To effectively inspire a team and lead to successful outcomes, there are a few qualities that great managers possess. They may sound simple, but these attributes are standouts, and when a manager has these natural abilities, people soar under their leadership.
Those who shine are caring, great listeners, natural coaches, adaptable, and humble. Let’s dive a bit into these.
When a manager understands what motivates and drives those who report to them and consider the emotions of others, their people are more likely to follow them through thick and thin. Caring leaders exhibit empathy, compassion, and genuine concern for the well-being of their team members.
A caring leader is the number one reason people stay with a company. It is said that people don’t leave a company; they leave a bad manager. Caring personally about your people is a quality that stands out from the crowd.
Managers often say, “I can’t get too close to someone or show I care too much because I may need to discipline someone, or they could take advantage of me.”
A great question to ask yourself, if you feel this way, is “How close am I to my family/partner/children?” The closer you are to someone, the easier to have tough conversations. If a person knows you genuinely care about them as a person, it is easier to take in constructive criticism and move forward. The opposite occurs if you don’t genuinely care about people.
Here are a few ways you can show you care:
- Spend more one-on-one time with those you manage. Ask about their personal life more often, know what motivates them, and ask how you can help them accomplish their professional or personal goals.
- Consider having annual Growth Guide conversations with each person. This relationship tool can help you manage your team members by the Platinum Rule of how they want you to manage them.
- Become invested in their success. Cheer them on as they work toward both their professional and personal goals.
2. Great listener
When people feel heard, they feel valued and understood. Listening to hear instead of listening to respond is critical in top-performing managers.
When you pay attention to what people are saying, really listen, and communication lines begin to open. The important thing about listening is to consider whether you are interpreting thoughts shared as how they pertain to you or do you truly understand what people need or want.
Consider: do you listen to solve a problem or just listen?
Although the best leaders naturally have this strength, being a great listener is a skill you can improve. It takes effort and practice, but it is doable if you are working at it.
An important piece of listening is creating a psychologically safe environment where people feel empowered to share their thoughts and opinions. Creating this environment allows for idea development and out-of-the-box thinking. How often have you offered up an idea just to have it shot down with, “We’ve tried that before” or “That will never work?” You probably didn’t feel heard, and it didn’t feel good.
Being a good listener is hard but is essential for effective communication and to help build strong relationships with others. Asking thoughtful, open-ended questions helps conversations feel more meaningful and productive. It goes well beyond asking good questions, though; you need to truly pay attention to responses to allow the other person to fully express how they are feeling so they feel understood.
It is natural to want to interject your thoughts, but try to tamper that down. Stay quiet and listen. Then, begin to ask questions so you can listen more.
Try changing how you respond. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Ask others the role they would like you to play in a conversation. Are you there to listen and support or solve a problem?
- Say “Tell me more” often.
- Ask, “Can you share an example?”
- “What is your perspective on this?”
- “What do you believe is the best next step?”
- “What are the outcomes or changes you hope to see?”
- “How can I best support you in this area?”
3. Natural Coach
We know that someone can have all the talent in the world to be successful in their job role, but if they don’t have the right manager beside them, they may not achieve all they are capable of. Being a natural coach or developer of people is another unexpected quality great managers have. When the right coach is helping you achieve greatness, magic happens.
A good coach provides guidance to people, while a great coach understands their people’s strengths and weaknesses, what drives them, and how to get the best out of them. Paying attention to what inspires each person, as everyone is different, is vital. Think about this – a good leader coaches a team, while a great leader coaches individuals on their team to greatness.
You also need to believe in your end goal and your people. That sense of confidence you share in their ability transfers to your team. If you believe in them, then they believe in themselves.
Here are a few tools to add to your toolbox:
- Understand your people. Uncover what their motivations are and how they are wired. As mentioned above, have a Growth Guide conversation to discover this.
- Know when they are ready to hit the ground running. Share those details with them to pump them up.
- Look for trends in their performance. Where are their highs and lows? What is causing them to have changes? Remember to ask and listen.
- Look for signs of burnout or stress. Talk through this with them and understand how you can help them. What can you take off their plate?
- Praise positive behaviors often! The more, the better. Remember, the more you pay attention to something, the more you’ll see it in action.
Changes in business are zooming by us every day. How you handle those changes matters. Another unexpected quality of a great manager is adaptability.
Being open to new ideas and new ways of doing things keeps your business alive and agile. Netflix is well-known for this. What if they didn’t look ahead or adapt to the future of streaming? They would be like Blockbuster, no longer in business. Instead, they are constantly adapting to new trends and technologies. You should, too.
Change is hard, and not everyone takes to it easily. However, great leaders embrace change and pivot when needed.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Develop a culture of learning and experimentation. When we learn, new ideas populate.
- Think differently, but don’t think you need to have all the answers. Leave your ego at the door and allow others to make positive changes happen.
- Ask for ideas constantly. Remember to listen and hear things out. When they say “no idea is a bad idea,” they mean it. Keep an open mind and ask, “Tell me more.”
- Bring problems to meetings often and cultivate the problem-solving ability of your team members. Brainstorming as a group can be enlightening, and when you are involved in change ideas, they become easier to adapt to.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone! Put yourself in new situations and challenging circumstances where you change things up a bit. Drive a different way to work, mix up your routine, or become more flexible to ideas from others.
Being humble and having humility may be the hardest to accomplish, but it is a standout quality in great managers. Too often, leadership is associated with ego, while great managers know they aren’t on this journey alone.
Warren Buffet is well known for his humbleness. He knows how to express himself in simple terms that others understand. He isn’t trying to be something he is not. There are many times when he has been open about his own mistakes and bad decisions. He doesn't believe he has all the answers, which makes him more relatable to those who work for him.
When you are open to input and ideas, you demonstrate that you value the thoughts of others. It is easy to believe you are an authority but saying you don’t know makes you human and relatable.
- Give credit where credit is due. Go out of your way to acknowledge others’ work and contributions.
- Don’t be afraid to admit when you are wrong. Doing this will allow others to do the same without fear of retribution.
- Be open to feedback from others. Don’t get defensive; instead, be appreciative.
- Offer to help others more often. Jump into the trenches.
- Be accountable for your actions and the decisions you make.
- Ask for help more often. You’ll be surprised by how many people step up to offer support.
- Listen (sound familiar?)
- Treat others with respect.
These five unexpected qualities of a great manager are standouts among the pack. When you genuinely care about people, listen with intent, coach others to bring out their best, and are adaptable and able to zig zag in the moment while remaining humble, you’ll be the manager people want on their side. Become more self-aware of your leadership style and integrate ways to grow yourself as a manager, and you’ll get there sooner.