What Makes a Good Manager | Thomas.co

At some point in our careers we will be fortunate enough to have a good manager - whether that is a short lived experience or something much longer lasting, knowing that we have a manager who cares not just about the work but about our wellbeing is a great feeling. 

Attracting good talent is difficult in today's marketplace, but attracting a good manager is even harder. Developing, managing and retaining staff has become an essential component in the workplace, and finding good managers that can help facilitate that is even more complicated. With more remote working, the need for managers to have a greater set of soft skills, staff support and new techniques to help manage teams is no longer a want but a necessity.

In this guide we are going to look at why good management is essential in the workplace, the key qualities of a good manager and how to improve management skills.

Why good management is essential in the workplace

“Having a good manager is essential, like breathing. And if we make managers better, it would be like a breath of fresh air.” — Michelle Donovan, Director of People Operations, Google

It’s no surprise that companies such as Google are rethinking what a good manager should be. In their view, a manager should “serve the team” and help clear the “roadblocks to success” for the individual. They have spent years trying to think of the new skills and tools that a manager should have, and the more we look at successful organisations, the more we can understand the role a good manager plays in the success of these businesses.

So, what are the key activities and responsibilities of good managers and what impact do they have on business objectives? Here are some key points.

  • Managers provide guidance and leadership

Providing guidance and leadership is a key responsibility of a manager - good managers know how to bring about the best from their team but also show the stakeholders in the process why it is important. Leadership is about being able to make decisions that benefit the project outcome as well as the individual one.

  • Employee motivation and encouragement

Knowing what motivates your employees is one of the most important aspects of being a manager. Good managers understand the importance of finding the keys that unlock that motivation for each individual.

Being able to encourage staff in either projects or tasks which are more complicated or have shorter deadlines are equally important traits. This is about unlocking the potential of the individual rather than forcing them into uncomfortable working practises which can be detrimental to the success of the business.

  • Provide valuable feedback and assessment

One of the key responsibilities for a manager is to provide feedback and assess the work carried out by their team. Firstly, that feedback should be constructive in areas, demonstrate how it can be better or expanded in areas.

The second is having the ability to understand and assess the work as a whole. Does it answer the specific duties or questions that needed to be worked on? Is it fit for purpose. A manager who is aware of the requirements and the task at hand will be able to understand this and help their team and individuals work better.

  • Dealing with staff issues

Staff issues can derail a business very quickly. That’s why a good manager needs to be able to deal effectively with their team. Whether it is a dispute or a challenge, managers need to be able deal with the issues quickly and effectively. 

  • Staff training and development

Good managers will recognise the training and development needs of their people and the business. From performance metrics to having one-on-one conversations with their team members and understanding what is needed, a good manager will propose a strategy that is designed to encourage people to progress their careers and recognise skills requirements necessary to achieve business goals and objectives.

Key qualities of a good manager

From what they do (the section above) to what they should have, the key qualities of a good manager are plentiful. Here are just a few examples. 

  • Able to coach their staff

Good managers know how to coach their staff, focusing on developing the people they work with as well as getting the job done. From regular 1-on-1 meetings with team members to wider group discussions, a good manager will encourage them to present solutions to problems, rather than solving problems for them.

  • Provide staff counselling and support when needed

Whether it is workplace issues or something that could be affecting the personal lives of the employee which will affect their performance at work, being able to listen, empathise and provide support has become a key skill for a good manager. Knowing how to identify problems and then speak to the relevant people when needed is a key skill. 

  • Effectively communicate with staff and seek responses and staff feedback

Good managers learn to become great communicators by being good listeners. One of the keys to all of this is that they allow time for others to speak. They do this by having a clear understanding of the organisation’s vision and sharing it with the people in their team in a way that motivates them. 

Whilst they will build their team to communicate better, they work to get better feedback so that organisational changes or requirements can be made.

  • Able to deal with challenging behaviour and staff conflicts

Managers of all kinds will have to deal with challenging situations and behaviours that can easily get out of hand. Staff conflicts are one of the biggest reasons why good staff leave. A good manager will investigate and deal with matters quickly and effectively. Good managers will do this by empathising with the parties involved and making decisions that are in the best interest for the organisation and the people in the dispute. 

  • Excellent at delegation

“A good manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is a person who can get his men to do the work better than he can.” – Frederick W. Smith

Good managers delegate tasks effectively. They do this by demonstrating faith in their employees’ ability to perform delegated tasks and allow them to learn new skills and develop strengths that they might not otherwise know they have.

What a good manager excels in is identifying potential within their teams and assigning work to the right people using the right methods and tools. This not only helps with time management, but also the organisational efficiency of the business.

  • Keen to develop, motivate and empower people

Good managers not only know how to motivate people, but they show a genuine interest in employees’ career development and acknowledge improvement and not just deliverables. 

A good manager will also get to understand what the long-term career aspirations of the individual are and help them understand potential career paths within (and potentially outside) the organisation.

  • Ability to interact with all levels within an organisation

Good managers know how to speak to not only their subordinates but also their superiors. It’s essential that they do because they get to understand the business objectives and equally provide a vision for the organisation to their team.

Knowing how to navigate the upper and lower management world’s is essential for business development and growth over a sustained period of time.

  • Happy to roll up their sleeves and work alongside their people when necessary

It’s not good enough all the time of delegating, you need to be able to get stuck in and involved in the process of the work as well. It sets an example to the team that no task is too small or too menial. Being able to help and show a different way of working is essential.

  • Set very clear and easily understood employee goals and objectives 

It’s a benefit to understand that clear and easily understood goal setting is a must for a manager. It helps to strengthen the organisation’s vision and strategy and translate this into an actionable vision and strategy for the team. 

Good managers are direct and specific about their expectations from employees. They avoid things like broad and vague instructions – thereby leaving no space for ambiguity which helps the business achieve what it needs to achieve and in a quicker way as well. 

  • Able to carry out constructive staff performance reviews

Good managers know how to make sure they have an effective review process in place to evaluate performance fairly and constructively. Not only is it important to thank employees for their contributions, it is important to set aside the time to deliver reviews which can help the staff member grow into their role and go beyond it as well. 

  • Excellent at candidate selection and interviewing

Good managers will be able to not only know what they need from a skills perspective but also from a team building perspective as well. Selecting candidates who can share certain soft skills and qualities is a key task of a manager and a good manager does it well.

With tools that can help in the interview process, a good manager can identify and work with candidates to help pick out good candidates and develop new talent quickly.

  • Keen to develop their own management skills

Good managers never truly want to stop learning. Whether it is developing their own soft skills, a weakness that they can turn into a strength or understanding what technology that can help them become a better manager, a good manager will seek to improve their skills which makes them more attractive at their job and better at what they do. 

  • They leverage the latest technology  

Smart and good managers know that technology is a fundamental part in getting their team to perform better and help deal with elements like training and development. A project management software or online collaboration tool is there to simplify the way they handle their teams, and their teams manage their work. 

Good managers know that the right technology has a solution for everything  – right from efficient task management and simplified collaboration to effortless reporting and time tracking.

How to improve management skills

There are many different ways that a manager can improve their skills. From the in office experience to listening to podcasts and even watching YouTube videos for help and advice. Of course, there are no right or wrong answers as to how to get better at managing people, or becoming a better manager. 

Here are just a few suggestions on how to improve your management skills.

  • Formal training

Formal training is something that many large organisations will provide as part of their ongoing training platforms. This is where managers will sit through programs learning how to get better at what they do and how they can develop some of the essential skills to become a good manager. 

There are many excellent management training programs that can not only identify weaknesses but also give the tools and information required to help develop managers to excel at what they do. 

  • Mentorship

Mentorship is the act of pairing an experienced employee or manager with a lesser experienced manager. It helps to develop a long-term professional development strategy for employees, helping employees identify opportunities for advancement and serving as a sounding board and providing professional advice and insight.

Management mentors are a great way to provide on the job training and development because not only do they have experience of the industry or role, but they also have a knowledge base about the business, helping new managers navigate the field better. 

A good manager who mentors can also impart many of the lessons learned required to be a good manager.

  • Experience

Of course, the more time you spend doing a job and developing, you will gain valuable experience and this will make you better over time. However, this requires the manager to recognise and be open to on-the-job learning and development opportunities.

There are some practical ways a manager can develop their skills and become a knowledgeable and good manager. That includes:

  • Get to know individuals in the team

Everyone is different and understanding these differences is important for managers. How do you get to know your team? Take the time to learn about your colleagues. Have weekly 1-2-1’s, conduct assessments and surveys and make it a priority to have staff evenings away from the office so that people can feel a bit more at ease. This will help to inspire those around you but give you time to learn about your teams. 

  • Develop empathy

In a recent study by Businessolver, it revealed that only 1 in 4 employees believed empathy in their organisations was "sufficient." That’s not good enough in a working environment where many are remote working and having to spend a lot of time alone or without regular check-ins. 

The same study showed that "84% of CEOs and 70% of employees believe empathy drives better business outcomes".

How can you build empathy? Practice active listening, go behind the words and focus on their meaning or intent and validate your team’s feelings and concerns.

  • Build trust

You know what it is like to work with people you don’t trust. It can be hard, as much as it can be hard when you’re a trusting person working with people that don’t reciprocate. 

In 2017, Harvard Business Review reported that employees who work in a culture of trust are more productive and have higher energy levels. High-trust organisations also have better employee retention rates.

Build trust by being more transparent in your communication, follow up conversations you’ve had with your team and finally, make yourself available with your team. 

  • Recognise and reward staff

Good managers need to recognise contributions made by their people - from the work they do to the creative, innovative ideas they contribute.

Take the time to praise them both privately and publicly, show them that they are developing and also giving solutions that are business critical.

  • Improve time management

Time management is essential for any person but for managers, even more so. Busy managers can find time management challenging because they are not only organising their work but the work of others. 

Being able to organise and manage time effectively is an essential skill. You can get help with formal training or learn to use technology to help you develop these skills effectively. 

  • Develop self awareness

Do you know what you’re really good at and not so good at? Have you asked yourself some honest, probing questions which helps to develop your self-awareness?

The more self awareness you have, the better you become at being able to manage your skills and knowledge. 

  • Learn from mentors and colleagues

Managers who are open to self improvement and development can often learn a lot from their fellow managers - and seniors.

Peers can offer insight into their strategies and thought processes to help you on your own. Being able to challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone with a mentor to help can provide you with incredible opportunities to grow and develop. 


Good managers can really help an organisation and a business to grow. Finding them is hard, building them can be harder, but there are reasons to make good managers part of your business. This includes leadership, motivation, encouragement and being able to help staff and their teams grow and develop. 

Thomas assessments can help senior leaders and managers to not only find the right candidates but help in the growth and development of their teams. With our candidate selection tool, you can select the right applicant from a pool of many, especially when they all have similar skills and experience. 

If you would like to learn more, please speak to one of our team.