Smiling manager with employee at the office working on a computer.
From being able to empathize with employees' needs to fostering an environment of trust, there are several traits that can factor into what makes a "good" manager. — Getty Images/Hinterhaus Productions

What makes a good manager? For some employees, it might be a manager who provides mentorship. For others, it might be someone with a more hands-off approach. A “good” manager can be subjective to some degree, but business owners know the traits of a good manager when they see them.

So do employees. A survey from Gallup found that nearly half of employees who leave a job do so because of a bad manager. Employee turnover leads to lost productivity, higher costs, and generally low morale. If you’re seeking to avoid these pitfalls and find a great manager, look for a few of these characteristics in your next hiring round or performance review.

[Read more: 10 Business Leadership Styles and What They Mean]

Transparency and good communication

Employees surveyed by Top Workplaces report feeling well-informed about decision-making and the future of the company. Open and honest communication by a manager can help employees feel more engaged with and connected to their daily work tasks. Transparency helps team members understand how and why the work they do is important, and managers who can instill that sense of motivation are highly regarded as a result.

Empathy

The ability to empathize with customers, team members, and other members of the leadership team makes the difference between a good and a great manager. In one survey, 84% of CEOs said they believed empathy drove better business outcomes. Other research has shown that managers with high emotional intelligence (EQ) led their companies to a 34% higher profit growth than other companies.

Millennial and Gen Z employees in particular are likely to value managers who can empathize with their needs. These workers want to be seen as people first, employees second. A manager who can empathize with their desire to make a difference, work flexibly, and gain mentorship will inspire your team to greatness.

A study from SHRM found that 61% of employees believe that trust between managers and team members plays a significant role in job satisfaction.

The ability to delegate well

Delegating is both an art and a science. Good managers are not only able to delegate tasks but do so according to each employee’s strengths.

“No employee, however talented, is perfectly well-rounded,” wrote Harvard Business Review. Each employee will have tasks they are naturally adept at, and tasks they prefer to avoid. Good managers schedule regular 1:1 meetings with team members, spend time observing the day-to-day workflow, and identify roles and tasks where each person can be set up to succeed. This can even mean crafting unique job descriptions that combine tasks from different roles to ensure everyone is doing the things they’re good at.

Honesty and trust

A study from SHRM found that 61% of employees believe that trust between managers and team members plays a significant role in job satisfaction. Aligned with the desire for transparency, employees want an environment in which they can trust their manager and can honestly provide feedback in the decisions senior leaders make.

“A workplace atmosphere that lacks psychological safety—’the belief that engaging in risky behaviors like voice will not lead to personal harm’ —can manifest a variety of damaging outcomes: delayed identification of obstacles due to fear of challenging authorities, declining morale, lack of idea exploration and others,” wrote SHRM.

There are a few different ways in which managers can foster an environment of trust. Managers can institute and enforce an open-door policy and encourage employees to share their comments, questions, or grievances with no negative repercussions. Managers can also avoid micromanaging, trust employees to work flexible schedules, or allow for remote work.

[Read more: 9 Leadership Training Programs for Managers]

Technical skills

This list has mostly focused on the skills that it takes to manage people. But what about managing the day-to-day business operations? Knowing how to manage a budget, serve customers, schedule employees, and maintain strong inventory management are also important traits in a good manager. Many of these skills can be taught. But if you can find someone with the know-how to balance managing the needs of your business with the needs of your employees, your company will flourish.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published August 24, 2022