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Eight Traits of the Best Managers

All managers have many things in common: they all accept greater responsibility and accountability than non-management employees, they all exercise control over particular organization functions, and they all focus on getting things done through othe

by Martin Seidenfeld
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Every human being is unique. Yet all humans also have things in common. Obviously, there are physical commonalities: two arms, two legs, one nose We also share common psychological traits, such as a need for security, a desire for social acceptance, and a positive sense of self-worth. Of course the strength of these needs varies from person to person, e.g., introverted people have less of a need for social acceptance than extroverts, some people are more adventurous than others, etc. Yet, by far, viewed as a species, we all have a lot more in common than we have differences.

All managers, too, have many things in common: they all accept greater responsibility and accountability than non-management employees, they all exercise control over particular organization functions, and they all focus on getting things done through others.

Yet, certain particular operating characteristics have been identified that are common to the best managers and supervisors, the ones that are judged to be most effective in their roles, and are the most likely to succeed in moving up the management ladder. Here are eight such characteristics that have been identified:

1) The ability to do it now. At least 80% of the things coming over the desks of most managers can and should be handled immediately. Effective managers toss it into the round file if it's not useful, delegate it if appropriate, or do it themselves, as soon as possible, if necessary. Indecision and unwillingness to take calculated risks and fast, reasoned action are traits sure to block the career advancement of managers, and a tendency to procrastinate can be a managers career advancement death knell. Indecision and procrastination are the biggest thieves of time and among the most serious impediments to successful managerial functioning.

2) The ability to delegate effectively. This is not easy for most managers, who want to do what they can do well. Many managers, especially early in their managerial careers, are more comfortable doing than they are managing especially since they were usually promoted up through the ranks because they were competent at their jobs. The effective manager sees that he/she has qualified people and selects an appropriate one for a given responsibility, delegates with clarity to ensure understanding, and follows up with regular progress reports, to make sure the intended results are achieved. Delegation must not be seen by employees as simply having an undesirable task dumped on them. The best managers use delegation both as a way to save his/her own time for other uses and as an invaluable tool for upgrading the skills of employees.

3) Willingness to expend time and effort encouraging employees. Supporting subordinates is at the heart of managerial effectiveness. Yet, many managers find themselves too busy. Evidencing concern for employees and encouraging, reinforcing, and showing appreciation for their efforts is a managers most important function. Successful and effective managers know that they can only succeed when their employees succeed and that their own performance rating will be based on how well his/her work unit performs so a well, trained highly motivated set of employees is the requisite for success as a manager. Effective managers also recognize that a well motivated work force is a whole lot more fun to be around than one that simply gets things done because theyre supposed to.

4) The ability to prioritize tasks. Effective managers avoid being trapped by trivia. They struggle against perfectionist tendencies that can draw them into expending time on unimportant matters. They can distinguish between tasks that are truly important to getting the job done and those that are merely urgent. They organize their work so that they are not constantly putting out fires, but concentrate on achieving the most important mission goals. The key to effective prioritizing is the ability to organize and to make decisions and always keeping the big picture in mind. Planning on a daily basis and establishing priorities for the day is the universally accepted practice of the best managers.

5) Refusal to waste time on impossible tasks or spilt milk. Effective managers admit defeat when necessary and move on. They are future-oriented and waste no time regretting or rationalizing. Learning from mistakes is important; agonizing over them is wasteful and destructive.

6) Acceptance of limitations on relationships with employees. Effective managers recognize the need for a kind of formality in relation to employees and the impossibility of being buddies with them. They accept the increased loneliness inherent in a manager's position. They know that even having the appearance of being closer to one employee than to others, e.g. by socializing with them outside of business hours, or having lunch with the same employee every day, brings incrimination. The suspicion of having a pet is a morale buster. Group disintegration is a real possibility when there develops an in-group of people the boss spends time with and an out-group whose members feel they are being neglected.

7) Strict adherence to policies of fairness. In reviewing and assessing employees' performance, in considering the assignment of tasks, in administering discipline and in all other matters, the effective manager bases his/her judgment on objective observation and is totally impartial and scrupulously fair. In order to achieve such fairness the manager must be capable of objectively assessing performance and that means having objective, quantifiable data about each employees performance.

8) Commitment to strong team membership. Being committed to their roles as members of the team, effective managers listen carefully and respectfully to their teammates, contribute ideas as often as possible, take pride in the organization and support their teammates' efforts in every way possible. At the same time as effective managers help to create a strong sense of team-play within their own work groups, they also actively involve themselves as team players in the larger organization.

These eight traits have proven their value to managers over the years, at all levels and in all fields of endeavor. Consider carefully each of these traits and rate yourself on each. By frankly admitting where you may fall short you can wisely direct your efforts to improve. Only by continuous and conscientious effort can managers come to master these traits and successfully advance both themselves and their organizations into the unknown future.