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Creating Successful Leaders

It is possible to be a good manager if you simply go through the motions, do your work, and field any issues that crop up. But what distinguishes a good manager from a great one? How can you step up your leadership game so that people see you as a trustworthy role model and a motivator?

There are a few crucial traits that separate good and great managers. If you feel that some of these traits are underdeveloped, that’s okay! It is possible to consciously work on these areas to grow and improve your leadership.

Here are 5 crucial traits of great managers:

1. They are excellent listeners

A good listener is an active listener. They pay attention when others are talking—not just to the words, but also to tone of voice, vocal inflections, and facial expressions. An active listener maintains an open mind and asks good questions. They are curious and genuinely want to understand the speaker’s point of view.

Active listening demonstrates that you care. You don’t brush aside others’ perspectives; rather, you open yourself to new ideas, opinions, and viewpoints. You take a genuine interest in what others have to say, and then apply what you’ve learned. Great managers truly listen.

2. They set clear expectations

Top managers are usually excellent communicators. Their expectations are never a mystery because they clearly and openly communicate with their team. As a manager, it is important to articulate goals, set deadlines, and deliver any relevant information. It is also important to hold everyone accountable for their work. If expectations are not met, it is up to the manager to find out why and either re-strategize or (in some cases) enact consequences.

3. They involve their team

Great managers understand that they do not have all the answers. They also understand that it is imperative to engage their team every step of the way. If a team is highly involved in a project (from initiation to implementation), they will have a personal stake in the project’s success. Additionally, this kind of involvement keeps people active and motivated.

As a manager, be sure to invite all thoughts and ideas when you’re embarking on a new project. Innovation is only possible if we dare to listen to a diverse array of voices. As long as the goals are clear, trust your team to define their own path.

4. They are adaptable

Businesses and markets can change in the blink of an eye. A capable manager rolls with the punches and isn’t afraid to change course. If something isn’t working—or if it’s clear that the company needs to head in a different direction—dare to confront the problems at hand and make changes. You do not, of course, have to re-strategize on your own. That’s where your team can come into play (see point 3!)

5. They foster trust

No one likes a micro-manager. No one thrives when they feel like their superior is constantly looking over their shoulder, monitoring their every move. Dare to take a step back and give your team some breathing room! As long as you set clear expectations and create a culture of accountability, does it really matter what your employees do on a given day? If someone consistently produces quality work, does it matter if they head to the gym for an hour each afternoon? (Incidentally, taking meaningful breaks can actually boost productivity!). If your team is engaged, making good progress (which you can track through reports or regular meetings), and regularly producing good results, then it’s wise to take a step back and let the little things go.

Another aspect of trust has to do with holding regular one-on-one check-ins with your team members. These check-ins can be used to gauge progress, but their primary purpose should be to get to know your team, listen to their thoughts or grievances, and offer whatever support you can. Encourage an open dialogue, and make sure to keep any personal information strictly confidential. Trust might not happen overnight, but with each conversation and each action that shows you care, you will build it.

There is a definite line between good managers and great ones. Do you need to develop some of the 5 traits of a great manager? If so, pick one area and focus on that for the next month. Then, pick another area to develop, then another. The most important aspect of becoming a better manager is YOU and the honest effort you make to improve and connect with your team.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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