10 characteristics of an effective manager

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

21st May 2022

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For many, management is a natural part of career progression. One moment you are steadily climbing the ladder, then suddenly you are responsible for appraisals, disciplinaries and recruitment. But management is a skill like any other, so training is vital.

Strong people management and HR best practice often go hand in hand. Our free Manager Essentials Webinar covers off the five most important things managers should know, from basic skills to the ‘tough stuff’. Tune in to receive expert insight that could benefit your organisation.

Understanding the impact of employee wellbeing in work is also a vital component of good management and building close emotional connections with direct reports requires managers to continually upskill in areas like wellbeing awareness. This  webinar is another must-watch for any manager who wants to understand how to identify when an employee needs support for their wellbeing and how to effectively measure the impact of wellbeing initiatives.

Key traits of effective managers

So, lets delve into some of the traits that make a great manager. What does great management look like? Does it pay to be an ethical manager or to rule with an iron fist?

Here are ten key characteristics:

1. Optimism

The best management style is optimistic, according to Pat Ashworth – Director of Learning Solutions at AdviserPlus. She identifies the optimum approach as one in which both the manager and employee feel in control.

Negative management styles may demonstrate little confidence in capabilities. In some cases this pessimism extends to a manager’s perception of their own ability. Pessimistic management can also translate into domineering or fearful styles, where the manager creates a negative atmosphere.

Instead, hold eye contact and share titbits of optimism to spur your team on.


2.The ability to ‘read’ people

Great line managers are able to read other people – their workers, business partners and external contacts. This allows them to understand what motivates employees and to communicate well.

Emotional intelligence is important for leaders, especially when it comes to workplace mental health. Paying attention to feelings can create a positive atmosphere which leads to productivity savings.

You might need to tailor efforts to each worker based on their personality and position within the team. If you are faced with an employee who is stagnant, for instance, a ‘coaching’ or ‘challenge’ based approach might be appropriate to unlock their potential.


3. Clear communication

“Open relationships are productive relationships” according to Pat, who believes clarity and listening are the most important factors in strong management.

Clear communication is about more than just ensuring all workers feel valued – it also helps to drive efficiency. Beyond talking, great managers weave the principles of clarity into every process, from employee onboarding to operations.

HR Manager

4. Empathy

Ethical management means empathising with your workers. When you understand your people, it is possible to get the best from everyone.

Empathy is consistently named as one of the most-valued workplace traits. But, even in the most caring cultures, targets and stress can undermine our ability to empathise. This means it is important to take a step back to think about what your employees want and need. If you aren’t sure what they think, call a meeting and ask them.


5. Self-control

To be a great manager, it is essential to be able to manage yourself. This means keeping control of your body language so that employees don’t absorb negativity from your inner thoughts.

It is important to be self-aware and to embody a business-like persona. Think about how you can avoid excessive micromanagement. Instead, plan ahead and give workers the space to grow. Eventually, this will lift a weight from your shoulders and make delegation easier.


6. Listening skills

The ability to listen is crucial for line managers who want their whole team or organisation to progress. Listening to other perspectives allows you to gain important insight that can help improve processes and drive efficiency. Ultimately, listening well is a form of idea delegation.

There are times when you’ll have to manage difficult disciplinary procedures as a manager. When these situations arise, Pat stresses that it’s important to listen.

“Be open to what the individual has to say. It doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences for the individual but the line manager needs to listen and listen with empathy.”

Become comfortable with silence and ask open questions to become a great listener.


7. Diplomacy

Of course, there are less enjoyable aspects of management. If your team encounters performance issues, difficult conversations may need to take place.

“Your team expects and deserves you to manage the tough stuff,” says Pat. This is because failure to tackle poor performance can be demotivating for high-performing employees.

“Find a private meeting room for tough discussions. Make sure you are in the right head space and if things become difficult, take a 10 or 20-minute break. It is important to be clear with your messaging: if certain behaviour is unacceptable, say so”.


8. Self-awareness

Nobody is born with the complete set of skills that make a top-tier manager, so you need the insight to identify ways to grow. Think of it as a personal appraisal: recognise areas for development and plan how you will achieve them.

The worst management style fails to make space for personal growth. Investing in manager training, such as the AdviserPlus Manager Essentials package, can help to develop credible managerial minds.


9. Reliability

Every business needs reliable managers. The larger the organisation, the truer this is.

It is important to root out habits that may appear reliable but are actually detrimental to performance – such as presenteeism. The Adviser Plus Absenteeism Report identified the motivation to ‘present’ to work even when unwell as a problem businesses must tackle.

Instead of over-exerting yourself, work on your overall awareness so you are able to manage expectations when a project is not feasible.


10. Knowledge

Finally, great managers need to be knowledgeable and this should extend beyond any one field or profession. Whether they work in government or retail, all managers need to know the basics of employment law, for instance.

The case studies in our Manager Essentials Training provide an introduction to HR best practice, including the laws that shape how line managers should communicate with their direct reports.

Interested in learning more about effective management? Join our webinar for a snapshot or contact us to find out how we can support you and the managers in your business.

If you are looking to gain more insight into your workforce and improve efficiencies within your employee relations process, take a look at empower, our innovative employee relations management software. Want to try it for yourself? Sign up for your free demo.


Download the free People-empowered Business Transformation Success Kit for more

This 10-step guide to effective people-empowerment is an unmissable read.  Download it now.

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