Business culture thrives on managers. Managers drive their organizations. And nothing is more important than the place where they perform. That is why it is vital for companies to position the right person at the right place. But great managers are scarce. In general, it is difficult to find the exact combination of professional and human skills required to successfully lead a group of people within one person. Some of those talents, however, can be taught.
Management style will slightly differ between countries depending on their business culture. In the Netherlands’ egalitarian society, for example, managers and subordinates are expected to work together as co-workers to achieve business success. Dutch managers normally recognize and value the specialized knowledge that employees at all levels bring during the discussions before decision-making processes. In turn, employees will not expect their manager to be an expert, but rather a problem solver or facilitator. The successful manager will then harness the talent of the group and develop the resulting synergies.
But there are qualities inherent to some managers that make them rise above others. Great managers, for example, focus on discovering what is unique about each employee and then turn that person’s particular talent into performance. They engage their people by developing their full potential. How do they accomplish this? By acute observation and listening. Great managers are great listeners. They are able to figure out peoples’ strengths and what triggers those strengths. In this way, they save time by assigning people the right tasks; make subordinates accountable for the work they are good at; build a strong sense of teams by delegating; and introduce freshness by challenging the status quo of their organizations.
Other qualities that best managers share are the following:
• They make the organization’s culture their own.
• They are positively contagious, inspiring greatness in others.
• They can sustain focus for extended periods of time, managing multiple projects at once and taking the right decisions.
• They are emotionally intelligent, and they can lead and guide their employees with empathy and understanding.
• They are honest, approachable and fair.
• They inspire trust and engagement.
Great managers take accountability for their own goals and are flexible when things do not go according to the plan because they maintain long-term focus. Bhavin Parikh, CEO, and Founder of Magoosh Inc., said: “Lack of focus is the reason many small companies fail. The best managers solve that problem through ruthless prioritization. They identify the three most impactful projects from a list of ten and focus their team on those three.”
According to Great Place to Work 2015, the most valued managers were excellent in supporting their employee’s growth, they had great interpersonal style and integrity, and they were highly skillful in monitoring direction. Employees’ ranking for best managers’ attributes were, in this order: Active listening, honesty, open communication, approachability, fairness/impartiality, trust, understanding, knowledge, helpfulness, recognition.
From all these attributes, active listening and open communication were at the top of the list, demonstrating that interpersonal communication skills of managers are fundamental. Manager’s ability to share ideas, talk over concerns and problems, and listening gives employees a sense of being understood and taken into account. This approach engages people from a personal point of view, giving a sense of humanity to the workplace that builds a team spirit and common goal feeling. Other valued personal aspects of good managers were their honesty, approachability, fairness, and their capacity to give praise where praise was due.
Excellent managers are difficult to come by because they have to be emotionally intelligent, honest and hold their teams to high-performance standards. It is true, though, that some of the technical and leadership skills they need to excel in their positions are possible to learn, but what finally makes the difference for a great manager is not tangible. It is mostly their true and inner commitment, their humanity that will bring the most out of themselves and their people to the benefit of the entire organization, and the society as well.
Paula Arellano Geoffroy