Our last series of blogs dealt with the important subject of managing your manager.
This time, I wanted to take a step back and talk about something that could be useful for newer candidates (or a useful refresher for the more experienced) – the signs that you're being managed well.
Just because your boss doesn't do everything discussed below it doesn't mean they're not managing you well - everyone has their approach to management. It sometimes takes a bit of experience to know whether we're being managed well, and perhaps the best barometer of all is simply how happy we are in our job.
So here are some indications that your boss is managing you in a professional and healthy way.
1. They don't take things personally
If you have an issue or problem, your manager doesn't immediately default to defensive mode. They listen, allow you to articulate your problem and ask questions. They take the problem on and try to resolve the issue. If they can't resolve an issue personally, they go to the source or escalate the problem, and they promise you a time and date they will come back to you with an update.
2. You trust them
Some people have initial qualms about sharing (relevant) personal information with their manager. But once you've overcome your initial nervousness at doing so in a professional environment, you quickly feel safe, rather than exposed, when sharing. In short, you trust them.
3. You are taken seriously
If you have an idea, concern, doubt, or a way to make things run better, you feel you will be listened to. You are encouraged to contribute.
4. They say things you can learn from...
Your manager can coach you and give you real-world examples of where they have learned lessons that might save you time, hassle and heartbreak...
5. ...but they also do things you can learn from
It's not always just about the theory, though. Your manager also inspires you in how they conduct themselves. We often learn best by watching good people do things well, and your manager may have things they do conspicuously well that inspire you to take the same approach.
6. They don't make it personal
If they have an issue with your performance, you don't feel like they're knocking you as an individual. Instead, they help you to recognise what you need to do, why it's an issue, and help you on a path to development. A good manager can often help you to recognise your own areas for improvement without even telling you directly.
7. They get you to buy into your own development, and help you to shape your own future
Provided the company infrastructure and progression system allows, they help you to set your eye on a target or specific ambition and work out how you will achieve it. Where possible they will encourage you to map and shape your own future so you feel at least partly responsible for your own destiny, and have a hand in shaping it.
8. They help you to achieve what you want – they won't stand in your way
They say a good manager looks to make themselves redundant. Certainly a strong manager understands that the team's success is their success, and by inspiring their team to excel, they increase the chance of everyone in it progressing. Good managers rarely seem threatened by your desire to progress, because they understand that the team's success is their own.
9. They set clear goals and expectations, and follow up
You know where you are with them because you understand what you need to, when by, and what a good job looks like. They communicate with your regularly in a project or task to ensure you're on track – but you also feel confident that you can raise an issue with them when you need to.
10. They praise
Good managers praise when it is warranted. There is an art to good praise (and thanks) - it is more effective when it is qualified, i.e. when a manager explains why a piece of work is good, or why what you did helped them. I mentioned the value of understanding what good looks like in the last section. Qualified praise subtly coaches people by helping them to understand what good looks like.
11. They listen to the team, but then make a call
Good managers seek the expertise of the people they hired to provide it. They have the ability to take on many different opinions and steer a path through regardless, and they know when it's time to make a call. They also accept responsibility for their decisions.
12. They don't blame
How people respond when they're disappointed is a very individual thing, but some of the best managers I know blame only themselves for the shortcomings of the team, and then seek to find ways to address this, rather than immediately looking to lay blame and find fault in others. "Blame culture" is generally unhealthy and soon creates a toxic environment where people are as motivated to work against one another as they are to support each other. A good manager takes responsibility for the outcomes of their department and knows when to shield their team and when not to.
13. They have identified how you're motivated and how to manage you as an individual
"Manage the individual" is one of the most well-worn mantras in business – and with good reason. To get the best out of their team, your manager needs to understand what motivates and inspires each member of it. And we are all motivated and wired very differently.
A good manager wants to understand what makes you tick, your strengths and weaknesses – and how you like to learn so they can address the latter and increase the former. And on that note...
14. They can articulate (and help you work on) your weaknesses without demotivating you
They offer constructive criticism and help you to develop. You won't feel dumb about your areas of weakness, but rather, inspired to improve. We're all a work in progress and your manager's job isn't to make you feel bad about that, but rather to help become the best you can be.
15. They manage by consensus not fear
There's an old leadership question: is it better to lead by love, or by fear?
Whilst most managers like to keep staff on their toes, keeping them in a state of perpetual fear isn't constructive and doesn't do anybody any good. A fear-based leader tends to come across as someone who doesn't trust anyone to do a good job unless they're negatively motivated.
Managers like this rarely inspire true loyalty, nor do they (usually) create strong employer brands. I think most managers or leaders must strike a balance by being effective and inspiring others to be effective. And in my experience that's best achieved through engagement, inclusion, coaching and positive reinforcement. But expect your manager to make it pretty plain when you're not doing your job!
16. They trust you
A good manager knows how to let go, which means empowering their staff to be able to run on their own. To do that, they need to trust their staff. Trust is a gift not easily given and is hard to win back once broken. When I look back on the people I've been managed by in the past, one of the biggest compliments I can pay them is to know that they trusted me. And I always trusted those who trusted me.