Secrets of successful managers

Written by
Kim Morgan

02 Sep 2016

02 Sep 2016 • by Kim Morgan

Many people have been promoted to management positions because they were good at the technical aspects of their previous role. However, good management or leadership requires a very different set of skills, most of which have nothing to do with technical ability and everything to do with a genuine interest in others and their continued development. The most technically able member of staff might not be the ideal person to be promoted to a management position. The team member who exhibits care, compassion, support and challenge towards others and towards themselves might be a better choice for promotion. 

What are the characteristics and behaviours of a good manager?


The manager’s ability to listen with interest and attention and without interruption allows team members to feel heard and respected. Good managers begin team meetings by encouraging a listening environment, where each person is given 5 minutes to speak about their thoughts and feelings and is listened to by the rest of the team without interruption.  This often results in the team meeting being shorter and more productive than usual, as peoples’ thoughts or ideas are not hijacked by questions, objections or interjections from others.  Instead, people wait their turn to offer their thoughts.


Being a good manager means asking more than telling and adopting a coaching style with team members. Managers who ask questions demonstrate interest in their teams and encourage an environment of solution-focused thinking. 

Good coaching questions are open-ended and succinct and set the stage for team members to do any or all of the following:

  • Increase their awareness
  • Change or challenge their perspective
  • Design goals and actions
  • Generate different options
  • Identify feelings
  • Generate ideas through creative thought or visualisation
  • Identify progress
  • Identify what is holding them back
  • Test motivation or commitment


Care and compassion are key elements of effective management. Good managers take an interest in their team members and have enough knowledge of them to notice when they are having a difficult time. At times like this a good manager will be able to identify the appropriate level of support required: further training or development, confidence building, mentoring or coaching or more challenge. When the entire team is under pressure a good manager will roll up their sleeves and join in with the team to lend a hand and champion them all to get the job done together. Good managers are comfortable about praising and appreciating their team members and take time to celebrate individual and collective successes.


Team members need to feel clear about what is expected of them, so successful managers will set clear expectations and boundaries. Successful managers hold team members accountable, provide regular feedback and are comfortable with an environment of healthy challenge and conflict within the team. 

Being a role model

If you have had a good manager, the chances are you that will yourself have become a good manager to others.  When you are a manager yourself it is important to remember that your direct reports will be learning YOU. They won’t learn to do what you say as much as what you do.  Therefore a good manager role models the behaviours he or she wants to encourage in others.

If you are a manager, consider what messages your behaviours send to your team.  Complete the answers to these questions yourself - then ask your team members to answer the same questions about you:

  • How often do I praise others?
  • How comfortable am I to challenge others?
  • What would people other than myself say about the environment in my team?
  • How loyal am I towards my team and the wider company?
  • How consistently do I keep promises and do what I have said I would do?
  • How good am I at apologising if I get something wrong?
  • How often do I celebrate individual and team successes?
  • How well do I listen?
  • What is the balance of my management style between asking and telling?