How to Be a Good Manager – Common Qualities & Characteristics

In daily life, most of us have had experience “managing” others, whether it’s organizing a church fund drive or directing a crew of employees. Simply defined, management is the act of coordinating others to achieve a goal. The process involves planning, task assignment, monitoring, providing feedback, and, when necessary, correction.

There are a variety of different management styles, each geared toward different organizations and situations. For example, the command-based and discipline-oriented culture of the military may be essential to the battlefield, but does not generally transfer to the more relaxed culture of a law firm.

Your Management Style

As a new manager or a manager with seeking more responsibility, you would be well-advised to observe other managers around you to learn the following:

  1. What the Culture Expects and Rewards. In some companies, conviviality, extensive social interaction, and high employee morale are important values; in others, accomplishing tasks within the limitations of a schedule or budget is the main criterion for success.
  2. The Effectiveness of Other Managers in Goal Accomplishments. In the late 1960s, the “Peter Principle” became a popular concept in management theory. The principle theorized that people are promoted until they can no longer accomplish the tasks expected, which is where they remain until leaving an organization. Not all managers of the same rank are considered equal. You want to be sure to emulate the former in your trek to the top.
  3. The Style of Managers Considered Exemplary By the Organization. All managers have their distinct style. Analyze the methods of those managers who consistently meet their goals, and identify the methods and characteristics that fit your basic personality. It is highly unlikely that you can adopt a style opposite your natural tendencies, so look for skills that are easily transferable.

Common Mistakes of Managers

You may adopt the style favored by your organization, your mentors, and other successful managers, but are not going to be successful if you can’t avoid the most common managerial pitfalls:

1. Lacking Clear Directions

Without clear objectives, it’s impossible to work toward a goal. An employee whose goals are not made explicit is likely to dawdle the day away, achieving little personal satisfaction and accomplishing even less for the company. Managers who fail to clearly communicate what is expected to their subordinates cannot supervise a successful team.

Be sure to include any or all of the following components when assigning tasks to your staff:

  • Project Description. What work is to be performed? What resources are involved? What is the expected outcome? Managers who provide thorough details during work assignments are more likely to achieve their intended results.
  • Responsibilities. Who does the work? How can it be coordinated to minimize duplication and delays? Assign detailed tasks to avoid confusion and maximize efficiency.
  • Schedules. What are the deadlines of a project or work assignment? What are the benchmarks to be achieved? When is the work expected to be completed? Lack of a schedule conveys a low priority to employees.
  • Objectives. What is the goal you are working toward? Is it clearly defined? Specific? Realistic? Tangible? Vague, indefinite objectives drag out projects and ratchet up costs because no one knows when the work is done.
  • Process. How is the work to be performed? What activities are required and in what sequence? Is training required? Conflicts and frustration can arise when a subordinate completes a task in a manner unexpected by the manager, even when work objectives are met.

Good managers ensure that their subordinates understand directions through repetition, rephrasing, and feedback. They are careful about the words they use, how they say those words, and how they use body language to reinforce their message. If managers listen to the words and observe the unspoken attitude of their subordinates, they can ensure their message has been accepted.

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