Savvy leaders surround themselves with great managers. It’s the simple theory of divide and conquer. As a company grows, the leader’s job and responsibilities must evolve too. Leading a start-up often has the leader working in the trenches to push the company to financial sustainability. In contrast, leading a mature company with all the various departments and functionalities requires organizational charts and levels of management. The leader of a multi-million dollar company has a very different set of issues to contend with than an entrepreneurial start-up. The bigger your company gets, the more your role changes – the more you need to depend on your inner circle of managers to keep things moving in the right direction.
The problem with hiring a manager is that you’re not always sure what you’re getting. Some are good taskmasters but lack people skills. Some managers love the title more than the work. Others procrastinate, avoid problems, and lack initiative. So what exactly do the characteristics of the ideal manager look like?
Here are my twelve no-compromise characteristics of the ideal manager:
- Great expectations: The ideal manager knows how vital it is to clarify expectations and outcomes before hitting the launch button. Wasted time, wasted resources, and stress can be avoided simply by taking the time to clarify expectations. “Ready…aim…fire!” is the golden rule of the ideal manager.
- Takes initiative: The ideal manager is a self-starter that seizes opportunities and addresses problems without waiting to be told. There is a sense of ownership in the position and the manager feels responsible for creating the right outcomes. They understand how far their level of authority goes to avoid taking unnecessary risks for the company.
- 360º Vision: The ideal manager has excellent peripheral vision. That means they are fully aware of what’s going on around them. They maintain productivity, offer help or assistance when needed, and use their foresight to avoid potential problems or mishaps. It’s not just about looking for what’s wrong – it’s about looking for and praising what’s right, too. Managers with tunnel vision are oblivious to their surroundings other than what’s in front of their noses.
- Fair and balanced: The ideal manager builds the respect of those they lead by holding everyone accountable to the same standards, rules, and policies. Favoritism to one or more individuals instantly contaminates the culture and puts the integrity of the manager in question. The ideal manager does not believe in double standards.
- Manages systems: The ideal manager understands that you lead people and manage systems. Systems define and structure how work is done. Leading people is about culture building, creating a sense of urgency and shared pride. Managers that attempt to manage people instead of leading them are better at creating drama than results.
- Let it flow: The ideal manager works hard at communication and information flow. This includes listening and processing before responding. Openness and the sharing of information build trust. A manager that is closed and withholds information creates distrust and toxicity in the company culture.
- Player in profitability: The ideal manager understands what creates profit and what kills it. They understand that profitability is more than sticking to a budget – it’s about driving productivity, customer retention, and efficiency. They also recognize that those they lead need to understand their role in creating profit. An open-book company has everyone pushing in the same direction.
- Tick tock, tick tock: The ideal manager understands the value of time and how to manage it. In business, time is money. Urgency is energy. The ideal manager doesn’t procrastinate or give excuses for missing deadlines.
- Guardian of the culture: The ideal manager is one of the guardians of the company’s culture. They get that their personal thinking and behavior serves as a role model for everyone around them. They coach and mentor team members to keep the culture strong. They weed out contamination before it spreads. Simply put, the ideal manager cherishes and protects the culture.
- Shares the load: The ideal manager manages what’s on his or her plate by empowering and trusting others. They understand that trying to be a superhero and do it all is the fast track to burnout. They also understand that empowering others with responsibilities is the most efficient way to build future managers.
- Cool under fire: The ideal manager doesn’t feed a crisis or problem – they organize and control it. They dial back the emotions that cloud solutions by defining and focusing on the desired outcomes.
- Takes time to laugh: The ideal manager understands that all work and no play create stress and negative attitudes. It’s just not healthy to take yourself too seriously. A sense of humor, a smile, and laughter take the work out of work by allowing the real you to shine through from behind that manager title.
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