Great management is essential to your company's bottom line, but leadership skills are often considered to be inborn. The fact is, though, that these attributes can all be identified and strengthened. Moreover, a skill set that accounts for over 70 percent of the variations in employee engagement scores should not be left to each manager's instinctive talents. While you probably rely on your own familiar set of great management skills, it never hurts to itemize what you're already doing. If you're still on a learning curve, these 12 traits can supply a roadmap to professional excellence.
1. They Build a Work Culture of Mutual Trust
Harvard Business Review analyzed what goes into leadership excellence, and trust is a major element. If your employees are going to feel safe coming up with possibly risky experiments, they have to be confident that you'll be receptive to their ideas. Productive teams know that mistakes are just milestones on the road to the next great innovation.
2. They Focus on Employee Strengths
A strengths-based workplace culture offers measurable advantages: Gallup's 2015 Strengths Meta-Analysis presents the "powerful connections between employee strengths development and business performance." Their report shows that a strengths-based workplace increases employee retention by up to 72 percent in high-turnover industries, increases profits by 14 to 29 percent and decreases safety incidents by up to 59 percent.
3. They Do Not Micromanage
Recognizing that "Teams with great managers were happier and more productive," Google notes that successful leaders don't try to rule over every detail. If you're invested in your team's success, you might fall into the trap of feeling that you have to guard every detail. In fact, micromanaging can erode worker initiative and damage employee motivation.
4. They Are Assertive
Naturally, assertiveness must be paired with empathy and diplomacy -- but marketing guru Michelle Smith points out that fearlessness is essential in a manager. A leader must be able to overcome resistance, weather social adversity and get out in front to drive employee success.
5. They Help Develop Employees' Careers
Have you been concerned that supporting your employees' training and development may only prepare them to move on? HR best practices suggest otherwise: Google's manager research shows that identifying opportunities for employees to master new skills actually builds your team's depth and strength. Furthermore, you convey a powerful message that you care about your people's personal well-being.
6. They Handle Pressure Well
As a manager, you're held accountable for the performance of others, and there will be days where you feel you've got a target pinned to your shirt. A study at the Norwegian School of Economics placed emotional stability at the very top of a list of essential management traits. Your ability to take good care of yourself and withstand work-related pressure will keep you thinking clearly during periods of stress.
7. They Communicate Honestly
Like assertiveness, candidness has to be balanced out by a sensitivity to your workers' perspectives. However, Harvard Business Review research notes that a great manager gives direct feedback and doesn't hide truths behind a shield of politeness. The report found that "Subordinates felt they could always count on straight answers from their leader." Your employees will have trouble improving if they don't understand exactly which behaviors are problematic.
8. They Are Open to New Ideas
As a manager, you need to keep an agile and open mind so you will notice when an operation can be improved. Yasmina Yousfi, Chief Business Officer at Cloudwave, comments that "Great managers let their team members share new ideas, and leave them room for creativity."
9. They Have Strong Analytical Abilities
You may be a super-persuasive, charismatic people-person, and be skilled at communicating with your team -- but those talents are still only part of the package. You'll also want to leave yourself enough mental energy to maintain a good overview of your department's workforce analytics. The Management Study Guide names a strong cognitive and analytic approach as one of their vital leadership traits, because it leads to good decision-making.
10. They Recognize and Reward Good Work
Only one in three U.S. workers "strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days," according to research published by Gallup. The report points out that offering employee rewards and recognition is a golden opportunity for managers that is often overlooked. Employee recognition "not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention," the study states.
11. They Are a Role Model
As a leader, you set an example and express the diligence, enthusiasm and other skills that you expect from the people whom you manage. In a recent report by global research firm Universum, the ability to be a role model was one of the top two qualities that executives look for when they're choosing new managers.
12. They Communicate Employee Appreciation
Using employee rewards to let your team members know their efforts are appreciated has significant benefits throughout your organization. PR coach Kim Harrison points out that "Recognizing people for their good work sends an extremely powerful message to the recipient, their work team and other employees through the grapevine." When you reward great work, you transform the entire climate of your company.
Each manager brings different strengths to the table, and you can use this checklist to identify those areas where you can up your game. Your organization will benefit: Gallup research shows employee engagement can double when management talent improves, and this results in an average earnings rise of 147 percent per share.
Learn more about what makes employees happy by checking out this infographic highlighting results from Achievers' "New Year, New Job?" survey.
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