What does it mean to be a (good) manager?

woman in red shirt beside woman in white shirt
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Over the years I’ve had a variety of managers, ranging from good to mediocre to bad. When I was able to take a step back, observe their behaviours, and ask myself what they were doing well or what they could have done better, it was an eye-opening experience and an opportunity to learn. So when I finally became a manager, I was of course apprehensive but also excited to see what I could apply and how I could become the manager I wish I had.To some extent, I believe the answer to what it means to be a good manager is personal. Of course there are bad practices no one wants to witness, but you also have to take into account which management style suits you. And when it comes to people, there is never  “one size fits all”.

That being said, I wanted to write this article as I believe managers have an important role to play. And throughout my experience, I have come to develop my own beliefs about what a good manager could be.

Let me start with the “bad” managers I encountered and their common traits. These are the negative points that had an impact on how I felt at work and as a person.

  • No interest in what you’re doing – no check-ins
  • Little or no support when you mention you’re in a difficult situation, do not help you to find solutions
  • No sense of team – you don’t feel they’ve got your back
  • Make you fear failure and feel afraid to ask questions or appear stupid
  • Do not support your career goals or ambition
  • Do not know how to listen
  • Give no feedback, or nothing constructive
  • Micromanagement

Here are the common traits I encountered from good managers:

  • Listen to you when you have something to say
  • Trust you, your knowledge and your ability to get things done
  • Advocate for you, and your career, to upper management
  • Support you in your career path and development, by helping you realise the steps you need to undertake to achieve what you want
  • Make you feel supported in times of need
  • Find solutions with you (not for you)
  • Are willing to jump in to help when needed and do your work
  • Find moments or ways to teach you what they know

As I became a manager, it was time for me to decide what kind I wanted to be. I took time to think about my previous experiences and what I wanted to repeat (or not). I also started to think of what my values were, what I could bring to the table, and what my responsibilities should be toward whoever I managed.

I firmly believe in leading by example so it was important for me to behave with integrity. I also strongly believe that people need to be supported in their careers, especially when working with those who have less experience. I wanted to be someone who would support and encourage people in their career choices and development.

Finally, I also wanted to give people a chance. It occurred to me that in my career, many people had “given me a chance” that allowed me to get to where I was. If it weren’t for those opportunities, I may have had more difficulty progressing. Everyone needs to be given a chance, and it was my turn to pay it forward.

At the same time thanks to my experience with coaching, I wanted to ensure I wasn’t positioning myself as someone always providing solutions. I didn’t want to become the person who would say “it’s my way or the highway” or believe I was always right. It’s important to encourage people to develop their own style, since every individual is different.

I like to ask people questions to encourage them to come up with their own solutions, or to help them think of ways in which they could do things differently. It’s important to help people discover their style so they find what works best for them. Even when giving examples of ways I like to work, I would always say “this is how I do things, you may want to try it but something else might work better for you”.

Of course, I don’t claim to be the best manager anyone’s ever had. I also can’t prove that I consistently did everything I claim in this article. However the important thing is to have the belief system, and strive toward it. If you have a an ideal in mind, that’s what counts. I think it’s important for us to continue learning from our experiences and what happens around us, so we can continue to grow and develop ourselves.

I’ve really enjoyed learning from the good managers I had and am grateful to have met them. I don’t think it’s a one way relationship, I believe managers and their direct reports learn from each other on an ongoing basis. I’m excited to continue the journey and see what else I learn.

What about you, what do you think makes a good manager?


Published by emmacdo

Currently working in marketing and comms in Amsterdam. Passionate about all things digital, writing, dancing, travelling and much more. Mental health blogger and advocate.

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