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  • Ed Locher

Do you have a good manager? These three C’s can tell you

What makes a great manager, or better yet, a great leader? Is it education or experience? Tenure or familiarity? Subject matter experts or good motivators? Of course it can be all of these things, or none of them. If you’re out there wondering if you have a good manager, or a great one, here are there characteristics to use as your guide. They are, in order of importance:

Caring – Does your manager genuinely care about the well-being of their team? Not as corporate assets, but as people first and employees second?

Coaching – Do they commit to helping their team on a personal and professional level that goes beyond specific roles and responsibilities?

Consulting – Do they understand that professional growth comes from experimentation and empowerment, as opposed to taking direction?

The first characteristic that all great leaders embody is that they care about the individual. It goes beyond a superficial inquiry, but rather listening carefully to really understand what’s important to each individual. In theory, most leaders understand that individuals are unique and respond differently to a single leadership style. The really great leaders are willing to customize their style for each team member.

Earlier in my career, when my children were younger, I had family commitments that required more flexibility at my workplace. During this time I had a manager that treated me as an asset, showing little to no flexibility. Even though he thought this was in the company’s best interests, it actually changed the relationship into a transaction. When you treat your team as disposable, they have the habit of doing the same in return.

Compare that to another manager I had who was perceptive and empathetic to my personal situation, and the difference in my attitude and willingness to go the extra mile for her was night and day. I was more creative and resourceful in looking for ways to make improvements for the company when my manager cared about me as a person first.

Great leaders also commit to coaching their team. Being a good coach is more than periodically checking in or approving education or training. It is being a mentor, spending quality time on a regular cadence, discussing the professional, and in some cases personal, development of an individual. It’s understanding their goals and aspirations and committing to help them achieve these goals in a defined time frame. In many cases, this may lead to the individual finding a bigger and better opportunity on another team or in another organization. Quality leaders develop their team knowing they will outgrow their current role. They think about their team first, and themselves second.

It is important to note here that coaching in this context is a two-way street. A great manager does what they can to help their team develop, but the team is equally responsible to being receptive and collaborative. Team members must outline a growth path and actively participate in these session for them to be productive. It’s an individual’s responsibility to think about and map their own career. If they’re willing to be coached, great leaders meet them half-way every single time.

Finally, the really exceptional leaders I’ve had in my career have been more like consultants than managers. They never spent much time telling me what to do, rather they asked insightful questions and challenged me to provide a recommendation. Sometimes we agreed that this was the right path, lots of times we didn’t. But the exercise of thinking it through and making the recommendation in the first place was so much more helpful than just being told what to do.

As a leader, I’ve been tempted to offer solutions when seeing one of my team members struggling to find a way. What stops me from doing that is understanding the value of lessons that you learn on your own. The proverbial ‘give a man a fish’ is absolutely true, and I wouldn’t discount anyone by assuming they can’t figure it out themselves. It may save a few hours in the short-term, but the detrimental impact to the person’s long-term development is clear.

Good managers get stuff done.Their teams deliver good results and consistently meet expectations.Great managers who dedicate the time and energy to caring, coaching, and consulting with their teams create high-performing teams that over-deliver.They nurture the individual first, constantly creating the next generation of leaders.If you’re wondering if you’re manager is a good one, they probably aren’t.But if you’re still not sure, look for these three C’s

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