Three keys to finding good managers


It’s usually not a good idea to promote your best sales person to sales manager. Two things happen. A) You lose your best sales person, and B) You get a mediocre sales manager.

The same principle holds true for just about any other job. For example, the best mechanic may not be the best choice for shop foreman. Likewise, the best office assistant may not make a good office manager. Another common problem is promoting the most senior or longest-serving person to a management position (this is one of the pitfalls of union shops).

It bears repeating that managing people requires an entirely different skill set than other job specializations. Even if someone spends four years at a college of business, good management skills are still learned through other, more focused avenues.

So how do we find good managers? Here are three things to look for:

  • Find people who understand people
  • Find people who can set good boundaries
  • Find people who see and communicate the big picture

Let’s examine each one.

Understanding People
Good managers understand that everyone is different. Each one of us is gifted with natural strengths and no two people are alike. Therefore, the person who sees value in others’ strengths and avoids harping on people’s weaknesses is usually aware of how those strengths can work together to accomplish great things.

Such knowledge of people is at the core of the leadership program at Atlanta-based paper company Georgia-Pacific. Topics such as collaboration, empowerment, and listening are mandatory.

Best selling author Daniel Goleman believes that good emotional intelligence (EQ), the ability to understand oneself and respond appropriately as the situation calls for, is a better indicator of success than IQ. His research shows that those with high EQ are often “stars” in the workplace, while those with low EQ are often self-sabotaging, usually without even realizing it. More can be learned by reading Goleman’s book, 'Emotional Intelligence'.

By the way, for those looking to become managers (or to become better ones), the good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned.

Setting Good Boundaries
If someone has trouble saying no to certain requests or looks the other way when people push the rules and policies beyond their limits, then that someone can’t keep good discipline. On the other hand, someone who themselves pushes envelopes or oversteps their bounds is not well-suited for management, either.

In their book ‘Boundaries’, Dr.’s Henry Cloud and John Sims Townsend do an excellent job of explaining functional and relational boundaries - how they develop, how to set them, and how to keep them. They also do an excellent job of debunking boundary myths, such as “setting boundaries indicates that you’re angry,” or that “you want to hurt others.” Such myths - and the consequences of believing them - often prevent people from establishing good boundaries.

If you’re looking for a good management candidate, someone who has a good sense of reality and can set principled boundaries without emotional flares probably deserves a closer look. And more good news for those looking to become a manager: Just like EQ, the ability to set healthy boundaries can be learned.

Communicating the Big Picture
Nobody likes to be treated like a mushroom - being kept in the dark and feed a bunch of fertilizer. People like to know that they’re contributing to a finished product, to see evidence that what they’re doing matters. That's why a good manager is someone who communicates the big picture to his or her team.

Dave Ostrander is a consultant to restaurants. In his work, he frequently encounters restaurant owners who have trouble getting their employees excited about being at work. Ostrander’s recommendation is to be like a football quarterback. “Get in the huddle,” he says, “Tell your people what the game plan is."

It’s like letting people see the cover of the jigsaw puzzle box. Employees want to know where their job fits in with the big picture.

Bottom line: When you can identify those who can communicate the big picture, set good boundaries, and understand people, you have identified good candidates for management.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

Is it that management does'nt prefer to promote one who brings good results?


I find all your articles to be very interesting and more truthful then not. However the state on finding good managers 'the pitfalls of a union shop'should have had more investigation. First if all are equal (knowledge,ability and experience) then and only then will seniorty rule.