14 Signs of a Good Manager at Work in 2021

Home » Resources » Signs of a Good ManagerUpdated: May 11, 2021

You found our list of signs of a good manager.

Signs of a good manager are qualities of effective leadership that result in high morale and productivity among teams. For example, getting to know team members, sharing credit for wins, and taking an active role in career coaching. The purpose of pointing out these qualities is to help leaders be better bosses, and to help employees identify positive management worth working for.

These traits are examples of leadership skills and are the opposite of signs of bad managers. These kinds of managers tend to inspire high levels of employee engagement.

This list contains:

  • characteristics of a great boss
  • qualities of a good manager
  • good manager traits

Here are the biggest green flags.

List of signs of a good manager

From admitting mistakes to anticipating staff needs, here is a list of characteristics of a great boss for leaders to aspire to.

1. Make an effort to get to know team members

Great bosses understand that bonding with employees is an important trust-building step and make an effort to get to know employees beyond the scope of the office. This process includes greeting new team members face-to-face, planning and attending team building activities, and initiating casual conversations. Folks who excel at this trait make a point to memorize specifics like hobbies or spouse names, and bring up these details in future conversations.

Empathetic leaders know how to read the room and never pry into personal details, soliciting only information that teammates are comfortable sharing. These managers also share appropriate personal information about themselves so that team members can get to know the manager not only as an authority figure, but also as a human being.

Here is a list of getting to know you questions to help structure your conversations.

2. Practice what they preach

Honesty, self-awareness, and personal accountability are some of the most obvious good manager traits. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is not an effective leadership strategy. Hypocrisy spurs resentment and undercover rule-breaking, while integrity breeds inspiration and high standards. Great managers lead by example and motivate employees by modeling the behavior expected of the team. Mindful managers do not ask employees to do anything they are unwilling to do, and prove it with their actions. These bosses avoid making unreasonable demands. Such leaders earn the respect and admiration of direct reports, and build healthier and more authentic company cultures.

These leaders show staff that high standards are attainable and sustainable, and encourage employees to strive for the same. By holding themselves accountable, leaders foster a sense of accountability among the team.

3. Use the word “we” and focus on team

The best managers have a healthy sense of humility. Instead of hogging the spotlight, these individuals shift the focus to the team and give due credit to every contributor. These professionals understand that the role of leadership is to coach employees and unlock every worker’s potential. Such managers regularly recognize that few accomplishments are solo endeavors, and spark a spirit of teamwork and cooperation among the staff. Recognition makes employees feel valued and integral to the mission, which in turn motivates employees to sustain the effort.

That is not to say that great bosses never accept congratulations, merely that personal praise is not the driving force behind the effort. When striving for this ideal, managers occasionally enact the other extreme and deny any form of recognition, which can unintentionally send the message that all employees should play down achievements. Great managers instead accept congratulations while sharing the success with the team. These individuals champion team efforts and group victories.

4. Have good boundaries

Good bosses have good boundaries. Effective managers can separate personal and professional relationships and know how to behave in the office. These leaders know the difference between showing compassion and being taken advantage of, and can remain cordial with staff while still holding team members accountable. These managers aim to get along with the staff yet aim relationships of mutual respect rather than friendships.

Maintaining boundaries also means practicing a healthy work life balance. Managers have more responsibilities than most team members and are often expected to work longer hours. However, leaders are not superhuman and self-care is necessary. The manager sets the pace for the rest of the team, and an overworking leader can fuel burnout.

5. Take an active role in career coaching

The best bosses are mentors as well as supervisors. Professional coaching is one of the most important services managers provide. Because the projects and work assigned to employees can influence career trajectories, it is important for managers to be aware of teammates’ goals and aspirations. The most influential leaders become active collaborators in employee development and provide team members with opportunities needed to grow. These bosses pass along resources, inform staff about classes or conferences, encourage employees to apply for awards or special projects, and introduce direct reports to other members in the organization and industry. These leaders ask employees’ questions about goals and offer realistic timelines for promotions and career milestones.

While the company mission and individual objectives may not always align, great bosses make a point to consider the employee’s wishes and advocate for growth. These managers help to nurture team members into the best professionals possible.

6. Willing to back up staff

A willingness to defend and advocate for employees is one of the key characteristics of great managers. These leaders stick up for their staff and are not afraid to push back against other departments, higher management, or customers when necessary. These managers call out threats to employees’ safety and wellbeing and champion teammates’ ideas and proposals. As a result, employees feel supported and taken care of, and are prone to less anxiety at work.

These managers are allies to staff. When conflicts arise or mistakes occur, these team leaders vouch for their people’s character and work history. Which is not to say that the managers automatically side with employees, since enabling is its own form of bad management. However, great managers listen to the staff’s side of the story. If the employee is at fault, then the manager corrects the team members without berating or condemning over an isolated mistake. This type of leader functions as a teammate, and part of being a teammate is having other team members’ backs. These managers have team member’s best interests in mind and demonstrate this sense of caring through action.

7. Anticipate staff needs

Good managers provide support when prompted. Great managers give teams what they need before team members have to ask. In the same way the best hotels lay out amenities, the best leaders gather the resources teams need to perform jobs effectively. These leaders save staff the time and stress of having to make requests. Some team members fear bothering management with requests or overstepping bounds, while others are hesitant to admit potential weaknesses. Offering supplies and support eliminates these hurdles. These preparations take the pressure off of staff and let the team know that management cares and proactively helps.

8. Shows gratitude

The best bosses regularly express thanks and appreciation. Gratitude is an important ingredient of any relationship, and in the strongest relationships, gratitude flows both ways. Just because an employee’s duty is to follow a manager’s instructions and requests, does not mean that a manager has no reason for thankfulness.

Employees could make managers’ jobs harder by taking shortcuts, ignoring instructions, or arguing. Or, the team member could leave for another job. The “I’m the boss, you owe me,” mentality is counterproductive and does no favors for the manager-employee relationship.

On the flip side, saying thank you generates goodwill, especially when the employee does not expect or demand the recognition. Plus, pointing out team member’s best traits and celebrating wins builds a culture of gratitude and encourages staff to spread the thanks.

9. Points staff towards resources

Part of a leader’s role is to connect staff with company resources. Managers do not need to have all answers, however should be able to point teammates in the right direction.

Having experienced both ends of the spectrum, from “I don’t know but it can’t be too hard. I’m sure you can figure it out,” to, “look on this page of the company Wiki. I also have examples I’ll email you right now,” I can vouch firsthand that it is much more comforting and less frustrating to have a manager who has a working knowledge of company resources and actively participates in problem-solving.

Even if a manager does not have the solutions handy, a willingness to help is essential. “Let me find out,” are the golden words of management. When promising answers, leaders should follow-up and provide staff with the necessary information in a timely manner, or send a “still working on it,” update if the search takes longer than expected.

This behavior shows that the manager is dependable and empowers employees to

10. Ask staff opinions

Meaningful dialogue is one of the surest signs of a good manager. Awesome bosses have two-way discussions instead of solely issuing orders or making announcements. These leaders solicit staff for opinions and use team insight to make decisions. This act makes team members feel heard and valued, and gives staff a bigger stake in shaping the workplace.

Many managers ask employees for feedback only to ignore ideas and fail to make any meaningful changes. As a result, staff may feel as if managers are only pretending to care. Real leaders do not listen just for show, but actually consider the comments and try some of the solutions. If recommendation is not a good fit, then these managers still thank employees for sharing and perhaps note why the idea is not doable at the moment.

Here is a list of employee engagement survey questions you can use to collect feedback.

11. Gives autonomy

Micromanagement is one of the most common complaints of poor management. Great managers are the exact opposite of micromanagers. These leaders show that they trust their staff’s judgment and abilities by deferring to team members’ discretion. Such managers check in with staff periodically and offer assistance, yet give team members the time and space needed to complete the job.

These leaders do not restrict staff to one way of completing a task. When team members invent a new system or try an unorthodox solution, these leaders celebrate the innovation instead of insisting that staff do it “the way I told you to.” This attitude gives staff a sense of ownership over the work and leads to greater feelings of accomplishment. These leaders give staff the room to grow and create and empower team members to make decisions.

12. Admits mistakes

A willingness to acknowledge mistakes is one of the most telling qualities of a good manager.

Nobody is perfect. Some managers believe that admitting shortcomings and imperfections will lose employees’ respect. Actually, the opposite is true. Owning up to mistakes and flaws makes teammates trust a manager more, whereas denying wrongdoing creates an unfair double standard.

The best course of action is to acknowledge the misstep and take corrective action. Managers should apologize when appropriate, and better still, thank colleagues for drawing attention to the issue. These actions inspire an environment of accountability, honesty, and self-reflection. Plus, the behavior makes managers more reliable and approachable. Staff are much more likely to embrace and learn from failure when the boss demonstrates that no one is immune to error. In these environments, fixing an issue becomes a team effort instead of a personal problem.

13. Makes efforts to build culture and teams

Savvy bosses do not leave team dynamics up to chance and circumstance. Instead, these leaders create opportunities for interaction and bonding. For example, planning company outings, creating group chats, starting team rituals, and leaving time for socialization at the beginning or end of meetings.

Also, these leaders make special efforts to make all team members feel welcome. Smart managers keep a lookout for outliers and shier staff and intentionally include these teammates. For instance, by asking opinions of quieter staff members during meetings or scheduling one on ones, or by inviting new teammates to team hangouts.

Awesome bosses make the workplace welcoming for all employees without making any team members feel awkward.

Here are some ideas for team building virtually.

14. Follows up

Consistent follow-up makes a huge difference on the manager-employee relationship. When team leaders remember to answer questions or check-in with staff, then employees know the boss cares and is dependable. The most admired managers are the news who make time for staff, no matter how busy or high up in the organization.

It is easy to lose track of time or forget a request when managers have other matters to attend to. Managers may also lose employee’s confidence when lack of follow-up becomes a habit. Circling back, even with a statement as simple as, “did you ever figure this out?” signals that the manager is reliable and committed.

Final Thoughts

The impact of an exceptional manager cannot be overstated. Great leaders can increase staff retention and satisfaction, boosting the bottom line and the company’s reputation. Plus, having a competent and kind boss just makes jobs all-around more pleasant.

Being an amazing manager does not mean never struggling or slipping up. The ways leaders deal with pressures and problems are the real test of character. The most important marker of a good manager is simply the willingness to be better and work towards self-improvement.

For more advice, check out these lists of books on leadership and books on management.

FAQ: Good managers

Here is a list of answers to commonly asked questions about what makes a good manager.

What are the signs of a good manager?

Signs of a good manager include leading by example, backing up the staff, giving autonomy, and showing thanks.

What can a manager do to be a better leader?

One of the most important steps a manager can take is to remain open to criticism and display a willingness to learn. To be a better leader, a manager can also solicit feedback, attend seminars and training, and read books.

How do you know if your employees like you as a manager?

Typically, your employees will make their feelings known, either via body language, by airing opinions, or through performance. If staff is cooperative, collaborative, and willing to go above and beyond for you, the company, and each other, it is a good sign that you are doing something right.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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