questionswhat makes a good manager?

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GREAT question!

I think the best managers remove the obstacles from the path of the team so they can stay on target and complete their goals.

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I agree...training, training, training, and more training. To include themselves; sometimes something new comes along and they expect the "troops" to learn it (such as a new computer program) and never do more than an overview. .

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The most important thing I learned about managing, I learned from my mother when I was young. "Praise publicly, and punish privately."

This seems simple, but it's important. When you give praise to someone who has done well, it encourages others too, and also shows that you notice, and appreciate the efforts. It's nice if there's an official monetary reward for big things, but this may not always be possible.

When someone needs to change, when they've made mistakes, it needs to be a private conversation. Yelling at someone in public, or otherwise stepping in and discussing things that need changing, tend to put everyone on edge, afraid that they're next. In addition, the person who has made the mistake is much more likely to be confrontational and angry when everyone is watching.

I am not speaking of minor things, nor of the natural give and take in the day. For example, a person who takes too many breaks puts a burden on the rest of the team.

[character limits hate me]

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[2]

Office politics need to be handled delicately, but they need to be handled. One toxic person can make the work place hell for everyone.

Bullying (which seems to have risen to epidemic proportions) needs to be addressed, and it may be necessary to thank and excuse an especially recalcitrant performer. Yes, I mean "Fire" (which deserves its own paragraph or two).

To return to praise: People like to hear they've done well. Everyone wants to believe that their best work is noticed, and valued. Recognize when someone is making an effort, and when they're just marking time.

Try to build teams, but remember that sometimes a person works best alone. Both styles have their place.

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I was in management for the last 20 years of my career. I like to think that I grew as a manager, and that I was a better manager than I was a worker. To my mind, a good manager makes certain that employees have the tools they need to successfully perform their work (materials, equipment, training, resources, time, etc.), should work to remove obstacles, and should serve as a resource, but should trust employees to carry out their own tasks, rather than micromanaging them.

I worked with a lot of high level (including C level) managers who were excellent at the technical parts of their jobs, but weak at the soft skills. We used to joke that management would be a great job if you just didn't have to deal with employees. Many managers are downright scared of dealing with employees. Personally, I think that managing people is the most important skill to have. It's more art than science, and hard to teach, but vital.

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A good manager doesn't manage, they lead and is called a leader instead.

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@shrdlu: How does one deal with the office bully or the office manipulator or the office cheat? (In a technical or administrative department where teamwork and trust are critical, not a department where competition is the reward metric)

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@cengland0: I disagree. I think that managers and leaders are two different sorts of people/jobs. At least that's the case in larger companies.
Leaders develop visions. They steer the company/group in the direction they all need to go to accomplish the big goals they set.
Managers, on the other hand, work to accomplish that vision. They break down the big goals into manageable smaller goals that the small work groups and individuals can accomplish and then make sure that those groups and individuals have the tools required to accomplish those smaller goals.

Personally, I'm not a good leader. I don't often have the big visions. I'm horrible at inspiring people to see what visions I do have. But I'm good at figuring out how to accomplish the visions that others put forth. I can lay out a plan to get to a place someone else steers us towards and can manage resources to make sure we get there. I can manage but I'm not good at leading.

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A good manager makes sure that their employees have the tools they need for their jobs.

A GREAT manager is one that leads by example!!

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Clear expectations that only change when absolutely needed. When they do change, clear communication so that all employees fully understand the change, and if at all possible, the reason for the change so it doesn't appear wholly arbitrary & they can start to believe in the change in expectations.

Goals that are achievable.

Never swear at your employees.

Never berate your employees.

Correct employees clearly and privately.

Never throw your employees under the bus. Take responsibility.

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I would have to add to my comments above that communicating honestly and clearly with employees is also vital, as is encouraging and expecting the same kind of open communications from others. I made it a point to keep my folks in the loop as much as possible. After every weekly executive staff meeting I circulated my meeting notes, and called meetings of my own staff if something of particular interest was discussed. I was surprised to learn that other managers did not do this, and employees assumed that deep, dark secret things were going on. When we hire a new CEO who was more amenable to my ideas (in other words, one who gave a s**t about morale), I persuaded him to implement the practice of regularly distributing meeting minutes via email to all employees, and posting these on the intranet. Not only did this help all employees see that the meetings were mostly just boring, but it also enabled them to learn about things going on in other Divisions that affected their own work.

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For little "m" management, understand the duties of the people below you so you are in a position to help them, or to relieve them or train a substitute in case of an emergency, or at least to have some understanding of the effort and time required to perform specific duty assignments. Be immune to "squeaky wheel syndrome", which encourages all your staff to be whiners. Recognize excellence, even it is just a congratulatory email. Recognize that employees are individuals, and your management style needs to be flexible. As others have said punish privately, reward publicly and take responsibility. I had a manager who was not very good at it once, but she was a master of this one. The department head tended to be volatile, most staff dreaded coming under fire. Unlike the other team supervisors, our always took the blame when something in our section went wrong, refusing to even tell the director who'd made the mistake. Later she'd call that person into her office for a talking to.

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For big "M" Management, pretend to give a crap about the people who work for you. Some of you have read my posts about our City Council deciding to demolish City Hall and build a triple A baseball stadium there. City Council, Legal and Comptroller's moved to the beautiful old Times building, into elegantly offices. The City Manager has a private bathroom with gold plated fixtures. The rest of us got shoved into whatever decrepit vacant buildings the City owned and didn't have to pay rent for. We are in a ten story former YMCA that had been a homeless shelter till the Y deemed it unusable and sold it to the City. Part of one floor was renovated for a Parks facility, the rest of the building has stood empty for years and that's where they stuck us, after painting over the asbestos. The space we are in is about 1/4th our previous space, the professional staff went from private window offices to 6x6 cubes. Most of our equipment is in storage, what we fit is breaking due to overuse.

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The other big batch of staff has it worse, they were put into a rat-infested health center that had been closed for years and only the most minimal asbestos abatement was done before they were stuck in there. The water on site is not potable, and the place stinks. It has hugely increased the workload, since we have to drive back and forth from their building to ours several times a day to get documents signed and work with Comptrollers. Morale is just terrible and people are retiring or finding other work as fast as they can. We've had 20-25% losses in our department alone. Recently the City Manager and some of City Council went on a tour of the "satellite facilities" and were surprised at how bad the working conditions were. We've been here for six months and they are just getting around to noticing how badly they have treated us? True or false, that's inexcusable.

PS:: Thanks for the rant window,. :)

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@f00l: I want you to know that I've seen this, it's early, and I want to provide full answers. Yes, I have answers (but expect some of them to involve dismissal).

Such a great question, @thepenrod. Does it make me old that I've read the Booth Tarkington novel? For those who might be wondering what I'm talking about, here's a link to the Free Kindle edition of the first novel.

http://www.amazon.com/Penrod-ebook/dp/B000JQUJGU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381934857&sr=8-1&keywords=penrod

Back in a while...

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While there are a plethora of viable answers to this, I'll simple add my experience from Office Manager to what got me the promotion to Operations Manager recently.

The number one reason the previous employer was let go was due to a lack of accountability, respect was a close second. If your employees can't get in touch with you for questions they can't answer then the respect will not be there. Accountability is crucial when situations arise that demand certain procedures be followed by the book. Often times the situation is worsened by a lack of communication.

While your position defines you as the boss of those below you, remember that respect goes a long way. Respect will give you an absolute piece of mind when you need it most. I've come to find that when correcting an employee many managers turn into a power hungry snob. It's cliche but you do catch more flies with honey.

Long-term core employees are built up in the presence of a boss who is sympathetic, honest, and genuine.

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@figgers3036:
@belyndag

Thx for emphasis on communication. 15 years ago I worked in the it at a newspaper. Employees loved the company and would pour insane energy into their work, only to have projects cancelled and directions reversed, then be blamed for the resulting mess. No reasons given, ever. I suspect much of the problem was in upper middle level politics, but never knew. Over time employees just wouldn't work on anything that took more than a few days to finish.

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Stay out of my way and let me do the job you hired me to do. Don't micromanage things you don't understand. If I tell you about a problem that I can't make go away.. you need to use your manager powers to help me make it go away.

I work in a highly technical field.. My Manager is a business major and doesn't know how to do 10% of the stuff I do.

His job is to use his knowledge to make business decisions.
My job is to use my knowledge to support those business decisions.

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I was a manager for quite a few years. My goals were to:

Grow people: Give people the opportunity to grow, learn, and develop. I'd tell my group that I'll challenge you to do more than you think you can do but I will never set you up for failure. And by more, I didn't mean workload, I mean new skills/assignments. A lot of my managers were hired to be my piers in other groups. That's the best compliment I could have gotten.

MBWA: Management by Walking Around. Walk around. Talk to your staff. You'll find out more in informal chats than you will in a formal weekly meeting.

Communication: Make sure people know what's going on, especially in areas that affect them directly. If you want people to feel ownership in the company, you need to keep them informed.

Know Every Job: I didn't micro-manage but I made sure that I understood every job skill that I managed. This helped me understand their challenges.

There's more but that's my top things.

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I like Stephen Covey's framework in the relationship-focused habits (4-6 of 7):
1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
2. Think "win-win"
3. Synergize (i.e. exploit and leverage the differences between people)

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The best managers need to do very little managing. Terrible managers helicopter over their underlings because they lack faith in them, or have a flawed process. In my opinion, if you can't trust someone to do their job...why employ them. If the CEO is on the shop floor putting out fires, the company has little to no future to look forward to. The best managers boost morale by empowering those that answer to them to make their own judgement calls. This simultaneously boosts employee morale and increases productivity, as the employee doesn't need approval from the manager. Good managers are also astute enough in their field, well trained and educated to handle disasters and large accounts without escalating the issue to the executive level. If a manager can't solve a problem in his own department, he should absolutely ask his boss for help...if he basically lives in his bosses office he should be replaced with a kiosk.

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@candreae
I have to disagree with much of what you stated. Not to generalize your input, but it sounds like the premise of "Let them figure it out on their own and punish them for a mistake."

You're all over the place. You can't believe an employee to be mistake free. Letting them make decisions is not correct. Employees follow your lead, as their boss. If you intend to empower them the ONLY instance should be a repetitive, fool-proof scenario. You make it sound like these are everyday decisions running free and wild. No?

Companies have ground rules for one main reason: PROFIT. No company sets out to break even in the fiscal year. The ineffectiveness and absurdity to give an employee free reign is the last move of a dying company.

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A good manager never asks their staff to do anything they wouldn't do themselves. It isn't enough to say, "I've done that." A good manager knows their employees jobs, and digs in and gets dirty when the going gets tough. It wins us the respect, appreciation, and sometimes, when needed, the protection of the people who work under us. A good manager spends more time trying to figure out what can be done better, than fault finding. A good manager isn't afraid to cut loose a non-productive employee... especially if it burdens other team players. A good manager shows appreciation, and gives recognition. I good manager hold meetings, not lectures. A good manager accepts input and ideas. Then gives credit and acts on those ideas. A good manager listens more than they talk.

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Being on both sides of the equation, and eventually running my own small business with several managers that i expect to be my eyes and ears, I can say most managers who think they are doing great - aren't. And that's okay, as long as it is constructively addressed.

To that end - I've found that communication is absolutely key. I've been managed poorly, and often had to infer what was expected from a project due to poor communication. Conversely, I've taken up the reigns in some of these situations and coordinated the team in spite of poor management, and in many cases it came down to what mtm said about the details of a project simply being glossed over by management - which is fine to certain degree, but not to the point where the project itself stalls without a captain to guide the ship. Another key aspect is managing appropriate to the situation. Trying to deal with a team of recent grads in a small company the same way you would veterans in a huge company doesn't work. (cont'd

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(cont'd) and trying to manage on a bigger corp level means adhering to a more rigid hierarchy and set of guidelines. Team building is key either way, but how you do it is important and will vary based on the team's dynamics. There's no one-fit "two bobs" workshop that will fit each scenario and team. I agree that a good manager should be willing and able to roll up their sleeves and dig in (lord know's i'm that type) but i've also had to reign in some of my own managers from doing that too often. A manager who's constantly digging in, would probably be happier back as a tech. In a well designed team - the manager can dig in, but has to let his troops get the experience, too. In return, i expect a certain amount of administrative, planning, and project research work to be completed by my managers, which they can't do if they're constantly hands on. Sometimes the guy looking at the map isn't doing as much work as the guy working the horses... but someone needs to look at that map.

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Management style depends on the person you're managing and the trade in which you are in. A 40 year old manager at a WalMart managing 30 eightteen year-old kids should rule with an iron fist. A manager at a marketing firm that frequently works in small groups with peers at very similar age, experience, and skill levels should be quite a bit for friendly and flexible.