The anatomy of a great manager

by 29 May 2012

As you know, being a manager is no easy task. For some managing comes naturally while for others it's a struggle. Many managers get caught spending their time with those that need most assistance, and yet, the best time is spent cultivating the talents of your best staff. In the business world it does not matter if you have an MBA or PhD, dealing with people can't be learned in class.  You have to have real life experiences to know that every job will be different, every person will be different and every environment will be different. However, it's never too late to learn how to be a great manager. 

The major problem when you start to manage is that you do not actually think about management issues because you do not recognise them. Put simply, things normally go wrong not because you are stupid but only because you have never thought about it.

The first steps to becoming a great manager is common sense? But, here it is, common sense is not very common! Management is about pausing to ask yourself the right questions so that your common sense can provide the answers.

The following tips provide some common sense ideas on the subject of great management:


  • Select the right people - The best managers know in order to meet their goals, they need to be surrounded with the best people. Great managers are not threatened by their staff they are motivated and inspired by their staff. When people with the right talent are chosen, then you, as the manager, can focus your energy on creating an environment where your staff can excel. The right talent means having the capacity, the attitude and the aptitude required for the position.


  • Set expectations, then get out of the way - According to the book, First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, great managers assist each individual to establish goals and objectives that are congruent with the needs of the organisation. They help each employee define the expected outcomes, what success will look like upon completion. Then, they get out of the way. No one appreciates micro management, to micro manage is a mistake, you will drive yourself crazy and lose staff that feel you don’t trust them.


  • Set the vision and long term sense of reward - Many of the mistakes managers make involve reaping short term rewards at the expense of long term loyalty and morale. Any leader who inverts this philosophy, and makes short term sacrifices to provide long term gains, will generally be a much better manager. They recognise the value of taking the time to explain things, to build trust, to provide training, and to build relationships, all of which results in a kind of team performance and loyalty the short term manager never believes is possible.


  • Leadership - To be a great manager you must be a manager of self-first. Remember that those who are under your supervision are the backbone of your company. Treat them with respect and dignity. The great managers are the ones who challenge the existing complacency and who are prepared to lead their teams forward towards a personal vision. They are the ones who recognise problems, seize opportunities, and create their own future. Ultimately, they are the ones who stop to think where they want to go and then have the shameless audacity to set out.


  • Know your staff & develop your staff - Respecting the differences in your staff members is critical to building an effective team. Every person is a unique individual, find that uniqueness and tap into it and develop it to its full potential. Recongnising peoples strengths will best support their success. As a manager your job is not to help every individual you employ grow, its to improve their performance.


  • Create a positive environment - A great manager creates a team and office environment that makes it easy for smart people to do good things. They love when they wander the office and see all sorts of amazing things happening all on their own, with passionate, motivated people doing good work without much involvement from the manager.


  • Find a successor - A successful manager eventually realises their own leadership will end one day, but if they teach and instill the right things into people who work for them, that philosophy can live on for a long time, long after the manager is gone. The desire to have a lasting impact generally helps people think on longer term cycles and pay attention to wider trends short term managers do not notice.


Final thoughts

It's never too late to learn how to be a great manager. Few things feel better than helping someone who is new to a role, or who has been struggling, into becoming a productive, confident person. There’s a kind of satisfaction in helping someone figure out how to be successful that doesn’t come from many other living experiences. Great mangers love seeing this happen on their teams.

Good Luck

About the author 

Louise Pope is director, Aequalis Consulting.