Sick of Bad Bosses? Here Are 4 Things Great Managers Do

John Hollon Leadership, Managing People, Talent Management

Ever come across an article or blog post somewhere that you just have to drop everything for?

That’s how it was when I came across an article from Gallup titled 8 Behaviors of the World’s Best Managers.

One good thing about Gallup: It’s a rare oasis of balanced (aka, non-political) news and analysis in a Mojave desert-sized wilderness of agenda-driven content. Known primarily for its famous Gallup Poll, Gallup describes itself as “a global analytics and advice firm that helps leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems.”

They also add this: “We know more about the will of employees, customers, students and citizens than anyone in the world. We know what matters most to them at work and in life and how those priorities change over time. And we use that knowledge to create transformation.

Marketing hype? Maybe, but in a world where it’s a struggle to trust many media and research firms that seem to be focused on aggressively pushing their agenda, Gallup stands out as a company that believes in telling it straight.

This quote, from former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hegel, probably says it best:

“Gallup is truly an island of independence — it possesses a credibility and trust that hardly any institution has. A reputation for impartial, fair, honest and superb work.”

4 smart things that great managers do

All of that is why I just had to dig into 8 Behaviors of the World’s Best Managers.

But first, it’s reasonable to ask — just how did Gallup come up with these eight behaviors of the very best managers?

As the article explains, “Every year, Gallup client organizations that meet the award criteria are invited to apply for the Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award … As part of that application process, they are invited to nominate the best manager in their organization for the Gallup Manager of the Year Award. This summer we sat down with the 2019 Manager of the Year finalists and asked them how they lead, how they navigate change in the workplace and how they developed successful teams.

I won’t list all eight great managerial behaviors here — you need to read the article for that — but here are the four (4) great traits that jumped out and seemed the most significant to me.

  1. Commit to one meaningful conversation a week with each team member. From Gallup: “Most managers realize that communication matters. But how does that work when your team is mostly remote or often traveling? … (They) agreed that they connect with team members on a daily or weekly basis. That’s surprisingly rare in most workplaces. Gallup finds that only 20% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they have had a conversation with their manager in the last six months about the steps they can take to reach their goals. However, these conversations don’t always have to be strictly about getting work done. Managers should ask questions that get employees to talk freely about themselves …”
  2. Coach your team in a way that allows for genuine candor. From Gallup: “Continual improvement can only be achieved through honest conversation. … Great managers ask questions that lower defenses. When dealing with a low-performing employee, a manager may ask, “What’s fun for you at work right now? And what’s not really that fun?”An employee’s answers can give a manager clues to challenges or roadblocks without making an employee feel like they are being grilled.”
  3. Care about your employees as real peopleFrom Gallup: “Life happens. And life also impacts work performance in a huge way. For this reason, managers need to understand their employees as people with full lives. … Ultimately, the manager’s job is to get the most out of their people. But great managers find ways of adapting, adjusting and individualizing roles to fit the needs of employees. Small tweaks can make a big difference in how much an employee loves their job. And simply knowing that your manager cares about you has a strong correlation with engagement at work.”
  4. Recognize and reward excellence. From Gallup: “How many employees show up to work for years and never feel like they matter? Only three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that in the last seven days they have received recognition or praise for doing good work. If you are a new manager with a demoralized team, it may take some time to uncover the source of that discouragement. You must show them that you respect them and that they matter. You must be able to identify and celebrate successes — even if they are small at first. Even if nobody else believes in your team, you must encourage your employees, and do it often. These are all qualities of a great manager.”

When you find good advice, take it and run

Here’s my take: I’ve said this before but it bears repeating — we not only have a pandemic but we’re also stricken with an epidemic of terribly bad management that’s deeply embedded in organizations of all sizes, just about everywhere.

As I wrote here a few months back: “I believe we’re living in a time of some really terrible management, but this is also true — good management IS often hiding in plain sight. The trick is finding it, developing it, and then giving that newly-found manager the chance to show you what they can do.”

Regular readers know I spend a lot more time criticizing bad managers than I do touting the good, probably because there’s so many terrible managers out there doing what bad managers do. That’s because lots of them are lazy and don’t want to work hard or do the really tough, thankless stuff that the good ones know is at the core of what good management is all about.

But, that also means I’m always on the lookout for smart analysis that touts what developing managers need to help them get better — and that’s what Gallup’s advice in 8 Behaviors of the World’s Best Managers does best. 

In fact, Gallup closes their article by making this point:

“Bad managers focus on the past — what can’t be changed. Average managers focus on the present — the issue at hand. But the best managers focus on the future. (and ask), what does future success look like?”

You gotta look for smart thinking and good advice wherever you can find it, because you can’t find it too many places.

Thank God there are still organizations like Gallup around. When they give you some good advice, my advice is to take it and run because it may b e a while before you find it again.