Management 2.0: What makes a great manager?

Just before the holiday, we had the pleasure of debuting a brand new course, Management 2.0, in partnership with Wayne Turmel, aka The Cranky Middle Manager. It was also our first course offering in a new market: Chicago. To kick off day one of this action-packed two day course aimed at those who have recently made the move from individual contributor to manager, Chris led the participants through a brief session that examined the question, "What makes a great manager?"

Chris used the exercise as an opportunity to teach the Group Wisdom Without Groupthink method of structured brainstorming, using Nominal Group Technique (NGT) to gather ideas, then sorting the results using Decision Optimizing Tiny Stickies
(DOTS or Dot Voting).

Each attendee thought about the best managers they had worked for, and what attributes, practices, or skills set them apart from the rest. Our group included experienced engineers, a few management consultants, and one professional clown (You think clowns don't need management and team-building skills? You just try getting ten of them into one of those tiny cars.)—as diverse a collection of minds as we've ever had the pleasure of surveying. Everyone participated in several rounds of brainstorming, and once the conference room wall was plastered with ideas on giant Post-Its, everyone voted for their top choices.

The result was a tiered list of valuable qualities, with 'tier one' being those that the group felt were most important. According to this group, a great manager…

Tier One:

  • develops people
  • values fun
  • sets clear goals
  • gives timely feedback

Tier Two:

  • is open and honest
  • is empowering
  • develops strengths

Tier Three:

  • removes obstacles
  • seeks to understand
  • is a systems thinker
  • gives frequent positive feedback
  • uses metrics/measures
  • expresses appreciation
  • is “but” free

Tier Four:

  • cares about the “whole person”
  • keeps the “big” perspective
  • is flexible
  • gets out of the way

Tier Five:

  • understands the job/responsibility
  • states goals positively
  • fosters a team environment
  • personalizes interactions
  • gives direction, not details
  • is an enabler
  • has a sense of humor
  • follows up

It is interesting to compare the results of this exercise across the several other groups that have gone through the exercise for the same question. This group tended to emphasize the manager's role in developing people. As most of the people present were fairly new to management and worked at the level of team leader, it made sense to us that they would see management as centering on helping individual contributors to shine. Here are some links to the brainstorming lists other groups have generated:

The California Employment Development Center
IEEE Technology Management Council
Bay Area Engineering Managers' Support group

Go beyond Management 2.0, with our Agile Manager workshop!

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