A checklist of qualities that make a good boss
A SUCCESSFUL manager has 10 qualities that are the same in a wide range of industries and occupations.
So says Harbridge House, a Boston consulting firm, which drew its profile of a successful manager from interviews with more than 5,000 employes that it serves.
The answers were consistent “regardless of the age or sex of the manager, or the industry, size, location, organization structure or corporate culture of the company,” says Ernest Glickman, Harbridge executive vice president.
Employes are asked what qualities they think their own bosses need. They also are asked how their bosses measure up. The answers help the consulting firm shape its management training programs to the specific needs of each organization.
In each company a questionnaire is developed listing as many as 50 manager qualities. Employes are asked to pick from the list the qualities they consider most important for a manager to be effective. Then they are asked to rate their own boss against the list.
Despite the diversity of occupations and the differences in individual managers, the study showed that the men and women who reported on their bosses hold strong and surprisingly consistent opinions, not only on what makes a good manager, but on just how well their own bosses are doing.
This is what a good manager must do, the study concludes:
1. Provide clear direction. An effective manager needs to establish clear goals and standards for people. He must communicate group goals, not just individual goals. He must involve people in setting these goals, and not simply dictate them himself. He must be clear and thorough in delegating responsibility.
2. Encourage open communication. The manager must be candid in dealing with people. He must be honest, direct and to the point. “People want straight information from their bosses,” the study says, “and managers must establish a climate of openness and trust.”
3. Be willing to coach and to support people. This means being helpful to others, working constructively to correct performance problems and going to bat for subordinates with superiors. This last practice “was consistently rated as one of the most important aspects of effective leadership,” says Robert Stringer, senior vice president of Harbridge, who supervised the survey.
4. Provide objective recognition. The manager must recognize people for good performance more often than criticizing them for performance problems. Rewards must be related to the excellence of job performance, not to seniority or personal relationships. “Most managers don’t realize how much criticism they give,” the study says. “They do it to be helpful, but positive recognition is what really motivates people.”
5. Establish on-going controls. This means following up on important issues and actions and giving subordinates feedback on how they are doing.
6. Select the right people to staff the organization.
7. Understand the financial implications of decisions. This quality is considered important even for functional managers who do not have responsibility for the bottom line.
8. Encourage innovation and new ideas. Employes rate this quality important in even the most traditional or conservative organizations.
9. Give subordinates clear-cut decisions when they are needed. “Employes want a say in things,” the report says, “but they don’t want endless debate. There’s a time to get on with things, and the best managers know when that time comes.”
10. Consistently demonstrate a high level of integrity. The study shows that most employes want to work for a manager they can respect.
For the study, Harbridge House used computerized data acquired during research for clients.
The consultant firm regularly conducts anonymous polls of employes as part of a program of improving the effectiveness of managers.
Stringer says: “When you start getting thousands of employes in a disparate group of organizations coming up with essentially the same profile of a successful manager, you can safely conclude there is some validity to the information they are giving you.”
In view of how often managers themselves disagree on questions of management style, Stringer says he was impressed by the near-unanimity of the answers given by employes.
Is there one quality that stood out above all others in employes’ responses? “It’s amazing,” he says, “how important open and honest communication is to employes.”
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