly with an employee and discuss potential solutions. We call this Management 101, and it’s difficult not to appreciate those kinds of problem solvers.
“Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.” Stanley McChrystal
Managers who can trust others to do good work and make wise decisions too
As an employee, when you do something day after day, you get pretty good at it. When managers trust you to make your own decisions in how you choose to accomplish your goals, it can make engagement with the job more pleasurable. While it’s true that some processes need to be standardized and written in stone, this is not always the case. As manager, be sure to convey your high and lofty aims to your staff. Then, be willing to step back and watch your staff make good things happen.
“Early on I realized that I had to hire people smarter and more qualified than I was in a number of different fields, and I had to let go of a lot of decision making. I can’t tell you how hard that is. But if you’ve imprinted your values on the people around you, you can dare to trust them to make the right moves.” Howard Schultz
Managers who appreciate talent and passion and empower their staff to grow both personally and professionally
I know some people working in customer service who would love nothing more than to be moved into a sales position with more salary potential. Others have no desire whatsoever to be moved from their safe customer service role into a somewhat more demanding sales position.
People are made differently; there are introverts and extroverts, both with varying motivations and goals in life. However, most people want to grow and be the best they can be in whatever task they find themselves engaged. Managers should meet people where they are and not be remiss in asking good questions and providing opportunities for both professional development and career advancement.
“Too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted people never are. They have unique talents. Such people cannot be forced into roles they are not suited for, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow great people to do the work they were born to do.” Warren Bennis
“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.” Agha Hasan Abedi
Managers who understand, hire and lead with the bigger picture in mind
My all-time favorite boss was one who followed the advice contained in this next quote:
“The four keys of great managers: (1) When selecting someone, they select for talent … not simply experience, intelligence, or determination. (2) When setting expectations, they define the right outcomes … not the right steps. (3) When motivating someone, they focus on strengths … not on weaknesses. (4) When developing someone, they help him find the right fit … not simply the next rung on the ladder.” Marcus Buckingham
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch
Managers willing to take a chance
Another boss I enjoyed working for in the past was constantly trying new things and was mostly successful in all his attempts. As a leader, his vision was great, and being a part of seeing how that vision played out is something that still impresses and influences me today. Dream big!
“People will rise to meet seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges if they understand the worthiness of the personal sacrifices and effort. Supporting that understanding must be mentors who provide leadership; without both ingredients, a cause will go unrealized and a mission is likely to fail.” Glenn R. Jones
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller
Managers who offer flexibility
Some managers fret over the chaos that might ensue if flexibility in the workplace were to become the norm. However, others have pondered the possibilities relating to flexibility, tried them out and experienced surprising results, not necessarily those s/he anticipated.
“Telecommuting, one of many forms of work-life flexibility, should no longer be viewed as a nice-to-have, optional perk mostly used by working moms. These common stereotypes don’t match reality—allowing employees to work remotely is a core business strategy today… We need to de-parent, de-gender, and de-age the perception of the flexible worker.” Cali Williams Yost, CEO/ Founder of Flex+Strategy Group & Work+Life Fit, in a recent Boston Globe op-ed
Managers who understand the ins and outs of company communications
Few people have the time, energy or interest in trying to handle everything on their own. When it comes to establishing good communication practices, a manager should take the lead, but sometimes, an assistant is also needed to organize and setup these new routines and methods of communication.
Be aware: Some people listen well; yet others recall more when information is written. And when less interested parties are involved in the process, communication is even more challenging. One may have to say it, write it, report it, email it, put it on their website and newsletter and then say it again once or twice . . . at least! Problems arise when important things do not get communicated well. When it comes to communicating and responding to critical information, develop a habit of speaking it, writing it, and acknowledging it (in writing).
“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” Sydney J. Harris
“The less people know, the more they yell.” Seth Godin
Managers with emotional intelligence
Self-awareness can lead to self-improvement and better self-management, especially regarding one’s responses to emotionally volatile situations. It is also true that emotionally intelligent leaders are usually more effective in addressing and resolving workplace conflicts. It is amazing to see these people in action and to see the positive results of their intervention.
“We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.” Marshall B. Rosenberg
“Emotional intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80 percent of the success in our lives.” J. Freedman
Managers who care for their staff in word and action
What you have heard is true: When people know how much you care about them and their work, they will automatically be more engaged in the work at hand, whatever it is. They will also be interested in what you have to say as their respected leader. Workplace culture will become less competitive and more collaborative; still achieving goals but with less stress, worry and fear.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” Voltaire
“As we develop a greater appreciation and affection for words that heal, bless and cheer, we will develop an even greater disdain for words that damage, disparage and disrupt.” Robert Burton
“To get the most out of their people, managers must appreciate the intricacies and depth of the human condition. A one-size-fits-all approach to managing staff just doesn’t cut it anymore.” Nicholas Nigro,The Everything Coaching and Mentoring Book: How to Increase Productivity, Foster Talent, and Encourage Success
Managers who provide sufficient feedback
I’ve had managers who gave feedback and others who offered none whatsoever. This lack of communication has not necessarily triggered a dislike of any job, but the absence of feedback certainly causes unanswered questions to linger indefinitely. Why not offer some degree of positive and constructive feedback to your employees? It will do them a world of good.
“To become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals in their working relationships. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it.” Ed Batista
“Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They’re just more engaged at work.” Tom Rath
“Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.” Jim Trinka and Les Wallace
Managers who are problem-solvers
The best managers will see problems, address them and make changes. Sometimes this is difficult for long-term employees, but it is appropriate activity for a person in management. Managers making changes will enjoy fewer disgruntled employees, however, when they explain the changes as well as the rationale behind them, and then encourage the staff to share their own ideas for ways to improve other current systems of operation.
“Leaders are problem solvers by talent and temperament, and by choice. For them, the new information environment—undermining old means of control, opening up old closets of secrecy, reducing the relevance of ownership, early arrival, and location—should seem less a litany of problems than an agenda for action. Reaching for a way to describe the entrepreneurial energy of his fabled editor Harold Ross, James Thurber said: ‘He was always leaning forward, pushing something invisible ahead of him.’ That’s the appropriate posture for a knowledge executive.” Harlan Cleveland
Managers who do not micro manage
Although some people may honestly need excessive supervision, most people are annoyed by and have no desire to work for micro managers – bosses who watch and often criticize every little thing an employee does. These managers want to be in-the-know regarding everything you are doing with your time and sometimes “how” you do it as well. If you are a manager, keep this in mind the next time you stand over someone’s shoulder or find yourself giving tedious, unnecessary instructions to a skilled and professional employee.
Problems related to micromanagement can be traced back to several underlying issues:
Maybe there is a power struggle going on. The boss wants the employee to do everything his or her way without exception. They demand control over every task and process.
Perhaps company methods haven’t changed for the past 20 years. The manager knows the established process works, so change is unwelcome, even if there is a simpler way to do it now. There is a fear of losing control.
Know that interpersonal relationships can skyrocket out of control when this particular fear results in an unwillingness or even an inability to listen well to others’ ideas, especially as members of the younger generations are hired.
Managers like this should be careful to hire a person who is simply trainable rather than someone who is an experienced, skilled and educated person. Otherwise, the employee may become frustrated and leave the job due to feelings of exasperation toward the manager. Worse, the employer may also become frustrated with the employee and eventually fire them.
Additionally, in striving to be “aware” of all that is going on in an office, a manager can sometimes become ridiculously demanding regarding the dissemination of information not actually needed. The real base need here is for the boss to trust his staff – not without oversight, but with minimal supervision. A lack of trust is the problem. (There may also exist a problem regarding the assignment of unnecessary tasks.)
On the flip side, when essential lines of communication have not been established within a department, things can go haywire. People may not have access to critical data reports. Ideas do not get shared much less acted upon. Time is wasted scrutinizing unnecessary details. Otherwise good managers become micro managers because they are not effectively in-the-know.
“Authority—when abused through micromanagement, intimidation, or verbal or nonverbal threats—makes people shut down & productivity ceases.” John Stoker, Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold Real Conversations That Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Theodore Roosevelt
Managers who are willing to listen to others
Years ago I had a boss who came across as a know-it-all, and this was my impression of him from the first time we met. However, he was eventually fired because he didn’t actually know it all, didn’t ask the right questions, and did not listen to others when he should have.
“Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say.” Andy Stanley
Many aren’t, but managers can be good listeners, problem-solvers, wise communicators, discerning in their appreciation of people and their valuable contributions, emotionally intelligent, risk takers, visionaries, focused, courageous, compassionate, hard-working, and full of integrity. Not only these things, but so much more could be said about the responsibilities and characteristics of quality managers.
As you move forward in your recruitment efforts, how might those responsible for talent acquisition begin doing things differently . . . better? Do you need to prioritize the traits most important to the managerial role for which you are hiring? Could some of these aspects of management be explored more effectively during the interview process? Do the behavioral interview questions you currently use need to be fine-tuned? Perhaps you need to obtain candidates’ perspectives on some of these managerial traits and how they translate into action in a challenging workplace.
If you would like to partner with a professional placement firm in your search for the best managerial candidates, please contact Brannon Professionals at (901) 759-9622 or visit our website.