A day after Saint Valentin, the day that celebrates romantic love, I feel inspired to talk about our need to feel supported and nurtured at work. Given that we spend the mind-blowing 23 percent or more of our total lifetime working, it’s only normal that we want a tiny dose of that fuzzy special feeling that we automatically expect from our love relationships.

The person best equipped to give us that care and support is of course our boss, or manager.

You are a manager, or used to be one, or will manage people at some point of your life. That’s why today I’d like to talk about what makes a great manager.

Some of the well-known traits of effective managers are strong result orientation, seeking different perspectives, effective problem solving, quality decision making, adaptability, ability to see both the big picture and detail, self-improvement…

Yet do you know which behavioral trait came up as number 1 in the latest research by McKinsey into effective leadership?  It’s being supportive of others. Of course! It makes complete sense since one of the most important jobs of any manager and leader is to motivate and bring out best in others, right?

Below are a few traits that will help you be just that: a great manager who is supportive of others, ie a great manager with a great team (no matter if your reports are French or multicultural or American)… The good news is that all these skills can be developed. Very few people are born with the full combination of those.

1. Effective Communication.

Effective communication is the number 1 skill you need to develop if you’re to improve your management ratings. Great managers are excellent listeners: they make time to listen to their reports so they understand their perspectives. They know how to give feedback that motivates rather than leaves their team discouraged. The managers who know how to communicate effectively can process complex information and then relate it back to their teams clearly. They are able to understand, decipher and relate the organization’s vision, values and priorities back to their employees. They notice subtle clues and see the impact of their words on others.

2. Emotional Intelligence.

Remaining calm and confident in uncertainty, knowing your triggers and staying in control when you are upset, stressed or face other strong emotions is all part of EQ.  Being emotionally intellgent is also about not being afraid to be vulnerable and show the depth of feeling – in a respectful way. It’s ability and willingness to be transparent, when needed. Employees value leaders who are human and who don’t hide behind their authority.

3. Developing Others.

Great managers know when their employees need more development and do their best to ensure that those developmental opportunities are successful. Cultivating others’ talents and motivating them to channel their talents towards productivity is something great managers enjoy doing. They are masters of delegation and see delegation as a regular opportunity for staff development.

4. Relationship Building

Great managers strive to build personal relationships with their teams – based on trust, compassion and kindness. Empathy, a ready smile, an easy laugh – these traits and actions are disarming and don’t go unnoticed. Great managers know what’s going on in the lives of their team members. They know the names of their children, and age, and have a system of recalling their employees’ birthdates. One manager told me he sends flowers to the wives of members of his team (who are mostly men) when they give birth. His people feel valued and are more willing to get their jobs done right and apply extra effort needed.  Remember, your team is more likely to exceed expectations and stay motivated, when they feel you care.

5. Integrity.

A great manager is committed to establishing and maintaining an alliance built on excellence, integrity, trustworthiness and uncompromising ethics.  Great managers walk the talk: they don’t expect their reports to adhere to certain values if they themselves do not role model them. Using lies, smoke and mirrors for personal gains, or encouraging the use of those, does not yield respect. It’s hard to follow a person who pretends to be something they’re not, or who does not care how much blood they leave on the tracks in pursuit of their goals.

6. Mindfulness.

Ambitious managers and leaders who are driven by motors often mask their insecurity, avarice and agression, qualities which are not remotely appealing. Mindfulness – the ability to be aware and present in the moment, despite stress and mental overload – slows us down and allows us to become better listeners and more understanding and supportive of our team.  It is the foundation of all the traits I’ve listed above. It is also the ultimate form of ambition because it requires a commitment to personal growth that is not for the faint of heart. A manager who radiates quiet confidence, who is able to remain calm and centered in the face of challenges, will always have respect of her organization, peers and her team.

If you manage a French or multinational team and would like to share your insights into what it takes to be a great manager, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

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