We've worked for a lot of people over the years and have thought a lot about what differentiates the good from the bad in the world of management. The best were really good at a few key skills:
- They really paid attention to both what we did well and to what we didn't do well.
- They listened when we had ideas about how to make things better on the job.
- They gave us feedback in a way that made us want to listen because it helped us be better at our jobs.
- They could look at a job and see the set of skills that were needed to complete it.
- They always picked the right people with the needed skills for the job.
- They recognized when someone didn't have the right skills and they moved them out humanely and efficiently.
- They applied these skills consistently over time with each employee.
The best people we worked for were dedicated to helping us be better at our jobs. Before you dismiss us as being a bunch of Pollyannas, let us tell you that these managers were not always nice, but they were fair. There was no hand-holding and Kum Bah Yah singing. However, there was regular coaching and feedback, with the occasional tough conversation thrown in. They were focused on being effective managers that got the most productivity out of their employees.
We have also worked for ones who spent more time talking and less time listening. They often spent the majority of their time on the phone or barricaded in their offices and as little time as possible with their employees. Of course, they made an appearance if something went wrong and were very adept at throwing their team under the bus. Fortunately for us, the good ones were more frequent than the bad ones.
While some people do seem to have many of those skills naturally, we do think they can be learned even if you weren’t born with them. If you manage people, take some time to think how you would rate yourself on those skills.