Great management is a skill that's not easily defined. You'll never forget the best (or the worst) managers you've worked for during your career. But it’s often hard to put your finger on what really made the difference.

Here are a few traits of a great manager:

They make everyone feel included

It was reported that football manager Alex Ferguson knew the names of not only the football players in the first team, but also everyone playing for the youth teams, as well as every single other staff member at the club.

The best managers have a way of keeping the whole team in the loop, ensuring everyone feels included. They somehow seem to instinctively know how to make the right kind of connections, and ensure that each person who works for them feels valued.

Even when they can’t meet face to face, they’ll find ways to stay in touch, acknowledge a job well done, and share credit.

They play to individual strengths

According to Gallup, employees that get to use their strengths every day are 8% more productive, and 15% less likely to quit than those that don’t.

Great managers are curious about what makes people tick, constantly looking for ways to encourage growth, and have a knack of putting teams together with complementary strengths, so they can learn from and support each other.

Instead of changing people to fit their jobs, the best managers find ways to put people in roles where they can excel.

They spread happiness

Humans are social animals, and instinctively pick up signals from others that then influence how they behave.  If a manager is happy in their role, and exudes a positive attitude and a passion for his/her work, it will infect their team.

Research shows that happy employees are more productive, and more engaged, so work harder and stay longer than their less engaged colleagues. Naturally, no one expects their manager to be perpetually happy, but nothing will demoralize a team faster than a manager who is constantly miserable.

They build trust

Simon Sinek in his book, Why Leaders Eat Last, points out that trust is essential. Without trust, he says, we spend too much time protecting ourselves from each other. With trust, teams pull together and the organisation grows stronger as a result.

Great managers know how to build trust. They don’t lecture, they ask questions. They don’t do all the talking, they listen instead. They don’t claim to know everything, they demonstrate competence where it’s expected. And, they look out for their teams.

They promote progression

When you have someone really great in your team, there’s a temptation to hang on to them, even if that means blocking other opportunities.

Great managers are like good parents, they know when to let go. They’ll be the ones encouraging their teams to aspire to more. They’ll seize the opportunity offered by today’s modern online HR software to make great performance visible to other managers in the organisation or recommend development activities, and help members of their team move on when the time is right.

They play chess not checkers

The best managers don’t micro-manage, and they don’t get hung up on the details. They map out the overall objective, ensure that everyone understands what success looks like, and provide support or mentoring when needed. They’ll work at removing barriers, not put in layers of bureaucracy. Their aim is to allow their teams to get on and do what they do best.  

About Author: Sue Lingard heads up marketing for Cezanne HR, a developer of innovative online HR software for mid-sized UK and international businesses. 

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