Managers are expected to foster a fun work environment, ensure productivity, inspire employees, and delegate tasks. The list goes on.
Finding an individual who can strike this balance can be challenging, and the consequences of hiring a poor manager comes with significant problems. A bad manager is one of the top causes of employee turnover. A recent Gallup study found that nearly half of all employees that leave a job do so because of their manager. This proves managers’ impact on an organization, from employee performance and engagement to employee retention.
Hiring new managers may seem like a daunting task with lots of risks. But thankfully, there are data-backed qualities of a great manager that will help you make the right decisions.
Characteristics of a good manager
Research shows leaders can improve employee engagement. But in the past decade, the characteristics of a good manager have shifted. Experience and technical skills were once considered required management skills. But today, companies emphasize interpersonal skills, such as listening, being flexible, and inviting open communication.
These soft skills enhance the higher-level characteristics of manager performance, which include building trust, showing empathy, taking responsibility, and investing in employee development. Top Workplaces managers excel at these skills and more, which make employees feel:
All of these improve employee engagement, improve employee retention, and help companies to attract top talent. Let’s take a closer look at the top 15 qualities of a good manager.
Energage research shows employees at Top Workplaces feel well-informed about important company decisions. Transparent communication is an important culture driver. When managers provide honest, authentic communication, employees feel like true partners in the business — and more connected as a result. They’re also more likely to align with the company, even when they don’t totally agree with decisions. This creates a sense of value that improves employee engagement.
2. Good Communication
Good managers are great communicators. They’re effective at communicating with their employees and take the time to listen and understand what’s happening within the organization. Managers who are active listeners and genuinely care about employee concerns are qualities of a great workplace that builds employee loyalty and performance.
The Top Workplaces for Clued-In Leaders award recognizes leaders who drive success through impactful communication efforts, value employee feedback and make decisions that support a people-first culture.
See Top Workplaces for Clued-In Leaders awards.
In a study conducted by SHRM, 61 percent of employees said that trust between senior management and employees significantly contributed to job satisfaction. Building and maintaining trust with employees is paramount to fostering a positive work environment when considering what makes a good manager.
When employees feel they can trust their manager, they also trust the decisions management makes and are dedicated to the organization’s goals and vision as a whole. Managers that do not prioritize trust can lose the respect of their employees, which can have a devastating effect on productivity, loyalty, and ultimately employee turnover.
Empathy, a core element of emotional intelligence or EQ, requires managers to connect with employees individually. State of Empathy Workplace study carried out by Businesssolver, 84 percent of CEOs said they believed empathy drove better business outcomes. At the same time, research from the Six Seconds research group found that managers with a high EQ led their companies to a 34 percent higher profit growth than other companies.
But remember: Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Empathy is all about listening and offering support. It is a superpower that allows managers to be compassionate listeners and fearless leaders who can maintain their employees’ respect, even when they disagree with decisions.
Empathy cultivates more than a healthy employee-manager relationship when considering manager characteristics to shortlist. Empathy positively impacts workplace culture. Empathetic managers are more successful at leading individuals with different points of view to successful collaboration.
Characteristics of a good manager are sometimes visible, and decision-making is one of them. Managers who struggle with decision-making erode employee trust and put the company at risk.
Being decisive means making good decisions, not necessarily popular ones. Good managers enable the company to be agile and adaptable, which leads to better business outcomes and continued growth.
The traits of a good manager include a vision that aligns with the company’s mission and values. Expressing that vision clearly inspires and motivates employees to give their all. Employees who believe in the company’s vision will invest more because they know it will make a difference.
Good managers are autonomous and require minimal supervision. They’re also accountable for their own mistakes. Good managers practice constructive accountability through their actions and leadership.
This is important because managers need to instill in others the responsibility of being accountable. Instead of blaming others for mistakes or poor decisions, good managers focus their efforts on actionable ways to get better results moving forward.
8. Employee development
High-performing companies such as Top Workplaces winners know that unleashing employee potential depends on manager support and development. A great manager is also a coach who takes the time to truly understand their employees’ abilities and interests and then aligns them with the company’s needs.
Good managers consistently recognize and reward good work, contribute to a happier workplace culture, and provide better business outcomes from improved employee engagement. This can lead to an increase in employee retention. According to one Gallup report, workplaces emphasizing employee strengths increased retention by up to 72 percent in high turnover industries.
Knowing how and when to delegate is one of the characteristics of a manager that can help them focus on essential tasks while allowing others to grow and develop. A good manager’s qualities include knowing which tasks to delegate and giving credit where credit is due.
Examples of things to delegate include:
- Minor, one-time projects.
- Administrative tasks and preparation for meetings.
- Time management when there are too many jobs with competing deadlines.
- Ongoing, longer-term projects that benefit from consistent ownership.
- Tasks that employees enjoy or have specific knowledge to complete.
- Onboarding and training of new team members.
While the ability to lead, delegate, and make quick decisions is critical, when you take a closer look at the characteristics of a good manager, they essentially all boil down to effective communication.
When managers make themselves available, employees feel heard and valued by the organization. This makes it easier to determine areas that need improvement and take actionable steps to foster a better workplace.
A good manager’s traits include understanding each individual’s role in the success of the business. This means managers take responsibility for their actions and the actions of their employees. They look for ways to empower their employees and help them develop their skills while becoming more autonomous.
Everyone struggles with frustration and negativity from time to time — including managers. But when a team or employee is really struggling, a manager with a negative mindset will do nothing but fan the flames of despair.
It’s challenging to be motived or excited when you’re around a lot of negativity. Successful managers understand they need to lead by example and infuse their workplace environment with optimism and positive energy in every way possible.
13. Leadership and being a role model
Leadership is about more than giving out orders or managing a group of individuals. The qualities of a good manager and leader reflect the ability to motivate, inspire, and influence. They also promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
A good leader is also a good role model. Their actions speak louder than words, and they understand the importance and lasting impact of supporting employees in all areas of the organization, from the very bottom to the top.
14. Technical skills and industry knowledge
Great managers have well-developed technical skills and possess a wealth of industry knowledge. They know when to lend their expertise, provide support, and help the team find the best solutions. The most successful managers are in touch with their employees and are adept at mitigating unnecessary challenges.
15. Fair treatment and evaluation
The best managers don’t fall prey to favoritism. They know how to treat and assess their employees fairly. Great managers also understand the importance of employee appreciation, looking for opportunities to recognize their employees and promote their accomplishments with senior leaders.
Signs of poor management in your organization
Effective managers are essential to organizational success. Managers can also be the reason why employees quit. That’s why it’s important to recognize warning signs of poor managers, create a development plan, and realize when the fit might not suit your company and its culture.
Signs of ineffective managers include:
- Focusing on the “what” and ignoring the “how.”
- Micromanaging projects rather than offering constructive feedback.
- Failing to see employees as individuals with unique needs.
- Taking undue credit rather than promoting employee successes.
- Blaming others for failures rather than taking accountability.
How to measure managerial effectiveness
If you want to maximize performance and make informed decisions for your organization, one of the best first steps is to assess manager effectiveness. Here are some ideas to consider that will also help your company to achieve its goals:
- Administer employee engagement surveys: An anonymous, research-backed survey that assesses the employee-manager relationship is a credible way to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
- Establish and monitor KPIs: Key performance indicators provide a data-driven performance measure that tracks manager and company progress.
- Watch employee turnover: While it is a red flag, turnover may not be entirely within the manager’s control. Take a closer look to determine the root cause.
- Observe employee growth: The best managers care about their employees’ concerns. They encourage learning and development, and their employees are rewarded with internal promotions.
- Measure team performance: Managers aren’t effective if teams aren’t achieving results. It’s not the only measure of manager performance, but an important one.
Tips for hiring the best managers
What qualities do you look for in a manager? It’s essential to take the time — and the right steps — to find the best fit for the job, starting early in the recruitment process. While we explored the qualities of a good manager, spotting these characteristics can be challenging. Here are some helpful tips to try:
- Look for internal candidates who exhibit the qualities of a good manager and promote employees from within your organization.
- Highlight your company mission, vision, and values on your sites and recruitment channels.
- Build your employer brand to highlight what’s most important to your culture.
- Promote employer recognition awards, especially those your company has received for culture excellence.
- Encourage employees to refer and recommend those in their networks that would be a good match for your company.
- Expand your talent reach, especially when remote work opportunities exist. Company profiles that promote your culture can go a long way toward a positive online reputation. See the Top Workplaces directory.
Examples of interview questions to ask potential managers
- Describe how you handled a personal or team failure.
- What do you identify as your greatest success as a manager?
- How do you build employee trust and encourage connection?
- Describe a leader or former manager you admire and why.
- What is your favorite part of being a manager?
- Discuss a team achievement and the management approach you used.
- Can you share an example of a management challenge you overcame?
Be recognized as a Top Workplace for Top Managers
Top Workplaces understand the importance of effective management and nurture the qualities of a good manager in their cultures. Top Workplaces awards give these leading companies a competitive advantage. There are many benefits of employer recognition awards. With this recognition, you can build your company brand, develop a solid online reputation, and attract top talent.
See the Top Workplaces for Top Managers award.
See the Top Workplaces for Leadership award.
Take the first step toward building and branding a company that attracts the right talent. Nominate your company for a Top Workplaces award.