“The boss isn’t always a leader, but the leader usually becomes the boss.” This is extremely relevant to all managers who wish to be effective leaders.

This is also the point I make many times throughout my consulting process. The important thing to remember is that anyone can become a leader simply by adopting and forming their actions around the following characteristics.

I have already posted an article regarding “The 10 Laws of Leadership” and the various abilities and mentalities that are associated with effective leadership. Rather than merely restate those laws in terms of management, I’d like to discuss what leadership means in a strictly corporate/management setting.

Most managers want to be more effective in their work lives. Many managers feel the pressure from others in the organization to jump higher, run faster, and overall be better than what might even be realistic. That being said, here are some strictly organizational qualities managers MUST have to become more effective in their work lives!

Qualities of an Effective Manager

Effective Managers Show Appreciation

Showing appreciation to those who do their work in an organization may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many miss this important point. Ultimately, showing appreciation is a big factor in employee satisfaction. It gives the manager a chance to further motivate and cultivate buy-in from their employees.

Buy-in is simply another term for commitment. In many of my blog posts, I have discussed the importance of commitment over compliance. In short, commitment is a result of an employee recognizing the importance of their work, compliance is a result of a “bossy” or “micromanaging” supervisor who practices their power over others.

Commitment is beneficial because it implements the mentality of purpose among those in the organization. Communicating the purpose behind activities makes those activities feel more important, and makes those who perform them more dedicated. If you recycle, imagine how much more empowering and committed you’d feel if every time you threw a bottle in the bin you thought “I’m saving the planet” instead of “I’m throwing away a bottle.”

Appreciation is a medium through which importance and purpose can be measured by employees. Studies show that performance improves among an organization when praise is given and declines when destructive criticism is given. Praise can often be a medium through which constructive criticism is taken with an open mind.

Effective Managers are Analytical

Analytical managers are best at making good decisions in a team setting.

I would recommend that every manager read the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It propagates the theory behind organizational purpose, and behind why businesses exist in the first place. It is important to keep in mind that behind every action there is usually a set of human emotions and wants/needs.

Why is this important you may ask? When it comes to leading a team, analytical skills allow you to focus both on the bigger picture as well as the daily operations that your team will need to take to achieve it. This is vital to organizational health because, without good decisions that align the operations of the team with the overall purpose, the company may face an identity crisis.

In short, an identity crisis occurs when an organization loses sight of its intended purpose and strays off the path of providing value to its consumers in the way they’ve marketed themselves. Imagine what Apple would be like if it never innovated!

Analytical skills allow the manager to piece together key information both factually (company performance) and theoretically (team productivity) in order to determine a MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive) set of options before coming to the best decision.

Effective Managers are Open-Minded

I have written an entire article on the personal benefits of remaining open-minded which you can find HERE.

In a management setting, the effects are very similar. The sole benefit of being an open-minded manager is in the cultivation of trust by subordinates.

If you have ever read The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey, you know just how important and vital trust is to team development and overall business performance. In a business setting, trust converts itself into the thought “will you or will you not benefit me in this relationship.”

That thought goes both ways. Ultimately, mutual trust is detrimental to the mental health of employees AND the manager themselves.

In Michael Bungay Stanier’s book The Coaching Habit, he says that most relationships form mentalities that he calls the “drama triangle.” These mentalities are Victim, Prosecutor, and Rescuer.

The Victim believes that he has no personal power to change his circumstances, and therefore fails to take action.

The Prosecutor believes that everybody else is incompetent and only HE should take action.

The Rescuer likes to mitigate ill feelings, yet is overburdened by constantly taking on the workload of others.

A manager without trust becomes the prosecutor and victimizes his employees. Being open-minded means trusting the ideas of others and considering them before denying due to immediate reactions. “It is the mark of an intelligent mind that can entertain thoughts without accepting them.”

Trust is mutually beneficial, of course. Employees will become unafraid to bring up new and, very possibly, great ideas to the workplace due to a mutual feeling of trust. They will become more communicative, more independent (which is great for a busy manager), and more committed to workplace success.

Effective Manager Communicate Effectively

There is a mountain of a difference between communication and EFFECTIVE communication. It is the difference between a lengthy email with hidden useful information and direct order. Effective communication is ALWAYS relevant in some way to the benefit of a team or relationship.

Managers who communicate effectively leave nothing to assumption, which is a vital part of team performance. Everybody knows what assumptions can do to an important task, it can poison the results from the beginning. Is there any reason why researchers go to great lengths to form surveys that don’t allow participants to assume or form bias?

Effective communication is the best way to avoid what I call “Miscommunication Costs.” Miscommunication costs are the difference between any current team and how the team COULD perform if everybody perfectly knew the expectations placed upon them. It is the job of an effective manager to delegate and clarify expectations.

The best way to entice open communication is to form goals as a team and not as a sole individual. Gather your team together and state 1) the purpose of the company, 2) the goals that will aid you in achieving that purpose (refer to my goal-setting guide HERE), and 3) what is expected from every person that will eventually collaborate into the achievement of said goals.

This simple, but extremely effective, method of goal-setting as a team will allow the team to ask questions and clarify meanings, form commitment due to participation and understanding, and better perform their expected duties.

Effective Managers Take Action

Like a set of newton balls, action must be taken before ripples can be made throughout the organization. It's often up to managers to set the guiding vision that influences actions!
Like a set of newton balls, action must be taken before ripples can be made throughout the organization. It’s often up to managers to set the guiding vision that influences actions!

Imagine what it would mean to be a manager who didn’t LEAD. Managers who don’t take action (or worse, who don’t take action under pressure) become inefficient and irrelevant to business development. A manager must be the one who can clear the path for his/her team in times of distress and can formulate ways to avoid adversity in work-life altogether.

This sounds like a heavy-hitting goal to set for anyone who is trying to lead a team, but it is ultimately what makes the difference between managers who accomplish goals and those who let the most insignificant issues stop them dead in their tracks.

The hardest part of being a manager is being responsible for those you don’t exactly have the utmost control over. Some days, as a manager, it will feel as though you’re being targeted for the mistakes that OTHERS have made. The key here is to avoid the “prosecutor” mentality we discussed earlier in which the manager loses trust and becomes the micro-focused (and solely responsible) entity for team success.

The best way to get through high-pressure moments is to take a look at the big picture. Our subconscious minds often mistake what is immediately uncomfortable for something that is life-threatening, even when it isn’t! For example, most people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death, despite the fact that we have laws in place that protect our rights to speak publicly!

The key is this, ask yourself “Is this really something that I should let control my emotions?” “Is this something that is seriously threatening to me and my well-being?” “What trying times have I gone through before and come out stronger?” Often, it is the questions we ask ourselves in our day to day lives that affect our mentalities.

Ultimately, managers may be held responsible for the actions of their teams, this is a given. The result will be occasional pressure but success in the end if managers can control their ability to make decisions and act in the face of adversity.

Effective Managers Delegate

“Of course managers delegate, that’s essentially their job!” You may be saying those very words. The point is, managers must delegate tasks in a very specific and thoughtful way.

Managers must learn to delegate based on employee strengths and weaknesses. This is why knowing your team members inside and out is extremely effective in upping productivity and work performance (and occasionally, job satisfaction). Nobody likes to continuously do something they are bad at or have little interest in.

Managers delegate based on employee strengths in order to maximize the efficiency and quality of the work that must be done.

Managers also must delegate to carefully balance their own workload with that of the team. Remember, the manager who attempts to do everything themselves becomes the prosecutor if he/she believes everyone else is incompetent. Often times, a big mess of issues can be resolved by properly delegating a workload among the correct people according to strengths and weaknesses.

You’d never give lots of important paperwork to an employee who is not always organized the way they should be. Likewise, you shouldn’t load work onto someone simply because they are adept at achieving, that is a recipe for the “rescuer” mentality also.

The best way to delegate is to clearly state the desired outcome of a task, determine what activities are involved in its completion, and find the person who has shown an ability to complete related tasks before based on their personal characteristics. That is likely to be the person who has related strengths to the activity. For more concrete evidence, consider having the people in your organization take the Myers-Briggs personality indicators!

Effective Managers Have “Political Sense”

"Political sense" is the ability for a manager to determine what is and isn't appropriate in a certain place or time.
“Political sense” is the ability of a manager to determine what is and isn’t appropriate in a certain place or time.

“Political Sense” is a term used to describe the inherent “relationship density” of an organization. Ultimately, personal feelings mixed with business relationships can cause the phenomenon of office politics. It is a form of miscommunication costs that we discussed before, and although we like to admit that they never occur, they are undoubtedly present in every organization with more than one member.

A huge part of managing effectively is deciphering the right time and place to communicate issues in a way that minimizes disruption or downtime. Managers must constantly scan and develop a sense of what and when is “appropriate.”

For example, an employee should never be berated in front of others. In fact, an employee can be punished but should never be berated at all! No actions in the workplace should directly attack an employee’s sense of self-worth. Doing so is a surefire way to decrease trust and increase victimhood.

Essentially, managers deem when certain things are appropriate for organizational or personal needs. This general statement goes a long way. Here are some simple, but important, things to be wary of.

Don’t:
vent at work
complain
gossip
choose favorites
treat people differently
Don’t ignore people
make hurtful statements
accuse without proof
punish without understanding the intent

The list can go on for days and get quite specific. It almost sounds more like a judicial set of laws than simple points for organizational health, but the importance remains the same.

Conclusion

Ultimately, these are some simple characteristics (and steps) that you are now aware of to become a more effective manager. They are useful and beneficial to ANY organization possible. There is a general code of ethics to adhere to regarding the way people enjoy being treated.

Dale Carnegie in his book How To Win Friends and Influence People states that most everyone simply wants to feel important. Helping others feel important and cultivating an internal feeling that they matter is the single most important factor in developing good relationships, beneficial friendships, and influential partnerships.

Effective managers are those who develop these skills and become great leaders. Remember, becoming a great leader is no event. You will not attend one of my talks and walk away as a perfect leader (although you will certainly become a more informed one). What it takes is action and consistency, and a constant unending resolve towards personal and professional improvement.

Here are some more blog posts for your leadership and personal development!
Here is a related post on the 15 qualities of a great manager!

-Austin Denison