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." To truly be an effective manager that inspires the best work in your team, it takes awareness, effort, knowledge, and commitment. And without these skills and qualities, your employees and the workplace could suffer.
For example, if you don’t put in the effort to effectively manage and support your team members, they’re going to get the message that they don’t have to put in the effort either, and their productivity, engagement, and overall effectiveness could suffer as a result. Or if your employees don’t feel that you’re committed to their growth and success, they’ll feel less committed to the job, team, and organization — and may be more likely to leave the company.
Clearly, being a good manager is important. But what, exactly, makes a good manager? What are the qualities of a successful one? And how can you develop those qualities in yourself, and be the most effective manager for the people on your team?
Below, we’ll take a look at some 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 good manager is being able to effectively communicate with your team, particularly around what’s expected from 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. For instance, if you’re overseeing a new product launch, part of being an effective manager would be walking each team member through their responsibilities related to the launch, and when and how they need to complete those tasks (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 managers communicate respectfully; they don’t speak 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 short in their communication.
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 your communication with your team — and improve your management skills in the process.
- Know what you’re trying to communicate before you communicate it. If you’re not clear on what you’re trying to say, your employees aren’t going to be clear on it either. Before you communicate with your employees (for instance, sending an email or outlining a new project), make sure you’re clear on 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 what you want to say is clear to you — but did it come across clearly to your employees? Ask your team members for feedback on how clear your communication is, and if there are any ways you could make your communication with them more clear (for example, by summarizing long emails in easy-to-digest 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 easily go out the window when conversations or correspondence get heated. If you’re dealing with a frustrating or anger-inducing situation, wait until you cool off to talk things out with your team.
2. Good managers know how to listen.
How you communicate with your team is an important part of being an effective leader. But how you listen to your team is just as — if not more — important.
Good managers “know the importance of listening to the team — collectively and as individuals,” Gallo said. That means creating a feedback-friendly environment for your team and individual team members 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 holding quarterly team meetings where you give your staff the floor to discuss what you can improve the next quarter, schedule regular one-on-ones to check in with individual team members to gauge how they’re feeling about their role, or send out an anonymous survey to get feedback and suggestions from your team on how you can improve things like workflow or your organization’s work environment.
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 feedback — and taking the time to listen to what they have to say — can go a long way in being an effective manager.
Tips to Bolster Your Listening Skills
If you want to be a good manager, you need to listen to your team and make sure they feel heard. Here are a few tips for improving your listening skills.
- Practice. If listening doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll need practice. Look for opportunities to work on your listening skills, both in your professional and personal life — and then seize those opportunities whenever possible. For example, you might ask your team if you could listen in on a brainstorming meeting, or ask your partner to tell you about a recent problem they had and how they worked through it — and resist the urge to offer input!
- Listen actively. It’s important to listen to your team, but it’s also important that your employees walk away from the interaction feeling heard. After your employee is done speaking, repeat back what they said in your own words. You might begin by saying 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 gives you the opportunity to clear up any miscommunication or confusion and make sure you walk away with the right information.
3. Good managers lead with confidence.
As a manager, you want to 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.”
Confidence plays into effective management in a variety of ways. 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 others, which allows them to create an environment where their employees feel safe to innovate and share new ideas. This ultimately makes for more effective (and happier!) teams.
“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. But confidence is built over time, and if you don’t feel confident today, that doesn’t mean you can’t build the confidence you need to be a better leader. If you want to build more confidence in your management abilities, there are a number of things you can do, including:
- 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, you’ll need to get some outside insights. 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 more confident, and 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 working on management skills (for example, by reading management books or attending a leadership workshop).
- Spend time doing things that boost your confidence. Where do you feel most confident? Is it on the basketball court? When you’re spending time with your friends? 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 translate into other areas of your life and help you feel more confident overall — including as a manager.
4. Good managers care about and take care of their teams.
You can have all the qualities of a good manager: You can be an excellent communicator and a great listener, and have the confidence to lead. But if you don’t care about your team, those other 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. Being “able to recognize and respect the importance of their human capital can create effective employees,” Matzen pointed out.
“Employees who feel capable and respected work effectively — which, in turn, makes them highly productive,” continued Matzen. “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.”
Caring about your team is an important part of being a good manager. But it’s equally important to show your team you care — and that means taking care of them in any way you can.
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 [when necessary].” 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. There are plenty of ways to show your employees you care, including:
- 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 they’re hoping to accomplish in their careers. The better you know your team, the more you’ll care about them — and the more willing you’ll be to go to bat for them when necessary.
- Recognize your employees’ accomplishments… People want to be recognized for their work. 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 you, 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 (for example, promotions or salary bumps) they deserve. If you think an employee deserves a raise or promotion, do whatever it takes to make sure they get it, whether that’s petitioning organizational leadership or coordinating with HR.
5. Good managers are authentic.
It’s necessary to understand the qualities of a good manager. But 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 at work, people see you for who you really are. While there’s no guarantee that everyone will like your personality and management style, by being authentic you’re more likely to attract employees that respect you for who you are and what you bring to the table, which can make for more effective, cohesive teams.
“Leaders that are authentic attract and retain employees that align with their leadership style,” Matzen said.
For instance, say you’re naturally a more introverted person. If you try to present yourself as an extrovert, your team may feel that your interactions feel forced or inauthentic, which could make them question your motives or make them hesitant to work with you. On the flip side, if you work your introversion into your leadership style (for example, prioritizing thoughtful one-on-one interactions with individual employees over larger team-wide meetings), not only will your employees respect you, but it will attract the type of employees who thrive under that kind of management style — which is ultimately better for you, your employees, and the team.
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, including:
- Show your team who you are. Being authentic means being who you really are. So if you want to be an authentic manager, you need to show your true self to your team. Let your personality come through in your interactions with your employees: If you value humor, make sure to crack a few (work appropriate!) jokes. If you’re passionate about books, share 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.
- Be open when you make a mistake. Authenticity is also about being open and honest. As a manager, the most important time to be open and honest is when you make a mistake. If you mess up, don’t try to hide it. Instead, own your mistake, talk it through with your team, and let them know how you plan to improve in the future. That kind of honesty and authenticity breeds trust, and that trust will make for a more effective team.
Being a good manager is about developing the characteristics and qualities 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 those qualities, you have everything you need to become the best manager you can be — and put yourself in the position to build, manage, and grow effective and successful teams in the process.