A Fresh Look at Great Managers
Most leading companies provide their new managers with access to proven management training programs to help provide the basics to prepare their new people leaders to successfully build and lead an engaged and productive team.  But what do great managers really do?  Not in the particulars but in the broader scope of their role? What would make a manager not just good but great? What are the traits of a great manager?

Studies on CEOs
We can borrow from excellent research done by McKinsey on exceptional CEOs. These CEOs exhibited remarkable performance – whether by delivering the highest returns to their stockholders or by guiding their organization through unusual challenges like bankruptcy or mergers. What did the researchers discover?

Outstanding CEOs had three attributes in common. They

  • Adopted an outsider’s perspective as they made decisions
  • Conducted a comprehensive strategic review
  • Redesigned the organizational structure

Application to Managers
Extrapolating to what it might take to be an exceptional manager, we see three parallels. Great managers should:

  1. Have an Objective Point of View
    Evaluate your team from an outsider’s perspective. Look with fresh eyes at the team’s culture, performance, values, and goals. Don’t just accept the status quo.Challenge the team’s makeup and consider what improvements might be needed. This is not to say that you should engineer a major revamp. Instead, the CEO study suggests that changes may be in order and that you should not simply inherit a team without exploring what might be improved.
  2. Conduct a Comprehensive Review
    How long has it been since the team reviewed its strategic plan? A new manager has an opportunity to craft a team plan that makes sense from a talent, culture, and organizational goals point of view. Look at what has worked and what needs to be improved.Would resources be better spent in new directions? Do your team members have the capabilities to succeed going forward both in their personal goals and team objectives? Is your proposed strategy in alignment with the organization?
  3. Prioritize the Moves that Matter Most
    You cannot do it all at once. Your strategic plan may reveal some problems you will need to address – perhaps a restructure of roles and responsibilities, or a revamp of the performance management system. But too much change can be disruptive.It is better to determine which shift will bring the best results fastest. Then, step-by-step you can initiate other actions. Be sure to incorporate all you know about successful change such as agreement and commitment to the goals by the team, patience and understanding as change occurs, coaching of new behaviors, and recognition of progress.

The Bottom Line
Great managers are not just born. They work hard to learn and grow in their role. They hone specific new manager skills, but they also take a high level view to identify which moves will be key to success. Be objective in your evaluation of the team, plan for both the short- and long-term, and prioritize the moves you make.

To learn more about the traits of a great manager, download 5 Management Misperceptions that Slip Up Too Many New Managers

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