Good Managers Do These 102 Things

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I teach a “managerial skills development” course, in which I attempt to share research-based insights on what it takes to be a good manager of people. 

I recently changed one aspect of the course by highlighting important concepts—or “keys” to being a good manager. In most class sessions, I introduced anywhere from five to nine such keys. By the end of the semester, I had 102 “Keys to Being a Good Manager.”  

It’s important to note that these aren’t meant to be the only actions one must take to manage people in a way that unlocks their potential and inspires them to be their best at work. Furthermore, when I teach these, I include quite a bit of amplifying information and context for each of these points. I also didn’t get too hung up on the distinction between management and leadership, because great organizations have both. 

That being said, there’s no harm—at least none that I can imagine right now—from sharing these 102 items as standalone concepts. 

So here they are: 

102 Keys to Being a Good Manager

Good managers …

  1. Make people feel welcomed. 
  2. Encourage idea sharing.
  3. Create and clarify expectations.
  4. Respect people's time. 
  5. Show up on time and well-prepared. 
  6. Respond quickly to people's concerns.
  7. Set high standards and hold people accountable for them.
  8. Never stop learning. 
  9. Write clearly. 
  10. Speak confidently. 
  11. Anticipate needs and reactions. 
  12. Use data to substantiate claims and decisions.
  13. Assume all written communication is public.
  14. Never send messages that were written in anger. 
  15. Listen actively and empathize. 
  16. Provide continual feedback.
  17. Learn from others.
  18. Communicate with purpose and redundancy. 
  19. Check for understanding.
  20. Run great meetings.
  21. Seek and ask for feedback.
  22. Treat people with dignity and respect--at all times.
  23. Welcome new information--especially bad news.
  24. Strive to understand criticism, not reject it.
  25. Appreciate how people are different from each other.
  26. Develop an awareness of how others perceive them.
  27. Control their emotions.
  28. Respond appropriately to the emotions of others.
  29. Empathize when working across cultures.
  30. Adhere to a set of core values and principles.
  31. Sense and respond quickly to change.
  32. Cope effectively with stress. 
  33. Take care of their own well-being.
  34. Eliminate unnecessary stressors.
  35. Distinguish between what is urgent and what is important.
  36. Practice gratitude daily.
  37. Systematically realign their activities and goals.
  38. Seek balance in their lives. 
  39. Positively influence the lives of others.
  40. Question solutions that seem too easy to be true. 
  41. Revisit problems when they're in a different mood. 
  42. Trust and question their intuition at the same time. 
  43. Discuss and plan for multiple scenarios.
  44. Gather diverse perspectives. 
  45. Promote failing fast to encourage creativity and learning.
  46. Ask many questions. 
  47. Devote time and effort to thinking. 
  48. Approach problem-solving creatively.
  49. Continually foster positive relationships. 
  50. Coach people using specific, behavioral guidance.
  51. Notice and discuss positive behaviors—right away.
  52. Notice and discuss negative behaviors—right away.
  53. Communicate with both accuracy and kindness. 
  54. Base their feedback on personal observation or verifiable facts. 
  55. Regularly make time to meet one-on-one with direct reports. 
  56. Make performance feedback an ongoing, positive conversation. 
  57. Are firm, fair, courteous, and consistent.
  58. Trust but verify.
  59. Clearly link rewards with behaviors.
  60. Carefully plan and judiciously use discipline.
  61. Develop useful expertise.
  62. Serve others with sincerity.
  63. Positively influence both the attitudes and behaviors of others.
  64. Implement fair policies, procedures, and practices.
  65. Navigate organizational politics and negotiate effectively.
  66. Carefully diagnose performance issues. 
  67. Emphasize both performance and satisfaction.
  68. Collaboratively set difficult, specific goals. 
  69. Identify and remove obstacles to high performance.
  70. Focus more on learning experiences than on discipline.
  71. Examine and redesign work to make it motivating. 
  72. Reward employees who perform at a high level.
  73. Care about both objective and subjective fairness. 
  74. Don't tolerate relationship conflict.
  75. Encourage appropriate constructive conflict. 
  76. Promote conflict management at the lowest levels.
  77. Allow vigorous debate and respectful candor. 
  78. Adapt their conflict management style to the situation. 
  79. Keep the team focused on its goals.
  80. Stay calm and collected, especially when others aren't. 
  81. Create opportunities for people to master skills or knowledge.
  82. Give people choices about how to contribute to objectives.
  83. Help people see the outcomes of their work.
  84. Continually clarify the vision of what success "looks like."
  85. Are reliable, honest, open, and fair.
  86. Clarify roles and responsibilities in teams. 
  87. Focus on both team and individual performance. 
  88. Use teams when tasks are highly interdependent. 
  89. Balance team size with diversity of competencies and perspectives.
  90. Explicitly discuss desired and undesired norms when forming teams.
  91. Gather input from all team members, not just the most vocal ones.
  92. Promote positive deviance in mature teams.
  93. Promote both team cohesion and individual expression.
  94. Create a context and incentives that reward ethical behavior.
  95. Approach change as a process, not an event.
  96. Involve others in creating the future.
  97. Revise plans when new information changes assumptions. 
  98. Proactively plan for what might happen. 
  99. Value the contributions and care about the well-being of others.
  100. Encourage collaborative action and empower decision-making. 
  101. Support innovation at all levels that solves people’s challenges.
  102. Clarify outcomes and use feedback to improve continually.

I’d like to think that if more people—particularly those who hold positions of authority—did these types of things more often, both their employees and their organizations overall would benefit. 

And for those of us who manage others, perhaps these might serve as a few reminders of actions we can take to promote flourishing both for ourselves and for those around us. 


About Ben Baran
Ben Baran, Ph.D., is probably one of the few people in the world who is equally comfortable in a university classroom, a corporate boardroom and in full body armor carrying a U.S. government-issued M4 assault rifle. He regularly consults leaders and organizations across a wide range of sectors and industries. Visit: www.benbaran.com.