Strengthen Management

12 Traits That Make a Great Manager

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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4 Easy Tips to Instantly Engage your Employees

According to Bersin by Deloitte, “employee engagement” refers to, “An employee’s job satisfaction, loyalty and inclination to expend discretionary effort toward organizational goals.” The more engaged employees you have, the more positive results you will see – from both a bottom line and a corporate culture standpoint. It’s as simple as that. But as Gallup recently reported, a mere 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work! And it’s not that much better here in the U.S., where only one in three employees are engaged at work.

Is employee engagement something your company struggles with? Start shifting the numbers in your favor with these four easy tips to instantly engage your employees:

Throw out the job description

We aren’t suggesting you should abandon your entire functional structure, but when thinking about roles, titles and capabilities it’s important to keep individual employees in mind. Management expert Glen Llopis encourages supervisors to build each job around the capabilities and interests of the person who currently holds that position. He points out that people stay more focused and perform much better when they enjoy the work they’re doing, and a good manager should be able to expand their leadership lens to consider an employee’s strengths when assigning any projects.

Praise co-workers

Managers aren’t the only ones who can commend a job well done. Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition within the workplace can be invaluable in increasing employee engagement. A simple “great job” from a co-worker goes a long way in encouraging employees to embrace teamwork and celebrate accomplishments. When co-workers celebrate shared wins and encourage one another to succeed, they are motivated to perform at their best and gain a sense of camaraderie around achieving one common goal. Spreading praise throughout the office is contagious and serves the dual purpose of instantly engaging employees and building a supportive work culture around shared goals and values.

Make every employee an “insider”

If you trust your employees enough to tell them about your company’s challenges – as well as its victories – you’ll find that they place a high value on your honesty. When employees feel like they’ve been brought in on the real, inside story, they are better able to understand the reasoning behind their company’s policies and actions. As an additional benefit, greater transparency and democratization often lead to innovation, as employees feel inspired and empowered to offer creative solutions to shared problems, which they will likely want to implement themselves. This approach may require a shift in perspective, especially if your company is accustomed to placing multiple filters between the C-suite and line workers. But it’s been proven that in companies with a flat organizational structure transparency can have some very tangible positive results.

Give immediate rewards and recognition

“Congratulate” is one of the “10 C’s” of employee engagement listed by Ivey Business Journal, and there’s a good reason for this. Their research finds that most employees feel that they receive immediate feedback (otherwise known as criticism) when they do something wrong, but that recognition for their positive contributions is usually slow in coming. The most effective leaders make sure to deliver immediate recognition and tangible rewards for a job well done. Rewards and recognition are most impactful when given frequently and tied back to specific desired behaviors or actions, as opposed to generally positive feedback provided quarterly or even yearly.

Employee engagement is not something to take lightly. Industry research shows why employee engagement matters: Just a 1% increase in employee engagement leads directly to an additional .6% growth in sales (according to Aon Hewitt) and companies with highly engaged workplaces have been shown to outperform their peers by 147%. So don’t pass up these simple solutions to help address a complex issue.

Learn more about milestones along the route to employee engagement from our Getting to Greatness Infographic.

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