As a manager, you want to do everything you can to support your team and help them succeed. That means developing the skills, qualities, and characteristics necessary to effectively lead your employees and inspire their best work.
But managing people isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always come intuitively just because you’ve been granted the title of manager. Below, we’ll take a look at five of the most essential qualities of a good manager — and how to develop those qualities and become the most effective leader you can be.
1. Good managers know how to communicate.
Part of being a successful manager is being able to effectively communicate with your team, particularly about what’s expected of them and what they can expect from their jobs.
“Great people leaders are clear about expectations,” said Diane Gallo, a leadership consultant, career coach, and HR leader with over 30 years of experience working with managers across a variety of industries.
As a manager, it’s your job to clearly outline what you need your team to do and how they need to do it (without micromanaging). For instance, if you’re overseeing a new product launch, good communication might include walking each team member through their responsibilities related to the launch, including things like relevant deadlines, how to submit work, and what they should do if they run into a problem or have any questions.
But what you communicate is only part of the equation. Equally important is how you communicate. Good leaders communicate respectfully, without talking down to their team members. They also communicate clearly, kindly, and in a way that puts their teams at ease — which means avoiding yelling or being overly harsh or terse.
Tips for Bolstering Your Communication Skills
If you want to be a better manager, working on more effective communication is a must. Here are a few tips to help you improve communication with your team — and improve your management skills in the process.
- Know your meaning before sending a message. If you’re not sure what you’re trying to say, your employees aren’t going to be clear on your meaning either. Before you send that email or outline your team’s new project, make sure you know what you want to say, how you want to say it, and what you need your team to do with the information you’re sharing.
- Ask for feedback. Okay, so you know what you want to say — but is it coming across clearly to your employees? Ask your team members for feedback on your communication, and if there are any ways you could make your communication with them more clear (for example, by summarizing long emails in bullet points).
- Avoid communicating while angry. People tend to say or do things when they’re angry that they wouldn’t do otherwise. Even if you’re generally good at communicating with your team, those communication skills can go out the window when conversations get heated. If you’re dealing with a frustrating situation, wait until you cool off to talk things out with your team.
2. Good managers know how to listen.
Good managers “know the importance of listening to the team — collectively and as individuals,” Gallo said. That means creating a feedback-friendly culture for your team to speak freely about what’s working, what’s not, and how you as a manager can create a better, more supportive work environment.
Some things you could do to help better listen to your employees could include scheduling regular one-on-ones to check in with individual team members to gauge how they’re feeling about their role or sending out an anonymous survey to get constructive feedback from your team on how you can improve things for them.
You won’t always be able to act on the feedback you get from your team. But even if you can’t make all the changes they’re requesting, just asking for their suggestions — and taking the time to listen to what they have to say — can improve trust and empower your employees to speak up when there’s an issue.
Tips to Bolster Your Listening Skills
If you want to be a successful manager, you need to listen to your team and make sure they feel heard. Here are a few tips for improving your listening skills.
- Listen actively. A good way to ensure your employees walk away feeling heard is through active listening, which involves you processing, reflecting on, and remembering what they say. For example, after your employee is done speaking, you can repeat back what they said in your own words. You can say something like, “So what I hear you saying is…” This will show your employee that you were listening and got the message, and it also lets you clear up any confusion and make sure you walk away with the right information.
- Practice. If listening doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll need practice. Look for opportunities to work on this skill set, both in your professional and personal life — and then seize those opportunities whenever possible.
"The confident leader does not feel challenged by others; they welcome the contributions of teammates and create an atmosphere of safety.”
3. Good managers lead with confidence.
As a manager, you should feel confident in who you are, your skills and expertise, and your ability to effectively lead your team.
“Confidence as a leader is essential,” said Christine Matzen, founder of Oak Street Strategies, a consultancy focused on leadership development and strategy, and author of Leader: The Journey to Become the Force Your Business Needs to Win. “Knowing who you are and what you stand for is the foundation of strong and capable leadership that employees can trust.”
Leading your team with confidence “allows you to be consistent in your decision-making,” Matzen said. And when your team can trust your decisions and know they’ll be consistent, it allows them to get into a groove and do their best work.
Confident managers also don’t feel threatened by their teams, which allows them to create an environment where innovation and teamwork thrive. “The confident leader does not feel challenged by others; they welcome the contributions of teammates and create an atmosphere of safety,” said Matzen. “This safety allows employees to develop a strong sense of autonomy while also contributing to the team in a culture of camaraderie.”
The confidence you develop as a leader can also have a ripple effect and inspire more confidence in your employees. “When employees know that the leader is steady…they can push out of their comfort zones and build confidence themselves,” Matzen noted.
Tips to Bolster Your Confidence
Being confident is part of being an effective leader, and it is a leadership skill you can build over time. If you want to bolster your confidence, try the following tips.
- Ask for feedback on what you do well. Knowing where you excel as a manager can help you build confidence. But if you can’t see those things for yourself, outside insights can help, so ask your mentors, colleagues, and employees for feedback on what you do well as a manager. Hearing where you’re doing a good job can give you the boost of confidence you need to step up and become a better leader.
- Put in the work to improve your management skills. Confidence and competence are closely linked; when you feel like you’re equipped to do your job, you’ll feel more confident doing it. So if you want to increase your confidence as a manager, dedicate time to developing new skills (for example, by reading management books or attending a leadership workshop).
- Spend time doing things that boost your confidence. Consider where you feel most confident — it may be on the basketball court, while spending time with friends, or when you’re on a run. Whatever it is for you, spend more time doing that. Doing things that make you feel confident in your personal life can help you feel more confident overall, including as a manager.
"[Good managers] don’t take credit for the work of others...and will stand their ground and go to bat for an employee.”
4. Good managers care about and take care of their teams.
You can have all the traits of a good manager — strong communication skills, active listening techniques, and confidence — but if you don’t care about your team members, those other leadership qualities don’t matter.
“A great people leader truly cares about the team,” Gallo stressed.
Knowing that your team is your most valuable resource and treating them as such is a must for effective management. “Employees who feel capable and respected work effectively — which, in turn, makes them highly productive,” Matzen said. “In addition, employees who are happy and respected in their work environment pass on that same feeling to the customers and individuals they interact with daily. This can positively impact the customers and the community.”
Unfortunately, when your employees don’t feel recognized for the work they do, they may feel less committed to the job, team, and organization — and that can harm employee engagement and drive employee turnover.
Good managers “showcase their teams and don’t take credit for the work of others,” Gallo noted. They also “will stand their ground and go to bat for an employee.” Additionally, good managers make sure their team is being fairly compensated, are treated with respect by organizational leadership, and are getting the promotions and opportunities they deserve.
Tips for Taking Better Care of Your Team
If you want to be a better manager, you need to care about your team and make sure they feel taken care of. Here are some ways to show your employees you care.
- Spend time getting to know your employees. It’s hard to care about someone if you don’t really know them. So you need to spend time getting to know your employees: who they are, what they’re passionate about, how they like to work, and what career development goals they have. The better you know your team, the more you’ll care about their well-being — and the more willing you’ll be to go to bat for them when necessary.
- Recognize your employees’ accomplishments… Studies show workplace recognition improves job satisfaction and employee retention. So if you want to show your employees you care, give them that recognition! Praise employees for a job well done, privately and publicly. Thank your team regularly for their hard work. Celebrate their wins. As their manager, it’s your job to make sure your employees feel recognized and appreciated, and that starts with acknowledging what they do for the team and the organization as a whole.
- …and make sure they’re getting the recognition they deserve. Recognizing your employees’ hard work and contributions is essential, but on top of that, you also need to make sure they’re getting the higher-level recognition they deserve, like promotions or salary bumps. If you think an employee deserves a raise or promotion, do what it takes to make sure they get it, whether that’s petitioning organizational leadership or coordinating with HR.
5. Good managers are authentic.
While there are key qualities good managers have in common, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to effective management. If you want to be the best manager for your employees, you have to lead in your own way. In other words, if you want to be a good manager, you need to be authentic.
When you’re authentic, people see you for who you really are. While there’s no guarantee that everyone will like your personality and management style, you’re more likely to attract employees who respect you for who you are and what you bring to the table when you are authentic at work.
If you’re an introvert and you work your introversion into your leadership style (for example, prioritizing thoughtful one-on-one interactions with individual employees over larger team-wide meetings), it will attract the type of people who thrive under that kind of management style — which is ultimately better for you, your employees, and the team. Plus, creating a company culture that values authenticity is a step toward better business outcomes for your organization.
Tips for Being More Authentic at Work
Authenticity can help you build more genuine connections and stronger teams, and become a better manager in the process. If you want to be your most authentic self when managing your team, there are a few things you can do.
- Show your team who you are. Let your personality come through in your interactions with your employees: If you’re passionate about books, discuss some of your favorite reads with your staff. Share your personality, your interests, and the things that are important to you with your team — and that will set the stage for them to be authentic at work, too.
- Acknowledge when you make a mistake. Authenticity includes being honest when you make mistakes. If you mess up, don’t try to hide it. Instead, set a good example by owning your mistake, talking it through with your team, and letting them know how you plan to improve in the future. That kind of honesty breeds trust, and that trust will make for a more effective team.
Being a great manager is about developing the characteristics and soft skills you need to lead your team, whether that’s improving your communication skills, becoming a better listener, or standing up for your employees. Now that you know what qualities you need to develop to become a better manager and how to develop them, it’s time to get started.
For more specifics about how you as an individual can improve, ask your team for feedback. To get better at asking for feedback (and giving it, too), download Lattice’s workbook How to Request, Give, and Receive Feedback today.