Believe it or not, what makes a good manager can be boiled down to a short list of characteristics. That is not to say good management skills are easy to come by, but by building on the fundamentals, you can become a better manager.

What the experts say

Mark Graban, a LinkedIn Influencer and management consultant, summed up good management skills in just one sentence:

“Bad managers tell employees what to do, good managers explain why they need to do it, but great managers involve people in decision making and improvement.”

He describes the type of manager who gives “commands” with no explanation, no questions, and no involvement necessary from the team. According to Graban and other experts, involvement from team members creates a sense of ownership in the work place. That leads to accountability and increased productivity. It also might lead to fresh new ideas. Involving the entire team with problem solving means a manager is drawing from a diverse set of minds, from which truly creative solutions might arise.

Jack Welch, famed CEO who was responsible for the General Electric turnaround in the 1980s, expounded in an interview on what makes a good manager…

After he turned the company around, Mr. Welch turned to his organization’s structure and culture, seeking a change of another type: attitudes. His goal: encourage creativity, ownership and self-worth. Employees who feel valued, he reasoned, are more apt to participate, collaborate, and eventually contribute to improving the bottom line.

Mr. Welch’s idea is now common in the more progressive management circles, where the focus is increasingly on building good teams rather than “manager-as-tyrant” styles and self-perpetuating modes of managing people.

Project Oxygen

Good management skills include taking the blame when things go wrong, according to Google’s Project Oxygen, which involved a culling of electronic data gathered by the company, including their search engine. In fact, all of Google’s suggestions for being a good manager include some form of stewardship for the team. It could almost be described as a sense of “caring”.

A good manager should also shelter the team from negativity, like criticism from upper management or organizational dysfunction like impossible demands.

To sum it up, it seems that responsibility is the keyword, no matter whom you ask — responsibility for your team and accountability for yourself.

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