The International Coaching Federation recently launched a survey identifying the major traits of a manager who had a positive impact on the team members and their career. I immediately thought of my favorite manager and why I enjoyed so much his management style.
The list is long (and could be even longer). It is not easy to be a great people manager.
Whatever the companies say, it is important that the manager has expertise/experience in the domain where his team is operating. It gives more credibility, higher empathy for what the team members need to go through. My manager spent 20 years on the market I was operating in. I knew he knew and I knew I could trust his advice (even though he usually gave me a freedom to cope with my challenges on my own).
Tip: When you become a manager for the first time, stay in the field of your expertise, so that you can focus on developing your management skills. For experienced managers, learn as much about the market or the area you are in. You do not need to become an expert, but you need to understand the dynamics.
Courage to stand up for himself even if the others and especially his boss disagree. Courage to back up his team members if they mess up. Courage to take tough decisions that will make other people unhappy or angry.
Tip: Courage is a matter of practice. Dare to disagree and find ways how to formulate your real opinions in a non-aggressive manner.
I had a great respect for my previous manager because he acted on problems, he did not make things complicated and kept advancing by solving one problem after another. He was able to make his hands dirty when I could not manage on my own. He supported me by taking actions.
Tip: Don’t try to be a manager coach when your team needs you to act. Don’t only speak, but take actions that make things progress.
A great manager is clear about where he is going. He is clear about his expectations and formulates them clearly without any ambiguity. He is able to clarify what his team members are saying to avoid misunderstandings. After every discussion, there are clear objectives and actions to take on each side.
Tip: Spend enough time to make sure that people understand you and you understand them. There is a couple of techniques coming from coaching that can help you develop this skill.
My previous manager was always great at getting information and working with them. I did not have to send him any report, he always knew what was happening with my customers through talking to me, to other people or news. He never requested formal feedbacks from my colleagues, he invested his time in talking to them. In this way, he immediately knew from the body language or tone if the feedback was truly positive or there was something wrong going on. He managed extremely well the information overload. I could rely on him to respond to the emails without having to send reminders. And the best thing – he remembered all the important information.
Tip: Find ways how to cope with the information overload. Develop new habits to organize yourself. Talk to people rather than to ask formal reports that will capture only 20% of the interesting information.
My manager was able to connect to people in a very human manner and focused on building trust. He also well understood the dynamics of influencing via different stakeholders.
Tip: Be curious about people, be genuinely interested in them and try to keep promises.
This last point is probably the most important. It is the balance between directing, guiding and giving space to people to experiment and learn on their own. With every team member being different and having a different level of experience it gets even more complicated. Situational Leadership covers that well. Here I could finally criticize my favorite manager. Well, only a little bit. When I started doing sales, I needed more guidance and less freedom. That was the reason why I looked for external coaching. Thanks to the coaching I got on the level, where I finally enjoyed the style of my manager despite the fact that the coach never told how I should solve my problems.
Tip: Experiment about the right mix of guiding and letting people do what they know the best. I think a good proportion is 80% letting people do what they know the best, ask the right questions, let them come up with their own solutions and the rest is your active involvement, giving advice, directions, and actions.
I wish all managers that they enjoy the challenge of high expectations their team members have upon them.