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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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.



Develop Strong Self-Esteem

Why Self-Esteem Is Critical to Successful Leadership

I was at the ACE conference hosted by Achievers in San Francisco a few years ago, and the keynote speaker was Dan Harris, a correspondent for ABC News, an anchor for Nightline and co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America and author of the book, 10% Happier. I didn’t know much about Dan except for the title of his book, and I had seen him on the news. I thought he was going to share his personal success story and how he became so accomplished in news media and found his 10% of happiness through his work. But then, he started to tell his story and silenced the audience as he revealed a very vulnerable personal experience with panic attacks. He even showed a video of himself having a panic attack on live television. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to replay in front of hundreds of people. He went on to admit that he tried to self-medicate with legal drugs and then illegal drugs and finally discovered the power of meditation. His talk was fascinating to me. This reminded me that many people labeled “workaholics” or “overachievers” might have challenges with self-esteem. And it made me question, “When is their success good enough?”

The answer to that question is subjective, and is often left unanswered for years because of feelings of low self-esteem. The actual definition of self-esteem is confidence and satisfaction in oneself. You may be very successful, and still have low self-esteem because you are comparing yourself to someone else and unsatisfied with your results.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Low self-esteem is a funny thing. It shows up in successful people as much as it does in someone we deem as lazy. It also impacts the celebration of success – did we really earn it or deserve it or was it a bit of luck and good timing? On the other hand, a high level of self-esteem can turn into narcissism. Some people who have an excessively high self-regard may experience challenges in relationships and empathy. They may feel the need to put someone else down so they can feel better about themselves.

Low self-esteem is observed in very boisterous personalities and the timid are rarely heard from individuals. Someone could be covering up or overcompensating for low self-esteem by being the loudest in the room while others have a fear of uttering a single word in a crowd.

Low self-esteem is even seen in sports and physical appearance. A low self-esteem may be an overweight individual who doesn’t spend much time on appearance or style, or it may be a perfectly fit individual who is obsessed with body image and outer appearance. It is an odd thing that is not easily discoverable until you really get to know someone.

High self-esteem is not created by receiving praise all the time or listening to motivational talks, but it is built in having connections with others and realizing that setbacks are opportunities to grow, allowing us to have more empathy for others who are struggling. It is about finding confidence and satisfaction in our lives and our accomplishments and knowing when to silence the negative critic.

Self-esteem is a foundational competency of emotional intelligence (EI) skills. Research reveals a link between positive emotional intelligence with high self-esteem, and lower EI is related to depression and stressful behavior.

How Does High Self-Esteem Show up in a Leader?

High self-esteem is found in someone who is not threatened by other ideas. People with high self-esteem have no problem in empowering others and encouraging them to be their best. A leader with low self-esteem can often be controlling and a micro-manager, and someone who doesn’t act in ways that encourage growth and opportunity for others. They often take credit for other people’s work. A high self-esteem leader is often referred to as a servant leader, someone who puts the organization first and is the most committed to its team. This type of leader is concerned about accomplishing team goals and success and not personal gains.

If you have challenges with low self-esteem or a negative voice in your head – what can you do? Here are some suggestions for improving self-esteem:

  1. Stop listening to a negative inner narrative that says you are not good enough – because you are.
  2. Identify what is the worst-case scenario if you were to move forward and take a risk and do something outside of your comfort zone. For example – speak up or offer a different perspective or question an existing program.  Would someone ridicule you or say you are stupid?  Even if they do, what does that say about that person?  Are they working from a high self-esteem?
  3. Speak confidently – join toast masters or a group that teaches you better speaking skills. The more you do it, the better you will become.
  4. Be open to feedback without becoming defensive. If someone offers you constructive feedback they usually have a good intention, and view it is an opportunity for growth.
  5. Practice your “Power Pose” before presenting to a group and increase your testosterone levels by up to 20 % while decreasing stress hormone cortisol by 25%.
  6. Be compassionate to yourself. Practice appreciation for the good things you have in your life, even if they are small. Be kinder to yourself, and imagine if it was someone else speaking to you the way you are speaking to yourself, would you let them get away with it?

Remember, not everything you think is a true picture of reality. Question the critic and be open to new ways of thinking. Continue to practice EI skills because they really make a difference.

Check out my other guest posts for The Engage Blog here. And make sure to sign up for my 2018 public workshops. My first workshop is February 9, 2018 so don’t miss out and register now.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 4-year old twins, Alex and Gia.



Strengthen Leadership

What Does a Self-Aware Leader Look Like at Your Organization?

Although most organizations spend much of their training budget on technical skills, a large percentage of leaders do not have the necessary skills and emotional competencies to manage the demands of the new economy.

In Dan Goleman’s book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, his research shows that emotional intelligence (EI) is twice the indicator of leadership success as IQ and technical skills combined. He further explains that once people leave school and enter the workforce, IQ and technical skills are often equal among those climbing the professional ladder. The differentiator is emotional intelligence (hear Goleman discuss his research in this video on YouTube).

Mr. Goleman has written several books and articles about how stellar career performance requires a leader to have a combination of business strategy knowledge and interpersonal skills. Many leaders don’t have the qualifications to mentor, lead, adapt, inspire, and manage others on their team.

Drawing from decades of analysis of great companies, Mr. Goleman has identified that powerful leaders excel by connecting with others using emotional intelligence (EI) competencies like mindfulness, self-awareness and empathy. These skill sets exist outside the domain of technical skills or IQ.

The idea of emotional intelligence is rooted in psychology and neuroscience. It suggests that when the emotional part of our brain, the amygdala, feels threatened it triggers a fight-or-flight response that can cause people to act irrationally.

Acting in an emotionally intelligent way, one that is self-aware and aware of the emotions and motives of others, can help rewire our physiological responses in times of stress and crisis. Providing tools to leaders on how to self-manage and successfully communicate with others is highly effective in times of tension and complexity. We need more leaders who can deliver a difficult message in an authentic way, creating a trusting environment without hidden agendas.

What can you do to start to build on your own EI skills?

It starts with self-awareness. How do you respond in high-pressure moments? Are you able to understand and recognize your strengths and areas of challenge? Is there a voice in your head that is saying you are not good enough?

To become a self-aware leader, it takes time, guts, vulnerability, and experiencing failure. One of my favorite quotes from Michael Jordan is “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

Here are some things you can do to become a more self-aware leader:

  1. Test yourself or take assessments:
    Participate in a 360-Assessment, StrengthFinders, Disk, Myers-Briggs or Color Code. There are several assessments, and each one offers a great opportunity to learn more about yourself. Know your strengths and areas of challenge and get to know your peers and team members. Understand what ignites you and what triggers you.
  2. Ask for feedback
    Do you know how your emotions impact behaviors, and can you recognize when you have impacted someone else negatively? Ask your circle of influence how you are doing and what can you do to improve. Sometimes the best advice comes from others on your team. Find a mentor – someone who can offer constructive feedback without you becoming defensive.
  3. Identify patterns in your own decision making and behaviors
    Write down why you made a buying decision or why you hired or fired someone. Did it turn out as you expected? Understand your own emotional needs and what causes you to be triggered. Understand how you respond during pressure moments and move away from bad habits that sabotage your best performance. Identify things that have happened in your past that may not be serving your present or future.
  4. Learn from your setbacks or failures
    Don’t let a failure define you. Optimist view failure as a short-term setback. Are you willing to do something different and have you changed your game? Be willing to take a risk or be vulnerable to grow as a leader. Look at opportunities to balance intuition with reason and logic when taking risks.

Effective self-awareness cannot be thought of as a soft science or new age meditation. It is vital to your leadership growth. As a business coach, I find many leaders are not aware enough to admit they have a problem or opportunity for growth. Often, awareness does not come to them until they experience a significant setback. Don’t wait – work on your self-awareness right now and see the impact on your Emotional Intelligence, and then see how Emotional Intelligence will change the way you work and live.

If you would like to learn more about EI, check out the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence in Phoenix, Arizona.  She can be reached at






great communicator

Voice, Value, Feedback – The “Must Try” Communication Tool Driving Employee Engagement

Does anyone truly look forward to their annual performance review?  Leaders don’t enjoy preparing them and employees dread attending them.  According to HR analyst and industry thought leader Josh Bersin, “More than 70% of all organizations dislike the process they have, and I have yet to talk with an employee or manager who likes it at all (one client calls it a ‘soul-crushing’ exercise).” That’s why many leading organizations such as Accenture, Adobe, Gap, GE, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft all recently announced that they are remodeling this “soul-crushing exercise” and moving to something altogether new.

The most important adjustments to the classic performance review cycle are an increasing emphasis on constant feedback and a concerted effort to frame constructive feedback in more human terms.  According to a SHRM article by Dana Wilkie, “Among the changes: eliminating all numeric scales; doing away with “forced” or “stacked” rankings that create competition among employees; and replacing the once-a-year appraisal with ongoing feedback on a worker’s performance throughout the year.” This philosophical shift in the way criticism is dispensed wasn’t conjured up out of thin air. There is a practical reason behind the need for immediate feedback (and praise). As stated in an article in the March 2017 issue of Fortune magazine, “One big reason for the shift: Today’s companies now change strategy so often that annual performance reviews can be moot by the time they’ve completed them.”

Although many companies are moving away from the annual performance review, there will always be a need for direct reports to measure how they are succeeding and growing in their current roles. To ensure success, employers must set clear performance expectations while providing feedback and encouragement. In fact, research shows that team members desire to feel valued, heard and even “loved.”

According to a Gallup article by Jim Harter and Amy Adkins “Managers account for up to 70% of variance in engagement and consistent communication is connected to higher engagement.” But given that no two people communicate alike, it should not be surprising that less than 1/3 of Americans are fully engaged in their work.

George Shaw

The real challenge is that most managers think they are great communicators, when in fact, most are not. This has helped create a notable communication gap between leaders and direct reports, leading to confusion and disengagement.

Dr. JP Pawliw- Fry of the Institute for Health and Human Potential explains this gap as, “A distinct pattern we see over and over again in the leadership development training programs we run: when leaders face a difficult conversation, a feedback conversation or a performance review, most cover 85, 90 or 92% of the content of what they want to say in the conversation, but a funny thing happens when they get to the more difficult part, what we call the Last 8%. When they hit this part of the conversation – where there are consequences to what they are saying – they start to notice that the other person is becoming more anxious and (because emotions are infectious) they themselves become more anxious.”

This research goes on to explain that when the employee being coached starts to feel nervous and becomes defensive, their leader reflects those feelings, and starts to doubt their own intuition regarding the employee participating in the performance review. This is typically the moment the leader hesitates when offering uninhibited feedback. While seemingly innocuous, the real problem is that the leader might believe they have offered genuine feedback when really, they probably failed to address the issues most critical to both the employee and company alike. The failure to explain the Last 8% leaves the other person unclear on expectations. It’s not surprising then that the employee makes the same mistake several months later, with the leader becoming more disappointed and frustrated.

If managers and leaders are fearful when addressing critical business issues with their direct reports, how can we facilitate a complete constructive feedback conversation, including the Last 8%? From a brain science perspective and utilizing emotional intelligence – EI– we can learn to communicate in a way that doesn’t stimulate the “fight or flight” response typical of defensive behavior.

The first step in effective communication is listening to the other person and validating his or her feelings, because they are valid, even if they are not obvious. This level of empathy is an absolute necessity if the other person is going to be open to receiving your constructive feedback. If you start giving feedback before they are ready, their response will likely be defensive, making them unwilling to receive it. When a person’s fight or flight mechanism is activated, research shows that there are real physiological effects. Perhaps they might not hear you because their heart rate is increasing and oxygen is flowing to larger muscles, away from the thinking brain.

When a person is confronted with criticism in a performance review, it can cause an automatic negative response. “This neural response is the same type of “brain hijack” that occurs when there is an imminent physical threat like a confrontation with a wild animal. It primes people for rapid reaction and aggressive movement. But it is ill-suited for the kind of thoughtful, reflective conversation that allows people to learn from a performance review. According to an article in Strategy + Business magazine titled “Kill Your Performance Rating” by David Rock, Josh Davis, and Beth Jones

Thankfully, there is an excellent constructive communication tool that can help us all avoid the automatic “fight or flight” response. It is called the Voice, Value, Feedback (VVF) Tool, and it provides a framework for a complete, courageous, feedback conversation that even includes the Last 8%.

  1. Give the other person a Voice – share why you are having this discussion. Clarify your intention for the meeting. Seek contribution not blame – “I realize I may have not communicated clearly…” then let them share their feelings for a  few minutes.
  2. Value the person you are having this discussion with and empathize with the difficulties your employees deal with on a daily basis. Phrases such as ”I understand it’s been tough. I don’t blame you for feeling that way”, can go a long way in showing your employee that you care what they have to say, and value their perspective when addressing issues.
  3. Offer your Feedback – “I appreciate you and here is what we need from you moving forward.“ Be specific about the behaviours you would like your direct report to exhibit and focus on the actual impact they have made on your organziation, not on intentions. If necessary, share instances of past and current behaviors that are not acceptable and hope they will address moving forward. State clearly what you want from them, so there is no question as to how they can improve in the future. Use  phrases such as “We need you to…” “We expect you to..” “This organization relies on you to. . .”
  4. End the conversation by reminding this person how you feel about their contributions to your team. Recognizing an employee for their loyalty, the value they have created, and their impact on the organization can reinforce their belief that they have the skills necessary to improve on perceived shortcomings mentioned during the review.

Currently, I am coaching several leaders who have incorporated the Voice, Value, Feedback communication tool into their culture, and the benefits are real. It is critical that leaders are fearlessly proactive in the difficult conversations that are required in order to keep their direct reports engaged and at their most productive. Most importantly, as leaders, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we really having the Last 8% of that constructive feedback conversation?”

For more information on the benefits of effective feedback, and more insight on the debate over real-time feedback versus annual reviews, check out: “Real-time feedback vs. annual reviews: A showdown”.

And if you’d like to learn more about measuring employee engagement, the How’s and the Why’s, download the eBook, Employee Engagement: Four Places to Start Measuring What Matters.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 4-year old twins, Alex and Gia.