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8 traits of a great manager

Sharon Daugherty 7 min read
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Have you ever been in a job interview and been asked to describe your best and worst manager? You probably remember that manager you loved working with and the one you wish you’d never met. We define our ideal manager based on our personality and working style. But there are some things that we all want in the person that leads our team.

When it’s your turn to be in that role, you want to be more than the person in charge who makes the rules and hands out discipline. You want to be the person who inspires your team, keeps them focused, and leads them to success. You want the people that work for you to leave better than they came and to see you as the kind of leader they want to be.

Even though every Manager has their own distinct style, there are some things that the best ones have in common. Here are eight characteristics that will help make you a great leader:

1. Spread positive energy

Every company has a culture, and part of that culture is how people feel about being at work. The excitement that your team members felt when they were hired doesn’t have to diminish with time. Keep that upbeat feeling going by starting each day on a positive note, always looking for opportunities to laugh, and remaining an ongoing source of encouragement. Look for the positive spin on anything that could potentially hurt your team’s morale and share your outlook with them. Your positive energy will be contagious.

2. Build a bonded team

A great manager understands that a great team is made up of people that like being together. You might think that people who spend 8 or 10 hours (or more) together every day of the week only want to get away from each other by five o’clock. But by planning team lunches, celebrating each other’s special moments, and doing activities together outside of work, you help your team create memories that make the team start to feel like a family. This helps team members communicate better and support each other because they have formed real relationships.

3. Build a culture of trust and accountability

In your own role, you hold yourself accountable for what you do. When assignments are made, your team expects you to set the pace and make your expectations clear. Check on everyone’s progress at team and individual meetings, but otherwise, let them to do what they do best without micromanaging. This makes people feel confident, knowing that you trust them to do their jobs.

Great Managers Build a Culture of Trust

Be transparent with your own activities and progress to show that you also have work that you’re accountable for. If you fall short of a deadline or don’t manage a responsibility, own it. Don’t be afraid to say that you’ve made a mistake. This is a great example for your team, and they’ll hold themselves accountable for their work too.

4. Be a motivator

Everyone has a moment when they don’t feel as excited about their work as they need to. Difficult assignments, deadline pressure, or personal challenges are all enough to knock the stuffing out of the most driven person. Even though everyone is personally motivated by different things, we all want to feel good about the work we do. As the team’s leader, you can help people remember why they should.

Talk to the team about your goals and remind them why their roles are so important. When you notice a single person losing their motivation, pull them aside and find out what is discouraging them. You can offer them the support they need to get re-energized, whether it’s a solution to a problem or just an encouraging word.

5. Lead with Empathy

We all get caught up in the rat race; the pace of the day and the amount of work you have to do can make it easy for you to just go through the motions with your team, without being concerned about how they’re doing. But remember that everyone has a life and may have some difficulties that can affect them in a lot of ways. Have they been coming to work late? Are they being quiet or impatient? It may be a good time to ask if they are okay. And if they don’t want to share their personal life with you, let them know that there is support available if they need it.

You’re not expected to tolerate performance issues forever but knowing they have noticeably changed might make them check their behavior and feel better knowing that they have support. In the long run, they will want to give their all to a leader who treated them like their feelings matter.

Great Managers Foster Professional Growth

6. Be the team’s Ambassador

Every team has a reputation. As the leader, it’s your job to be your team’s champion, promoting the work they do, supporting them during challenges, and making sure their success is recognized. When teams see their leader standing for them, they feel trusted, respected and protected. Encourage members to attend company events, and to even get a little competitive when its warranted. You will be communicating that you believe in them, and they’ll be encouraged to perform at their best and represent you well.

7. Foster professional growth

One of the most valuable things you can offer your team is growth and development. If you notice that someone has strengths that could help them advance, make the resources and opportunities available to them.

Ask each team member what they want to learn or improve upon and where they see themselves going professionally; and then help them come up with a plan to get there. And here is the trick: don’t wait until the annual review to do it. Having these conversations on a regular day will really show the team that you care about their success. Even if they’re strong, holding them on your team when bigger opportunities are out there could eventually make them feel like they’re being held back. A great leader brings out the best in their people and helps them keep getting better.

8. Celebrate success

When a person or a team does a job well, nothing (other than a bonus) is more rewarding than being recognized for a job well done. Use the platform you think is best – a team meeting, the company all hands meeting or even the newsletter – to give a shout out to a person or the people who had a big win. And that recognition doesn’t always have to be for something big; it can be for something that often goes unnoticed, like the person who comes in early every day to start the coffee, or who proofreads the team’s presentation before the big monthly meeting. When a person is recognized for doing their best, it causes a very specific reaction – they will want to keep doing it.

At some point, we have all met someone who inspired, taught, and encouraged us. Those people play a role in our success, however large or small. Being a manager is not only about having power or making more money, it’s about the opportunity to help people have a great work experience and continue growing and improving, which is something we all strive to do.

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