5 Traits of Every Good Manager

5 Traits of Every Good Manager

Table of Contents

It’s no secret the impact managers can have on the employee experience.

In fact, according to research from Gallup, managers can swing employee engagement by as much as 70%. And with engagement metrics tied to productivity, profitability, and retention, that 70% has the power to make or break your organization.

Moreover, 50% of employees leave companies because of their manager. If that statistic rings true for your team, poor management may be your biggest liability when it comes to employee unhappiness and turnover.

So whether you’re looking to coach your executive team or develop your own leadership skills, we’ve rounded up 5 of the most important traits that lay the foundation for good management — along with tips for implementing them into your day-to-day.

1. Great Managers are Motivational

A leader’s job is to lead.  And as Simon Sinek’s recent leadership bestseller evangelizes, good managers “Start With Why.” When it comes to inspiring your team to do their most impactful work, good managers harness their motivational skills and connect employee initiatives to the central “why” of the business.

If it seems like your team is disconnected from the day-to-day grind, utilize daily standups or weekly 1-on-1 Sync-Ups to reignite their interest and energies into the projects that will make the most difference for their goals, and more importantly, their careers.

Tips for developing motivational skills

  • Tie team members’  work to tangible goals that move the business (and their own success) forward
  • Offer public and private recognition to your team for a job well done

2. Great Managers are Communicative

Being a good communicator may seem like an obvious quality of a good manager, but the numbers tell a different story. As reported by Interact, 69% of managers are often uncomfortable communicating with their employees.

And whether you’re delivering a less-than-glowing performance review or following up on a project timeline, a successful manager is willing to have uncomfortable conversations if it means helping an employee, team, or business improve as a whole.

For managers struggling in the communication department, practicing your listening skills can be a great start. There’s an old interview adage that says “if you’re interviewing with a CEO, expect to do 25% talking and 75% listening.” Challenge yourself to flip that ratio and build your communication skills by first understanding what others are trying to tell you, rather than hyper-focusing on what you are trying to communicate with others.

Tips for developing communication skills

  • Practice listening more than you speak
  • Recap your employee’s main points to ensure you understand what they’re telling you
  • Tailor your communication style to your audience — the same delivery may not work for every employee

3. Great Managers are Candid

Perhaps an offshoot of communication, candor is another quality that separates good managers from great ones. As defined by Merriam-Webster, candor goes beyond basic communication skills and challenges a speaker to engage in  “unreserved, honest, or sincere expression.”

In her New York Times bestselling book, Radical Candor, Kim Scott espouses the belief that successful leaders tread the line between personal care for their employees and directly challenging them to grow for both the business and their own careers.

Candor requires the ability to constructively give feedback whether your team is winning or losing, creating an environment of constant growth, and developing the self-awareness to not only give that feedback but seek it out yourself.

Tips for practicing candor

  • Provide in-the-moment, actionable feedback when you see opportunities for improvement
  • Be comfortable soliciting feedback for yourself to encourage team-wide growth
  • Be involved and observant: you can’t have constructive conversations with people whose work you’re unfamiliar with

Looking for more tips on delivering meaningful feedback to coworkers? Check out our Constructive Feedback Guide on Developing Employees.

4. Great Managers are Composed

When listing out the traits of a good leader, this one can be easy to forget. After all, in media and real life, hot-headed managers and impassioned CEOs are often applauded for using emotions to drive employee performance.

But here’s the truth about leaders who let their emotions get the best of them: the motivation they incite will be rooted in either fear or anger (and in worst case scenarios, possibly both). Negativity-fueled performance is not a sustainable engagement strategy, and for managers who want to build trust with their team, failure to keep your cool under pressure will do everything but.

Sure, maintaining one’s composure can be difficult when pressed with insubordinate employees or harsh feedback from leadership, but giving yourself time to process and react thoughtfully will pay you back tenfold when it comes to your reputation as a balanced and discerning leader.

Tips for maintaining your composure

  • Assume good intent
  • Allow yourself time to respond, even if that means taking a day. Facing tough feedback? Thank the person for being candid and ask if you can take some time to think about their message and regroup when you have a plan of action.

5. Great Managers are Curious

Last but not least, great managers remain curious: about their craft, about their business goals, about their teams, and most importantly, about themselves.

Though perhaps the most nebulous of the managerial must-have traits, curiosity remains the bedrock quality of leaders who innovate, coach and develop solutions for problems their businesses may not even know they had.

As a manager, exhibiting curiosity is one of the best ways to lead by example. It encourages your team to dig deeper, ask questions, continue their own career education, and care about work that goes on outside of their direct team.

Though it can be easy to get in a curiosity rut at a certain point in your career, take care to cultivate the part of you that wants to know why and how things are the way they are, and how they can fundamentally improve.

Tips for cultivating your curiosity

  • Read more (there are a few good recommendations in this list alone)
  • Try meditation. It’s not often we let our minds wander, especially when it comes to our professional lives. Take 10 minutes to really noodle on your current challenges; you may surprise yourself with what solutions present themselves.

Ready to take your management skills to the next level?

We’re here to help.