Thursday, February 2, 2017

Are You a Great Manager?

Guest post from Jack Litewka:

“How can I know whether I’m a Good Manager or a Great Manager?”  (I’ll assume that no one reading this article is a Bad Manager.)

That’s an important question that all leaders need to ask themselves.  “Why is it an important question?”  Because a Great Manager achieves significantly better results than a Good Manager does – in revenue, in profit margin, in out-of-the-box thinking, in exceeding expectations, in team morale, in talent retention, in enhancing the reputation of a company’s brand and the company’s products and services, and in being perceived as a leader.  So if a leader is not taking the time to think about what s-he needs to do to continue along the path from Good Manager to Great Manager, becoming a Great Manager will always be out of reach.

Good Managers
Let’s begin by looking at what Good Managers do. 

Good Managers deliver quality results on time.  Good Managers deliver quality results on budget.  Good Managers do a good job of hiring talent.  Good Managers do a good job of setting expectations.  Good Managers to a good job of setting context for their team.  Good Managers do a good job of planning.  And more, of course.

These are important accomplishments, and the work-world surely needs more Good Managers.  No argument there. 

But is that a high-enough bar for excellence?  That question (and its answer – “No”) inevitably leads to these questions:  “What’s different about a Great Manager?  How do Great Managers distinguish themselves?”  Read on…

Great Managers
A Great Manager does all the things that a Good Manager does – but does those things in a world-class manner (not just in a good-enough manner). 

A Great Manager also does additional things that a Good Manager does not do.  “Such as?”  Here are a few of the key characteristics that differentiate a Good Manager from a Great Manager.

Great Managers have a framework – one might call it a philosophic frameworkwithin which they can consider all potential activities and trade-offs.  Key to this is that Great Managers understand the critical aspect of their role – their overarching framework – which is:  creating conditions that allow others to succeed.  Of course, Great Managers cannot guarantee that their team members will always succeed; they can, however, create conditions that give team members the optimal chance of meeting and exceeding the quality bar in their deliverables.

Great Managers have a keen and healthy self-awareness of their impact on others, as regards the people on their team and on other managers, executives, and members of the board of directors.  That self-awareness makes it possible for Great Managers to protect their teams (from noise, rumors, inadequate budgets, etc.) and to create optimal conditions for their teams to do world-class work.

Great Managers have a very sophisticated understanding of how to motivate their teams.  They understand that long-term motivation is not always achieved by throwing parties… or giving gifts… or coming up with gimmicks… or verbal kindness…  or justly-earned promotions… or ensuring public recognition – though each of those can (in the right circumstances) be good things.  Great Managers understand that members of their teams will feel motivated when they are successful – and that feeling of success propagates self-motivation, which is long-lasting.  So, again, creating conditions that allow others to succeed is crucial.

Great Managers do not believe everything they think.  They regularly ask themselves, “What if I’m wrong?”  That question leads Great Managers to regularly think about alternatives that might be preferable to the first one they come up with before making significant decisions.

Great Managers understand that developing a Great Team requires creating a Great Team Culture.  Great Managers think a lot about how to create a culture in which the sum is greater than the parts.  They realize that it doesn’t happen by itself, doesn’t happen by accident.  They understand that it doesn’t automatically happen by hiring talent.  Creating a Great Team Culture requires a Great Manager to orchestrate dozens of factors in a skillful (and often subtle) way.  Great Managers step up to this task – and do the work necessary to create a Great Team Culture.  “Why are they willing to spend time and effort on this?”  Because they understand that a Great Team Culture results in their team exceeding expectations on a regular basis.


Jack Litewka is a management consultant who has mentored dozens of managers.  He is the author of The Sophisticated Manager:  Essential Leadership Lessons for Developing High-Performance Team… and Avoiding Critical Mistakes.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree with the overall messages. However, is there a necessity to acknowledge that great managers become great leaders when they are able to formulate, enlist support in, and sell their VISION?