What Makes a Great Manager: Experts Weigh In


Managing people isn’t easy and no matter how many degrees you have or how many management training courses you’ve taken, there will always be employees who respond well to your methods and employees who don’t. 

So who are the experts in what makes a great manager? The answer shouldn’t surprise you…it’s your employees! It’s those who you must manage who are the best at giving you feedback about what they want and need in a great manager. Listen in as these seasoned experts tell you what makes a great manager and try to find the common link:

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Q: What are the three qualities you liked most about the best manager you ever had?

Karri Carlson is the VP of Social Insights at San Francisco-based social media agency Leadtail. With over 10 years experience in marketing and social media strategy, Carlson was recently named a Top 40 Digital Strategist by The Online Marketing Institute.

#1 quality: by far, is direct feedback.  Especially when it’s not good…

#2 quality: genuine enthusiasm for and deep command of domain knowledge…

#3 quality: for me, the best managers don’t feel like managers.  They’re teachers…

  • They’re concerned adults who are looking out for you, because..they want to help you be successful.
  • When you screw up, they don’t dismiss how uncomfortable it is for you, nor do they let you off the hook…
  • They help you see that business isn’t magic.  It’s practice.  It’s skill.  It’s expertise.  It’s pattern recognition.  It’s learnable and you’re learning.”

Joaquin Lippincott is the President and Founder of technology consultancy Metal Toad Media. Lippincott is the former President of AIGA and has served as a board member of the Portland Business Alliance since 2011.

“I had a boss who spelled out the job of a manager very succinctly: “the job of a manager is to make the people who work for them successful”. To make this happen here are the most important things:

  1. Respect – not only showing respect to everyone they interact with, but creating an atmosphere of respect on their teams, where everyone feels safe and supported.
  2. Team Focus – to be a great manager, you should lose the word “I” from your vocabulary.  Your job is to celebrate your team and their accomplishments…
  3. Accountability – your team needs to know you have their back to the end – especially when in closed door meetings where you are representing them…”

Tweet This: What qualities have you liked most about the best manager you ever had?

Business intelligence and analytics expert for the banking sector in the United Arab Emirates, Bahaa’ Awartany is AVP of Business Planning and Analytics for Dubai Islamic Bank.

“…the most important part of being a good manager is being a leader…qualities a leader should possess are as follows:

  • Inspiring: good managers should inspire… Good managers don’t think that saying “no” is where their power is, instead, they have the “yes” attitude to help the team make it happen.
  • Involved: it’s very essential for a good manager to be part of the team who coaches, develops, and gives credit when it’s due…
  • Trusts his/her people: a good manager is someone who believes in his/her people, who is able to delegate, and depend on the team…”

Don MacLennan is the Co-founder and CEO of Bluenose Analytics Inc., a customer service platform based out of the San Francisco area. His background includes over 20 years of experience in field operations, corporate strategy and marketing and software product management.

“…First, and surprisingly uncommon, is direct feedback.  The kind that is constructive…Second, a genuine interest in understanding and advancing my career goals. Third, a willingness and desire to receive feedback in turn…I don’t think I have had a boss who did all three really well. Something to aspire to.”

What stands out is the constant need and desire for direct feedback. (Did you know you can download a performance review template to help with this?!) In fact, many of the experts (many in the middle of their career) mention it here. Of those, there were some who said they hadn’t received the feedback they needed to move forward. The ability to review the performance of your employees and direct reports can contribute to how you are gauged as a leader.

Being a great manager doesn’t necessarily mean you have all the right credentials and experience. What we can take from these professionals’ opinions is that being the kind of manager that elicits positive change in people is about how hard they work to build on their working relationships. Want to improve your working relationships? Let Reviewsnap’s performance management software get you there.

Download: Automated Performance Reviews Work Better
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