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What makes a good manager?

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Whether you’re eyeing up a management role in your current firm, or are simply contemplating the next step in your career, it’s essential to understand the task at hand before it’s too late.

This is a job where “fake it ’til you make it” is not recommended - after all, guiding a team to success is a big responsibility to take on. While you may be top of the class in your current position, it takes more than knowledge to manage effectively. Great managers sit at the frontline putting out fires while forming the leaders of the future through continued talent development; they motivate their people to go the extra mile and inspire productivity throughout a team.  It’s by no means an easy job, though it’s very easy to get wrong.

With over five million managers in the UK today, there will undoubtedly be conflicting leadership styles dependent on the size, industry and aims of a business. However, most of us would agree that a good manager brings out the best in an employee. But how can this be achieved?


Whether you’ve had a bad experience with a manager you couldn’t trust or a positive one with a leader who was honest and upfront from day one, you’ll understand the need for transparency from the top. You might see yourself as assertive, but delivering bad news to your team without sugar-coating the truth is more challenging than it seems. Good managers speak to their employees in a way that is straightforward, factual and to-the-point. Top notch managers quickly transition into solution-based thinking instead of wallowing: this is what inspires trust from your team.


While transparency builds trust, accountability earns respect. The best leaders are those who recognise that the success of their team reflects directly on their success as a manager. On the flip side, they are quick to share in the failures of the team and will always admit to their mistakes. Remember, a good manager is not infallible. Rather, they are determined to achieve results and will hold regular one-to-one meetings with their staff to reinforce the outcomes they, and the team, are responsible for. It isn’t about finger pointing and blame games - it’s about demonstrating the ability to learn and grow from your errors.

Problem solving

Employees expect their managers to lead the way when it comes to problem solving; they expect a can-do attitude and a willingness to explore all options before calling it quits on idea. Managers don’t have to be right all the time though, they must simply demonstrate a focus on finding a solution, looking for the opportunity within a challenge. Further to this, good managers will try to find ways in which to prevent future problems of the same nature, working pro-actively rather than reactively. If your sights are set on a promotion, try to look for ways in which you can demonstrate your ability to identify potential risks and deal with them before they become problematic. This is what will set you apart from the competition.

Excellent communication

Effective management relies on impeccable communication: without it, employees are unable to carry out their work efficiently. In a study of 2000 employees by the Chartered Management Institute, 33% named unclear direction as the primary culprit in poor leadership. Managers can often be quick to shift the blame to their report, claiming a lack of proper listening or a failure to ask questions for the outcome of a project. However, in many cases, the fault is with the manager and their inability to clearly communicate what’s required of their team. This tends to happen when a manager is so familiar with certain processes that they forget that others aren’t as well-versed.


The best managers are those who lead by example. They are first out of the trenches; they are the head of the team and are committed to driving the mission to success. While delegation is imperative to the success of a manager, great leaders see themselves as part of the team. As well as giving direction and feedback, they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to help the team effort, guiding employees on best practices as they work.

For 20 years, the Allen Associates team has been helping employers in Oxfordshire secure the talent they really need. Can we help you? Click here for more information.   

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