The Importance of Good Managers and How to Get Them

Good management transforms teams and organisations, but when looking to appoint a new manager many businesses focus on the technical abilities that made candidates successful in their previous role rather than structuring the process to understand whether candidates have the personality and people skills to manage successfully.

Research shows managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement and many other studies have shown the strong correlation between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and revenue. One study by Gallup of 7,000 U.S. adults actually found that 50% of people leave a job to get away from their manager. In other words, better managers will reduce staff turnover and improve productivity.

What makes a good manager?

Good managers enable those around them – it sounds simple but as we all know, in reality, it is difficult to do well. Good managers are clear thinkers and communicators, they consistently make good decisions and are good at listening to differing views. They give people the freedom to get on with their jobs and ensure individuals receive credit for their achievements while holding themselves accountable for mistakes their team make.

What can we learn from the behaviours employees hate in a boss

The Gallup study referenced above also identified traits men and women hate in a boss. While each of the behaviours below were disliked by at least 75% of respondents the good news is that many of these behaviours can easily be eliminated or reduced if managers are simply made aware of them or given the correct training. Strategic questioning during pre-screening or at interview can help identify the candidate’s awareness of these issues and attitudes to them but many interviewers simply don’t think to ask about them.

10 behaviours of managers that employees hate

  • Playing favourites
  • Making informal threats to fire workers
  • Making romantic advances toward employees
  • Using drugs or alcohol at work
  • Using company expense accounts for personal items
  • Mentioning poor performance to co-workers
  • Taking credit for other employees' work
  • Tardiness
  • Poor hygiene
  • Cancelling a meeting 5 minutes before starting

Using interviews to identify good managers

In fact, few interviewers research how to interview for management skills before starting on a recruitment process, choosing instead to focus on technical skills and “cultural fit” (the second of which many confuse with enjoying going for a drink with a candidate rather than having the appropriate softer skills to do the job).

Interviewers should choose the questions they ask depending on what the objective is with the team: do individuals need their confidence building? Or to develop specific skills? Do they need to be brought closer together as a unit? Or has a group think mentality emerged and needs to be disrupted?

It is always interesting to probe the candidates’ management styles. For those who have existing management experience the questions can focus on how they have managed and what they achieved (in terms of people management as well as business results) e.g. “How would you describe the culture you have created?” and then follow up in the next question by asking how the team (or best and worst performing member of the team) would describe the culture the candidate created.

If this would be the candidate’s first management role then discuss the environment they want to create. Those who have given thought to the environment they want to create to get the best out of those around them will be able to articulate a vision or management style and are likely to possess good self-awareness increasing the probability they will be good managers. It is also worth probing what their managers have been like in the past and what they have learned about management style from this.

“Over-promotion” and flexible career tracks

Not everyone can manage well or even wants to manage, however in many organisations the only way for individuals to get the recognition and remuneration they deserve is to take on increasing amounts of management responsibility.

As a result, excellent individuals are sometimes inadvertently managed out of the business – they are promoted for being technically good but as the management burden increases the business suffers as their team underperforms and the individual leaves taking valuable skills and knowledge with them.

Over the last ten year's forward-thinking organisations have created technical career paths that run parallel to the management career paths, enabling employees not suited to people management to further their careers by focusing on their strengths, ensuring the employer doesn’t lose a valuable team member.

Clare Wight is managing director of Clarity Appointments, a fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals and a regional director for The Employment Agents Movement (TEAM). Her email is: