Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

The Qualities of a Good Manager: How to Make Your Managers Easier to Lead

African-American businesswoman standing with arms crossed while others walk by.

A while back, I had the chance to talk with one of my clients in California, the COO of a Fortune 500 firm who has engaged me in the past to coach several of his senior leaders. I was working with a handful of divisional CEOs who were each running a $200-600 million enterprise. During our talk, the COO said something that really struck home for me, and it gave me a super clear idea of what he wanted me to do for him. He said, “John, these are absolutely fantastic guys, but they can be tough to manage. Please help me make them easier to manage.”

That statement right there gets right down to the heart of why I am typically called in to coach someone. The executives I coach are always bright, talented, bold, creative, entrepreneurial, and driven: all of which are truly valuable traits. However, when taken to the extreme, these same traits can make these sorts of folks very hard to manage and direct. What’s more, if they cannot learn how to control their behavior and fit more comfortably into a senior role, then the very things that made them successful up to this point in their career can actually lead to their demise.

Therefore, in order to educate and encourage your managers to actually be more manageable themselves, share with them this advice that I have heard numerous leaders tell their key managers throughout my years of real life experience. Listening to these leaders has led me to make this list of the qualities of a good manager, and if your managers can apply these qualities to their own business ventures, then you will have a much easier time leading them and working with them to achieve outstanding business results.

The Qualities of a Good Manager

  1. Good managers know and run their businesses incredibly well. It is the responsibility of a good manager to make their numbers and keep their customers happy. If you cannot successfully run the business you are in charge of, then in the end, nothing else matters. Therefore, the number one priority for good managers is always to run a smooth, flawless operation that has a solid strategy and strongly contributes to the corporation.
  2. Good managers don’t do surprises. Good managers never surprise their leaders because they know that their leaders expect them to report major concerns right away rather than try to handle them until the problems exceed their abilities. Leaders want their managers to be capable of handling most of their business issues on their own, but they also want their managers to be straightforward with them and keep them informed. Chief officers cannot help their managers if they do not know what is going on, and when managers try to hide bad news, their deception will only hurt the company more in the end. Therefore, good managers demonstrate courageous communication and 100% honesty. Their leaders have to be able to trust them completely, so good managers tell their leaders everything that is important: the good and the bad.
  3. Good managers are able give and take frank feedback. Chief officers and their managers can be friends and should feel a great deal of respect for each other, but in order to do business well, they must also be able to exchange direct feedback. Leaders may even have to give uncomfortable feedback or make hard decisions that negatively affect the business efforts of their managers, but a good manager will not take this type of development personally. Instead, they will understand that it is what is best for the entire company and work hard to deal with it effectively. Conversely, good managers are also prepared to respectfully correct their leaders when their leaders may have made a mistake or overlooked something. Good managers can deliver tough news to their leaders without fear of retribution because frank feedback is a two-way street.
  4. Good managers surround themselves with the best people they can possibly find. Not only is this a solid strategy for business success, but it is also a critical part of business survival. Good managers know that they endanger the entire company if they believe that they are the smartest people in their divisions and the only ones who can do something in order for it to be done right. Therefore, good managers establish a deep bench of extremely talented people in order to help them succeed and ensure a smooth succession should it be necessary for someone else to step into their role. Always having to be the hero is not an effective, lasting tactic and will eventually lead to burnout, stress, and failure. Therefore, good managers humble themselves by working with others and considering them the best as well.
  5. Good managers know that a high IQ is not enough: a high EQ is also essential. When managers build a team of superstars, they have to be absolutely superb at motivating and supporting their team. Therefore, they never attempt leadership through intimidation, bullying, threats, or pressure because they know that this type of leadership will never win in the long run. Through bad leadership, managers might be able to make their numbers and grind out profit for a while, but in time, they will lose the support and trust of their employees. It is clear that people never give their best when they feel like they are getting beat up. Therefore, good managers build a world-class team and then coach, direct, and motive them in order to secure world-class performances. They take care of their team, and then they reap the many benefits this more considerate approach to leadership yields.
  6. Good managers are able to make tough decisions in a timely manner. As a business grows, so do the size of the decisions that need to be made. So, in order to adjust, good managers get a good team behind them that will be brutally honest. Good managers then ask their team for lots of help and use their team’s suggestions to make the best decision possible with the information at hand. Good managers know not to slow down the process with indecision. Instead, they work with others to reach their goals by being fast, flat, and flexible.
  7. Good managers think and act strategically. Firefighting your problems, even if you are great at it, is not the way to run a business. In contrast, good managers put out the fires and keep them out so that they have the time to think long-term. Good managers have a good handle on where they and their business should be in three to five years: they are not simply struggling to make budget this quarter.

The Qualities of a Good List

As you can see, good managers possess a lot of great qualities, and these qualities make them the types of managers that their leaders find very easy to lead. I have compiled this list from the statements that I have heard repeatedly from the top executives that I work with, but as I am sure that I have missed a few, please feel free to add to my list in the comments below, and use whatever ideas you found helpful from this blog to make your managers easier to lead!