Yes, the job market is tight, but that doesn’t leave bosses off the hook when it comes to managing staff.
“There is a management challenge under way,” says professional coach Beverly Flaxington. “There is increasing pressure on managers to be more than managers—to be leaders, psychologists, problem-solvers, relationship-builders, and effective technicians.”
A recent survey found that 86% of employees plan to switch jobs this year—something employers should take note of, because it’s costly and ineffective for companies to keep training replacements, says Flaxington. With companies trying to do more with fewer people “managers have to be creative, they have to pull teams together, and figure out how to meet the (company) goals,” she says.
An ongoing discussion in Citi’s LinkedIn group, Connect: Professional Women’s Network, addresses this topic, spurred by the question, “What makes a great manager?”
“The greatest managers I’ve worked with, and emulated, were the ones who were regularly engaged with their direct reports, fought for their teams when needed, communicated openly, and focused on employee growth,” writes Michelle Sams Marko, a Senior Manager at a wireless communications company in the San Francisco area. “In short, they made me believe they cared about helping me in my career in addition to getting me the right tools to succeed in the current job.”
Some of the qualities of a good manager are fundamental: Knowing how to hire good people and fire underperformers before they drag down the rest of the office, and how to run a good meeting, says Quint Studer, founder of Studer Group, a leadership coaching firm in Gulf Breeze, Florida. But great managers are also engaged with employees and ask them for regular feedback to make sure they have the tools they need and are meeting their goals, adds Studer, author of The Great Employee Handbook: Making Work and Life Better.
Good managers “offer priorities, process, and a clear path for those who need it,” says Flaxington. One-on-one coaching can help with those skills, says Flaxington, author of Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior.
“Good managers should not do the organizing on their own. Their most important job is mentoring and delegating,” she says.
Good managers offer priorities, process, and a clear path for those who need it.
From both the LinkedIn comments and input from Studer and Flaxington, a few common traits of a good manager stand out:
She sees the staff as people.
“A great leader is concerned about results, yes, but is dually concerned that the people striving to obtain the results learn, mature, and reach for greater goals than just the results themselves,” writes Tonisha Swanson, a Business Consultant in the Chicago area.
“The characteristics and skills to being a great manager are the same ones needed to be a great friend. Concern for the other person and leading them to develop,” writes Nancy Winkler, an Independent Real Estate Agent in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.
A manager must get to know their employees personally, especially at a time when people are increasingly concerned with achieving work-life balance, says leadership coach Studer. “You have to know something about the person beyond what they do at work … If you work for me, I need to know what’s going on. I need to know if your father’s ill,” he says.
She lifts obstacles for employees.
“I’ve always viewed my role as a manager or leader as one to set a vision and clear any barriers for people,” writes Nancy Koors, President and Chief Operating Officer of Powerhouse Factories, a marketing agency in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Give them the end goal and let them get there in their own way, but be there if they need guidance or help,” Koors explains.
Managers need to ask employees regularly if they have what they need to get the work done, says Studer. Employees assume the boss knows when something isn’t working right but often, that is not the case, he says. “I need to say to you: ‘Are the systems that you need working?’ If the answer’s yes, fine; if the answer’s no, I need to know what I can do to fix it because that’s wasted time,” he says.
That’s not as easy as it sounds, says Studer: “Bosses are afraid to do those things because they don’t want to find out they can’t fix it.”
She asks for feedback.
“A great manager must be able to accept feedback, positive or negative,” writes Terri Larry, a Certified Public Accountant in the Los Angeles, California area.
Studer suggests setting up a regular survey asking staffers to submit feedback anonymously: “Ask (on a scale of) one through five: ‘How am I at doing meetings, setting expectations, answering questions, rewards and recognition, professional development, and addressing performance issues?’” This approach is not only helpful for identifying issues, but it will help morale to even ask, he says.
“I think we are all asked to be leaders and followers in some way, shape, and form,” writes Beth Tunis, a Therapist and Life Coach in New York City. Indeed, the managers she has followed and learned from are those who kept employees informed and engaged with humor, respect, and passion for their work—who “walked their talk.”