Do You Have the Qualities that Make a Great Manager?


Here is some of my coverage of the 2012 Silicon Valley Code Camp at Foothill College in Los Altos, California where I was reporting for Dice and Dice News.

If you want to be a good boss you need to focus on solutions, not problems, said executive coach Mary Mills in her presentation, “For New Managers: How to Be a ‘Good Boss’” at the 2012 Silicon Valley Code Camp at Foothill College in Los Altos, California.

Mills began the discussion by going over the well-known five social and survival dimensions for employees and their boss, better known by the acronym, SCARF. Here’s a summary of the acronym and the varied dimensions that range from threat (low) to reward (high). To be a good boss you want to move away from the dimensions where people feel threatened and towards reward.

  • Status: Relative. This is where an employee perceives their status in the organization. Threat is lower pecking order, relative importance, position of power, and pain. All are a threat to your status. The reward is when you get increased status.
  • Certainty: Future. It’s the boss’ ability to predict the future. Team communications is key. Must be able to explain what you’re doing and how it fits into the big picture of the project, product, and/or organization. If you can’t do this, employees get uncomfortable. Threat is uncertain future, negative body language, ambiguity, and energy sink. Reward is when you offer clear expectations, a clear vision, a pat on the back, eye contact, and even a smile.
  • Autonomy: Control. Your ability to make decisions. If you threaten, this is where micromanaging comes in. Employees don’t have autonomy and it’s demoralizing. Threat is lack of control and micromanagement. Reward is when bosses delegate, trust, support, and encourage.
  • Relatedness: Sense of safety. Employees can feel threatened when they feel unsafe with others, people are unknown, they’re often foes, and you can’t trust them. Reward is when the boss builds trust across the team-in person or virtually. The boss shows empathy and they engage.
  • Fairness: Exchanges. Threat is when the boss plays favorites, takes credit for employees’ work, demonstrates inequity, and employees are aware of unfair competition and compensation. Reward is when the boss has integrity, they accept blame, treat people fairly, and are transparent.

As a boss, the level of action you take will either support or undermine employees’ perceived levels of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

Ten qualities of an inspiring manager

While there are tons of lists on how to be a good manager, Mills offered up her favorite from analysts at Zenger Folkman. To create the list, Zenger Folkman looked at Fortune 500 executives who were let go from their job. From their interviews and surveys, they identified ten traits that made an inspiring manager. The ones who were fired from the Fortune 500 companies did not exhibit three or more of the following traits:

  1. Energy and Enthusiasm
  • Be authentic
  • Offer quick early successes
  • Employees will mirror energy
  • Delegate
  • Be first in the am
  • Take care of yourself
  1. Contribution
  • Acknowledge your team
  • More than ‘good’
  • Continuous reviews/feedback
  • Address issues asap
  • Hard conversations
  • Hard decisions
  1. Clear Vision and Direction
  • Provide clarity
  • Explain where headed and why
  • Offer a vision and mission
  • Share it (certainty!)
  • Protect your team from unnecessary fire drills (Competing priorities can create chaos)
  • Look ahead
  • Support and be flexible
  1. High Trust
  • Walk your talk and follow through. They’ll trust you if you have good judgment.
  • Make good judgment and decisions
  • Follow up
  • Be accountable
  • Acknowledge your mistakes
  • Communicate as perception=reality
  1. Collaborative
  • Be a team player (humility, respect, trust)
  • Collaborate across organizations
  • Don’t see others as competitors
  • Don’t silo
  • Take ownership and responsibility
  • Have fun
  1. Role Model
  • Be self-aware
  • Contribute
  • Keep promises
  • Give credit generously
  • Hire the best
  1. Ongoing Learning
  • Learn from mistakes (growth)
  • Learning challenges
  • Do new things, renew, share
  • Keep up
  • The tools that got you here…
  1. Interpersonal Skills
  • Be aware of your impact on others (SCARF)
  • Respect, trust, and consideration
  • Be approachable and open
  • Solicit input and involvement from team
  • Build unity and cooperation
  • Perception is everything
  1. Open to New Ideas
  • Listen
  • Be agile (not risk averse)
  • Let go
  • Put old ways aside
  • Accept new tools and processes
  • Maintain pace of change

10. Develop Others

  • Invest in others with training and you’ll get employees motivated, engaged, and productive. They’ll stay around longer and ultimately you’ll stay longer on the reward side of the SCARF model.

Conclusion: Are you a good or a bad manager?

A good manager inspires and motivates, said Mills. With such a manager employees are satisfied, committed, and productive. Employees under a bad manager have low satisfaction and commitment. Employees hate their job and want to quit. Many actually do leave and there’s turmoil.

What kind of manager are you, or what kind of manager do you think you can be?

Photo of good boss courtesy of Big Stock Photo.

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