What Makes a Good Manager in a Small Business?

People issues are a common struggle for many business owners so what makes a good manager is a common question posed to business coaches.

There’s no doubt that managing people is a skill and for those who tend to be more task-oriented types rather than people-oriented it can often feel as though it’s a lot of hassle and not worth the effort of expanding. 

However, for most business owners becoming a manager is a natural evolution as the business grows.

What makes a good manager are these 6 skills or attributes:

1. Good listening skills

When employees feel they are valued they are generally more satisfied in their work. And, being a good listener is one of the ways that you can show people that you really do value them. When you consciously listen to people it creates a powerful interaction that leaves the other person feeling acknowledged and heard. Result? Happy staff.

2. Giving recognition

It's a known fact that people will do more for appreciation than money. 

However, many small business owners fail to realize this. They often have the attitude that if they pay their staff and don't complain about their work they should be happy.

If you want motivated staff who go above and beyond the call of duty for your business, recognition and acknowledgment of your staff is essential.

3. Knowing how to motivate a team

Good managers understand that every team member is unique and each one is intrinsically motivated by different things. What makes a good manager is treating your team members as individuals and understanding that they each have different personalities, values, beliefs etc.

Extrinsic factors like money and benefits have limited capacity to motivate people. The real 'intrinsic' reasons why people get out of bed in the mornings are for things like recognition, achievement and working in a team.

Top reasons why people stay in a job:

  1. Career prospects
  2. Training opportunities
  3. Good management
  4. Fun culture
  5. Visionary leadership

You can identify what motivates people by asking them: “what is important to you about working or having a job?”.

Keep asking them this question and you will discover their personal values eg. creativity, fun, being a part of a team, achieving something etc.

These are very useful insights that will help you manage each person. For example, if someone says creativity is important, make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to come up with new ideas and be creative.

4. Being able to adapt your style

What makes a good manager is also being able to adapt your management style to each individual. Having a 'blanket' approach to managing all team members doesn't work because everyone is unique and complex.

There are two key elements that determine how you should manage people – skill level and relative level of engagement.

See if you can identify which ones your own staff members are:

5. Harnessing intelligence from within the team

As a manager your role is to harness intelligence from the team and direct it towards achieving goals. It is not necessary to be the one who always has the answers - that tends to make the team dependent on you.

Good managers proactively seek input from team members and value the contribution they make.

6. Being a good communicator

Good communication skills are also what makes a good manager.

Good managers know how to tell people what they want rather than how to do it (especially for highly skilled employees), they are honest and straightforward, they are always positive and constructive, they correct team members without criticism or judgement and they always give praise where its warranted.

Even more importantly, they are capable of having difficult conversations when conflict occurs.

Business Coaching Questions:

  • Is your focus on what you can do for your team or what they can do for you?
  • What would your employees say about your management skills?
  • What area can you work on to develop yourself as a manager?


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