Be a Great Manager

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Be straightforward

Trust is the gatekeeper to a connection. A great manager doesn’t sugarcoat bad news, evade the facts, or attempt to spin. A great manager respects team members enough to give them the truth, even if it’s not the most palatable thing to hear on a Monday morning.

Great managers inspire their team by being authentic, direct, and honest. A straightforward style also leads to efficiency, since it decreases rumor and misinterpretation which thwart productivity.

Exhibit leadership maturity

When you get to a leadership level, you lose your ability to gripe – especially to those at lower levels. You become a representative of the unit. The unit’s policies need to be aligned with your own personal values.

You can’t just pay lip service to management decisions but must actually believe the value of what you’re proposing. This means being reflective and aligning yourself with the unit’s direction and finding a way to credibly and honestly represent it. Managers who constantly complain about policies lose followership and their employees lose hope.

Know your people

Jim Collins, the author of the bestseller Good to Great, found leaders of successful companies differentiate themselves by starting “not with where but with who. They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

Gallup research shows people are happiest and most engaged when they apply their strengths to their job. Great managers know the strengths of their people. Instead of changing people to fit the job, great managers try to put the right people in the jobs in which they can perform well.

Hold regular, meaningful one-to-ones

Great managers prioritize regular one-to-one check-ins with their direct reports and honor the importance of that time. As Susan Scott says, “the conversation is the relationship.”

Schedule one-to-one weekly or biweekly meetings and keep to your established schedule. Have a purpose for these meetings and a format to optimize them.

If you use these meetings well, the upfront time investment will more than pay off with increased efficiencies and clear expectations.  You will also stay connected to the people on your team.

Actively manage conflict

Successful managers don’t avoid the issues—they face them, head on.

The reality is that sometimes employees don’t work out, projects fail, turf wars launch, and tough decisions have to be made. When you successfully manage during these trying situations, you serve as a role model, inspiring accountability and decision making in your employees.

If you hate conflict, figure out how to manage it. Conflict is a constant when people are involved, and it’s simply impossible to avoid it without damaging your leadership capability. Employees want a leader who stands up for them, clears a path and makes it easier to do their jobs. Avoiding conflict is not an option.

Coach for potential

A manager is in a key position to help team members articulate and work toward professional goals. They can also offer insight into their potential and areas for growth.

“Oftentimes, people are aware of what they are good at but not what they have an uncultivated knack for. It’s usually buried in a person’s instincts and difficult to identify for themselves. A good boss or manager looks for these things and then helps refine the hidden talent into a true skill,” according to software innovator Tammie Childs.

Take care of yourself

As part of leading by example, take the time and the effort to take care of yourself. Exercise, take breaks and make sure you get enough sleep.  If your team members see that you prioritize self-care as a means to better productivity, they will do the same. If you doggedly work through lunch, work late, and cram in extra work on the weekends they may feel pressure to do the same — even when science shows that taking appropriate breaks will make everyone more focused and productive.

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Managers need to develop and convey a strong sense of purpose that aligns their work with the goals of their unit or department and the university. Purpose can be a driving force for an organization to achieve its intended results. But most importantly, purpose forms the backbone of great managers.