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Respect and Middle Management

What Makes a 'Great' Manager?

Following on from last week's conversation about SMART goals, this week's topic looks at what great managers actually do. If not setting goals and conducting performance reviews, then what? In the 1999 book 'First Break All The Rules', two Gallup employees Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman analyze what makes a great manager.

In order to answer that, first they looked at what makes an engaged, productive employee. They find that employees are looking to answer 'yes' to these twelve questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

  2. Do I have the right materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

  10. Do I have a best friend at work?

  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

As a manager or supervisor of workers, it would seem apparent then, that your job first and foremost is to concentrate on these questions In particular questions 1 though 6, which focus on "What do I GET from this job", and "What do I GIVE to it".

Hiring for Talent

Question 3 "do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?" is a very important one. It is often overlooked by managers who only look at the work that needs to get done, rather than at the people who are to do the work. Great managers know that everyone has different temperaments, needs, and drivers. These 'natural inclinations' or 'talents' are wired in to us as we grow up. They cannot be changed by a manager - they can only be capitalized on. The role of the manager, as they see it, is to be a catalyst: 'to speed up the reaction between the employee's talents, and the company's goals'

Great managers know that they cannot put in what was left out, they can only bring out what was left in.

In a roundtable we hosted, one plant superintendent had a story of a manager who quickly identified that the person who had been promoted to Head of Shipping did not have the natural inclinations necessary to be successful at that role, and so the manager sought out a role in another division that the employee could excel at. That manager deeply understood the principles here. I don't know if he had read this book - but he could have probably written a chapter or two of it!


Respect For People is the foundation for all management practices. Understanding exactly what this means in the context of a profit-orientated organization is no trivial undertaking - we believe you could spend a lifetime in that endeavor.

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