7 key qualities of a good manager
At the core of any business is people. We use labels like employees, managers, sales personnel, marketers, and agents to simplify workflows but ultimately they are all people. Each of them has a unique set of skills, interests, and personality that influence their perspective, morale, and overall performance.
What makes a good team leader is understanding each team members' personality profile and fueling strengths while nurturing weaknesses. According to Gallup, the quality of a manager accounts for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.
This means that when it comes to a business's success, it's managers who can make a significant difference.
The modern manager
With the rise of remote work and an industry shift towards creating more positive work environments, what we expect from managers has evolved.
Today, the characteristics of a good manager combine strong soft skills and keen emotional intelligence while maintaining authenticity on a human level. And yet, most managers are expected to straddle these important skills with scarce resources and training.
That's why we've created this Traits of a Good Manager list. Our research explores how to become a good manager from today's most engaged organizations like Google and their Project Oxygen, Gallup and their State of the American Workplace, and our own SmartGift data.
1. Align your team’s objectives with the company’s mission
Only 4 of 10 US employees think the mission of their company makes their job important. This very easily leads employees to question how their efforts affect the overall success and diminishes their morale. If allowed to continue, it can more seriously lead to a decline in employee motivation, especially when shifts are necessary to accommodate changing needs in the market.
An effective team leader knows to bridge this divide and make the connection, you must share the purpose of the assignment. This means that team leaders must understand from their managers what is the goal of the project. Don’t be afraid to ask for this information, great leaders appreciate good questions and debate.
2. Inspire open communication by listening and advocating for the opinions of others
Good leaders pull ideas and inspiration from everywhere. When you include your team around problem solving, it builds engagement and personal attachment to a project. This creates excitement for employees and makes small wins feel like a celebration-worthy events.
Today, only 3 in 10 US employees believe that their opinions really count. With effective communication and taking employees' opinions seriously, leaders can build respect and create more committed and loyal teams.
3. Provide incremental improvement through transparency and good coaching
A team is only as effective as its weakest member. Only once managers understand this, can they begin to improve. Honest conversation is the best tool managers have to get employees to open up around what pain points they face and what are potential bottlenecks.
Consider questions like “What is something you like or find fun about work right now?” and “What things aren’t so fun or make you upset?” to keep the conversation light. It’s important to avoid using aggressive language or making the employee feel like they are being reprimanded.
4. Create an inclusive team by talking regularly with coworkers and showing concern for success and well-being
Communication and authenticity are two timeless tools in the repertoire of good management skills. But with remote teams quickly becoming the new normal, even in the post-pandemic era, managers might find it difficult to connect.
Talk with your team to uncover their availability, but try to schedule weekly calls with employees to discuss steps to achieve their short-term and long-term goals. Only 20% of US employees recall having these types of conversations with their leaders in the last six months. By setting a goal to connect and help your team achieve their goals, you can dramatically improve employee engagement in the workplace.
That said, you shouldn’t feel limited to only talk about work-related topics on these employee catch-ups. Speak openly by asking them about things outside of work, interests that you may share, or general feelings or desires.
5. Connect the human-level interests and motivations of your team with work
Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the potential to become exceptional leaders. When you discover your team’s inner motivations and human-level interests, you begin to unlock high-performance.
Qualities like enjoying learning new skills, meeting new people, or working diligently in the background can help you assign roles more effectively. By noting the types of projects that interest them and communicating openly, you can easily uncover these traits.
6. Recognize and reward good work
How often do you wish someone recognized and appreciated the hard work you put into doing a good job? Are you one of the 70% of US employees whose work doesn’t get recognized regularly? Now consider your team, do they also comprise those same 70% of Americans?
The good news is that employee recognition is a low cost, high impact way to improve employee engagement and workplace culture. It can be as simply as creating a Slack (or Teams) channel dedicated for team shout-outs, or as thoughtful as sending a corporate gift to signal to your team a job well done, celebrating work anniversaries, birthdays, or anything you think worth celebrating.
7. Show that you care about your employees as real people
Life happens. For everyone, there are things that happen outside of work that have the power to affect the time spent at work. As managers, it’s important to respect that and be considerate when things arise.
When you get to know your employees on the appropriate, personal level, you can better anticipate certain distractions or opportunities with your team. Consider things like becoming new parents, or making a big purchase like a house.
Ultimately, we spend ⅓ of our lives at work. That’s roughly the same amount of time that we spend sleeping (or trying to sleep). By creating synergies between the time spent in and out of work, managers can create strong engagement in the workplace.