10 points to distinguish a good or poor manager

By Sarah Stowe | 16 Dec 2015 View comments

An old boss of mine at Caltex used to say “If you have a dog and have to bark yourself…..you may as well shoot the dog!” Whilst he was considered a real autocrat, as I now look back, I think I agree with what he would say to us.

Many managers want to do everything. They think it is their job to oversee every part of the business, micromanage all the executives, undertake the sales of every product, and handle all the day to day operations. What they don’t do is what they are actually paid the big money for – managing the business.

In my view a good manager is strategic, focuses on managing their direct reports and then lets them do their designated jobs. I become very frustrated when I see either young managers trying to do too much, or older managers who have probably been over-promoted, trying to do the day to day business, not the strategic work that is required of their role.

5 points I recognise in a good manager

  1. Contactable – can be located by phone or email and will normally give some response. It may not always be what you want to hear, but will give a decision, and not over complicate the simple things. More complex issues are handled in a realistic timeframe – but handled.
  2. Firm but fair – will call a spade a spade. Will address an issue and give a reasonable response and not just avoid it and leave issues unresolved.
  3. Delegates – happy to hear the issue is recognised and has been passed on to the person whose job is to handle the issue. Good managers know where the issue lies and manage the person who has to resolve it.
  4. Understands their job is about longer term strategic issues (as well as the day to day stuff). Whether they assign a specific time, or just make it their business to handle, a good manager is thinking in terms of the longer term of the business.
  5. Plans – has a vision for the company, or the part of the business they are responsible for and are always trying to envisage the big picture.

5 points I recognise in a poor manager

  1. Always saying they are overworked, too busy and questioning how the business could run without them.
  2. Rarely answers the phone (always too busy), and even though they leave a message on their voicemail that they will call back – they never do.
  3. Indecisive – cannot make a decision and always telling you how this needs to be referred to other people in their department, other managers or a committee of nobodies. They leave issues unanswered and seem to go around in circles.
  4. No forward thinking –  as they are too busy moving from one problem to the next rather than fixing the cause of the problems (often themselves).
  5. Always trying to impress their boss rather than worrying about their staff, or the people whose lives they affect with their decisions. Normally thinking more about their next promotion than their current position.

As I am getting older, I probably am becoming more concerned by these trends which I see are partly due to technology improvements, and possibly staff reductions in many organisations.

I feel organisations do not invest in training managers, partly due to managers changing jobs on a regular basis. And we see this in the quality of many managers who are probably promoted above their skill level due to their technical ability, and not because of their talent for management.

There are good managers and poor managers, and naturally all think they are doing a great job, irrespective of how others see them.

So what’s the solution? Perhaps more 360 degree feedback analysis and other similar tools may give them a dose of reality and the chance to incorporate appropriate skills and behaviour.