So You Want to Become a Manager. Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Great One?

So You Want to Be a Manager. Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Great One?For some, but not all, moving into a management position is a natural evolution in one’s career. Maybe it comes from the feeling of wanting the challenge that comes from going to next level, or maybe you are thinking, “My boss is a jerk! I can do better than that guy (or gal)!”

Regardless of what is motivating you toward this next step, you should make sure that the role really would be a good fit for you. After all, you don’t want to fall in among those bosses whose employees purposefully work while you are on vacation just to avoid you a bit more.


Executive coach and author Harrison Monarth wrote a post for Harvard Business Review. In the comments section, Monarth had this to say about what a good manager should embody:

“Many of America’s most admired companies ( with more traditional hierarchies have managers who work hard to learn what strengths each individual team member brings to the table, harnessing these unique strengths to lift the entire team to success. These are the managers that care about people’s development and their success in the service of organizational goals. They raise awareness. They coach. They provide constructive feedback. They don’t shy away from the difficult conversations people who work together need to have in order to resolve conflict and encourage collaboration.”

Let’s dissect the qualities Monarth included. Managers:

1. “Work hard to learn what strengths each individual team member brings to the table.”

To be able to do this, a manager must pay attention to how each person performs in the various roles or tasks of the department. Use the metrics that are available to determine where people shine and where they struggle.

Also — talk with them. Having conversations with your employees to find out about how they think everything is going can be very enlightening. You could discover an approach to a problem you hadn’t considered before, or you may identify someone who would be a good mentor to others who are struggling. Don’t like talking to people much? Then this could pose a problem.

2. “Harness these unique strengths to lift the entire team to success.”

All that stuff I talked about in the first point? Totally worthless if you don’t do something to put it into action.

As the manager of your team, it is your responsibility to think strategically about how this amalgam of talent can best meet corporate goals, satisfy customers, and feel success in their roles. Plugging people into jobs as if they were cogs in a wheel isn’t going to cut it.

3. “Care about people’s development.”

Leaders need to actively engage folks — to really talk with them, listen to what they have to say about their likes and aspirations, and remember the details.

And the “work hard” part that Monarth indicated in the first point applies here. It takes time to learn all the nuances of a group of individuals; you can’t kick this out in a week. It will take time to develop a level of trust that will let your employees feel open to truly expressing their thoughts about their work and what they want to do.

The other side to this is that people change. Circumstances change. Which means you need to keep doing this All. The. Time. Every day you go to work, it should happen. By doing so, you keep your finger on the pulse of what drives your team members to maximize their skills and their potential.

4. Want their teams to find “success in the service of organizational goals.”

This is critical because leaders need to know the direction the company is taking. To then see it translated into reality, the direction should be defined for employees so the know what they are aiming for and what success looks like. When this is done well, the company is happy, the team feels good about their contributions, and you look good. Everybody wins!

I know, it sounds like common sense, but there are a lot of folks in charge who don’t do a good job of this.

5. “Raise awareness.”

This can go in several directions. Leaders raise awareness of:

  • progress toward corporate goals,
  • where the company sits in relation to the competition,
  • how customers view the organization (the good and the bad),
  • why what they are doing — both individually and as a team — matters, and
  • available resources that will help teams be successful.

The key ingredient to effectively raising awareness is transparent communication that gives folks what they need to make smart decisions. Without that, the only thing you could be raising is your own hot air.

6. “Coach.”

Maybe you have someone on the team who is fresh out of college. Or there is a new system that is being implemented departmentwide. Or you are starting to cross-train your team members. Or someone is coming back after being gone for two months.

Whatever the situation, you as the leader are going to be called upon to provide guidance to those who need extra help. That takes patience, compassion, encouragement, and time. Belittling people who are struggling not only will demoralize your team, it will make you look like a bully who kicks folks when they are down.

Think about it this way: if your child is in his first year of Little League, you wouldn’t want the coach screaming at him because he missed a pop fly. Why would you subject your employees to that kind of behavior?

7. “Provide constructive feedback.”

I hope your diplomacy is good because that’s exactly what you need to nail the art of giving constructive feedback. While supplying team members with information that is corrective in nature, great managers ensure that they are not being punitive. Rather, the tone is one that provides assistance and encourages folks to try again, to reach for their potential.

Given that you all are on the same team, it is in your best interest as the manager to make sure that your employees sees this interaction as positive so they have a reason to improve.

8. “Don’t shy away from the difficult conversations people who work together need to have in order to resolve conflict.”

This is arguably one of the most difficult tasks of being a manager. By nature, folks shrink from conflict. They crawl into their shells and wait for the storm to die down before poking their noses out.

But if you want to be a great manager, you need to stand boldly in the fray and calmly work with all the affected parties to reach a peaceable agreement. Yes, it’s very hard. And there’s no way you can get out of it. However, those managers who are most effective at conflict management are also among the best at their jobs because their teams can trust them to be the leaders they can depend on to get everyone through the difficulties in as fair a manner as possible and to be with them every step of the way.

9. “Encourage collaboration.”

“Collaborate or die.” That phrase was one that I heard often during my career in nonprofit, and while it was often accompanied with laughter, there was a lot of truth to it.

The same holds true for teams within companies. Those that don’t collaborate lose out on the possibilities for team members to work together to solve problems faster, they lack opportunities to capitalize on the synergies that are created when folks combine their efforts, and they miss the chance to be encouraged by each other. Without collaboration, everyone is stuck in their own silos slogging it out.

What do you think? Do you have what it takes to be a great manager?

Image courtesy of innovate360

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