When you’re looking for a job, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that you should be thankful for any opportunities that come your way. Too often job seekers settle for an ‘okay’ fit with a company or manager that isn’t necessarily right, because the temptation of a steady income. This way of thinking can be a one-way ticket into a job you’re unhappy with.
When you’re going through the interview process, you should be interviewing your potential boss, too. Look for red flags that might indicate they’re not the kind of manager you want to be working with. Even if the opportunity looks great on paper, a bad manager can hinder your career.
You know the managers we mean. They over promise and under deliver. They micromanage and have no respect for boundaries. They play favourites and will not hesitate to throw you under the bus if it benefits them. They do whatever they can to inhibit or restrict your ability to grow and thrive in your workplace. They’re the reason you dread going into work in the morning and spend your evenings on job boards.
Now that we know what a good manager isn’t, let’s take a look at what a good manager is and how you can spot them in your organization. Or better still, be one.
We’re all familiar with some version of treating others as we’d like to be treated. An effective manager earns the respect of her team by behaving in ways that are worthy of respect. Then she gives it right back, treating others with the same respect. She doesn’t pass judgment, mock or berate you in public. If she has something to say to you, she does it privately. She respects and supports your autonomy. She doesn’t micromanage but makes sure you have the tools you need to get the job done and then stands back and lets you do it because she knows that’s how you’ll grow. She roots for your success and growth in the organization, doing whatever she can to help.
An effective boss delegates responsibility effectively because she knows that it not only lightens her load, it builds confidence and ownership in her team. She knows who has the skills, desire and time take on the tasks that cross her desk. She also knows her team is a unit that works best when everyone works to support one another. She’s more than willing to pitch in to help her team out when there’s a looming deadline and they need support.
Delegating responsibility is also a great way to help a team member grow into a leadership role. And any good manager will tell you: nurturing and helping create new leaders part of what being a leader is all about.
Ever worked in a vacuum? How successful were you? When there’s no information coming upstream or down, it can be hard to get things done. Instructions and critical information aren’t passed along. You do your best but, invariably, you’re wandering way off track because you have no idea where the track is or where it’s going.
It’s your manager’s responsibility to make sure you’re in the know. He shares vital information, statistics, whatever data you require. He understands the corporate mission is and the company’s goals because he’s made sure he’s informed. Then he shares that vital information with his team and not just once. He knows that a team that understands organizational goals and their role in successful execution of the plans to get there is a team that engages in a way that benefits the organization, the team and its individuals.
And it’s not just corporate mission statements; an effective manager communicates meaningfully and frequently with his team. By doing so, he can address any issues that come up along the way or avoid them altogether.
4. a sense of humour
It’s hard to believe, but there are some people who lack a sense of humour. We often associate charisma (and strong leaders) with good humour. To climb the corporate ladder, it’s almost always a requirement. The good news is that while some may have been born minus a laugh gene, it’s a skill (like the ability to speak in public) that can be learned. Though we tend to think of social skills and behaviour as something we’re born with, they’re not.
Even if your manager isn’t the kind of person to crack jokes (that’s okay, not everyone has that kind of sense of humour!) she understands that a light-hearted work environment that isn’t always ‘on’ is critical to her team’s ability to function. A little laughter goes a long way to lighten the load. It doesn’t change hard deadlines but it does make the journey more bearable. Hard data says that humour reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and helps us breathe deeper and focus better.
Everyone, regardless of their position in the organization, wants to know they’re doing a good job. Good employees want to succeed and have their achievements recognized. You don’t have to hire a brass band, but acknowledgement of an individual or team achievement at the weekly scrum, or a quick email shoutout go a long way to ensuring future effort and success. Many organizations go so far as to hold events that recognize employee achievement through peer or executive nomination, and award engraved statues, trophies or corporate artwork to mark the occasion. Whatever your organization chooses to do, a little praise goes a long way.
These are just a few of the building blocks of an effective manager. There are many others, like empathy, warmth, competence, honesty, accountability, flexibility and the ability to make good decisions under pressure. Think about what managerial characteristics you respond to and are most effective in guiding you. Think, too, how many of these you already have or are willing to adopt on your own journey to becoming an effective manager.