Knowing your stuff is essential as a manager, but it won’t take you from good to great. Great management transcends competencies; it’s also about how you make your employees feel.
Great managers have empathy.
Empathy. Man, it’s so important. I could write a million posts on why I think empathy is one of the most critical traits to cultivate… not just in management but in Life. Empathy is a huge component of emotional intelligence, yet it’s an undervalued trait in fast-paced work environments. Unfortunately, most organizations will turn a blind eye if an employee lacks emotional intelligence, as long as that employee is accomplishing his/her more tangible performance objectives. The result is this: at some point in our career, we will have managers with great technical expertise and company knowledge, but crappy people skills.
Studies show that emotional intelligence is what distinguishes a good leader from a great leader and is twice as important as IQ and technical expertise combined. To clarify, empathy and emotional intelligence are not synonymous; emotional intelligence is broader and also includes additional traits such as self-awareness and social skills. All are necessary qualities to develop, but I’d argue that our society more often converses on the importance of self-awareness (which allows us to manage our own emotions) versus the importance of empathy (which allows us to manager others’ emotions).
Great managers have empathy; they pick up on the unspoken. An empathetic manager will discern subtle but powerful personality differences in his/her employees, such as how one employee thrives in a more structured environment while another might do better with a looser schedule. Empathy also enables us to pick up on emotional cues, allowing for stronger communication. Which leads us to…
Great managers are good communicators.
Ah, communication. Strong communication ensures understanding and connection; it’s what keeps the world in tact. Strong communication helps establish relationships. It helps establish clear performance objectives for employees, and ensures they receive feedback. Good communication makes life a little easier by mitigating misunderstandings.
But good communication goes much deeper than just easy conversations. Great managers are also willing to have those sometimes uncomfortable but necessary conversations, usually with the realization that these conversations will prevent even more heartburn later on down the road. Most of our growth in life stems from the uncomfortable moments in life, and great managers see this and make those moments as painless as possible.
Great managers genuinely care about their employees and, more importantly, make sure their employees feel cared for.
I’ve been blessed with having really fantastic managers throughout my professional career who cared – really, truly cared – about my professional and personal well-being. And, sitting in those cubicles, I felt their support as vibrantly as the fluorescent lights that shone down upon me.
But… we can’t get lucky all of the time. I once had a manager who boldly stated that although he cared about my development, he cared about his performance more. His point being that he would do whatever it took to maintain his reputation as an efficient and effective administrator, even at the expense of my professional growth. While I don’t doubt this is a common mindset, I found his outward articulation of it to be distasteful. He meant no ill intent, he just lacked empathy and good communication skills. (See how everything connects together?) He was capable, but his competencies could not compensate for the fact that he seldom prioritized making his employees feel cared for.
What do you think? What additional traits make a good manager great?