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Think back to the first job that you ever had, and your first experience of management.

You’ll probably remember specific managers for being exceptionally good or exceptionally bad – you don’t tend to remember the middling ones. Good managers are memorable because of the fact that they are exceptional at their jobs – bad managers because of the opposite. 

So, what are those traits that define a truly good manager from an average one?

What are the specific skills and strategies that make them more effective as leaders, able to inspire their teams to success in the face of daunting challenges?

We had a deeper dive into the reality of what makes a good manager!


It sounds too obvious to even point out, but it’s worth emphasizing nevertheless – honesty is essential if you want to be a good manager who is respected by your team. 

Why? Well, honesty is an essential component of trust-building that’s fundamental when it comes to building good working relationships.

Being honest at work isn’t easy sometimes – especially when you have to relay difficult news or decisions. It is an essential trait if you’re in a leadership position though.

Honesty as a manager is about holding yourself to the same standards that you expect of your team, as well as taking responsibility for when things go wrong. After all, if you aren’t honest yourself, how can you expect your team to be honest?

This blog by INC magazine has some practical tips for helping to improve your honesty at work if you need some pointers.  


As well as being honest, good managers are also fair when they make decisions. They’re seen as balanced, impartial and willing to live up to the same expectations that they set for the team they manage. 

When you make a decision about a situation, think about how it will be perceived by your team members – is it being applied fairly, according to the same set of rules that you expect from the people you manage? 

At the core of being a fair manager is an often-repeated cliche that still carries some really sage advice: treat people how you would like to be treated by others. 



Time management skills

The good managers are the ones who can divide their time between different projects and tasks well – who can prioritise, multi-task and juggle multiple things at the same time. 

Time-management skills are closely aligned to decision-making skills – you have to be able to make good decisions in terms of where to invest your time appropriately if you’re trying to manage your time well, for example. 

So what exactly are these magical skills that we’re talking about? Well, they normally include traits like:

  • Multi-tasking
  • Strategic thinking
  • Forward-planning
  • Knowing when, and how much, to delegate

Here are some general tips to help with improving your time-management skills:

  • Set SMART goals – objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based
  • Delegate tasks to save time, improve your capacity and train up your team
  • Take regular breaks 
  • Know your limits and how much work is too much work

If you’re interested in improving your time-management skills further, we recently covered 8 of the most common time-management traits that can actually hamper your productivity. 

Good communication

Being able to interact clearly with your team members is essential to efficient management, building trust and getting projects completed. That’s why the best managers are also the best communicators. 

After all, management is a role that calls for a lot of challenging interactions between different stakeholders – interactions that need sophisticated communication skills to get right. 

Good managers are skilled at being able to navigate the tricky conversations that arise at work, from liaising with senior management and department heads through to carrying out performance reviews and supervisions with your team. 

Here are some simple tips to make your communication clearer: 

  • Practice active listening skills 
  • Maintain eye contact when talking to people
  • Use body language to support what you say

This blog by Robert Half has some useful strategies to help improve your communication skills as a manager.




Empathy is one of the traits that defines a good manager from a mediocre one. 

A recent DDI management study cited in Forbes found that empathy was ‘a critical driver of overall performance’ and that empathetic managers were more likely to succeed in engaging teams and in making good decisions. 

It also found that there is a significant gap in the empathy market when it comes to the skills crop of current managers. The study estimated that only around 40% of current leaders and managers have the high level of empathy needed to run teams intelligently, efficiently, and profitably. 

If you want to develop your management skills, working on your empathy can be a useful strategy. Here are some practical tips to help you get in touch with your empathetic side when managing employees:

  • Use active listening to help understand the situation
  • Put yourself in the position of your team
  • Be open to, and willing to accept, constructive criticism 
  • Decision-making

Being able to make intelligent decisions under pressure is another key hallmark of a good manager. 

Decisions can be hard to make, mainly because you’ll often have to make them when you don’t have the full information about a situation or when you’re experiencing a lot of pressure – whether from time or from other members of your team.

The Chartered Management Institute has some practical advice on how to make decisions as a manager. They suggest that you bear in mind the following ten points when it comes to making decisions:

  • Identify the scope of the decision you need to make
  • Think about the impact of it and how you’ll review its effectiveness
  • Consider who needs to be involved in making the decision
  • Define the issue and research it
  • Be aware of uncertainty 
  • Gather feedback
  • Find decision making tools tailored to the situation
  • Be aware of bias
  • Communicate and act on the decision
  • Review the decision and learn from the result

  • An open mind

The best managers are the ones who are aware that no-one ever really stops learning when it comes to their profession. 

The more you learn, the better your management practice will be overall. 

Luckily, there are a range of professional training courses and qualifications that you can study to support your learning and development. 

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) offer a broad range of qualifications aimed at managers at all stages of their careers. For example, the ILM Level 3 Certificate in Leadership & Management is great for managers who are just starting out and want to gain the practical skills to succeed in managing a team. The CMI Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership, on the other hand, is perfect for managers who have extensive experience already and want to work towards ‘Chartered’ manager status – one of the highest accolades in the management field. 

Between the two professional bodies, you’ll find a practical variety of courses to meet your interests and learning aims. 

We hope you’ve found this blog about the things that make a good manager insightful. Good luck in developing these skills throughout your own management career!

Inspired to develop your management skills? Get your free ILM or CMI course guide and transform your career today. 

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