Each month, “The Balance Sheet” provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that’s important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.
Q. What traits should I look for in employees likely to become good managers someday? Are managers “born” or can people learn to become managers?
A. Managerial skills can be taught. However, there are many behavioral traits that support the role of a good manager. Keeping an eye open for some of them can help you spot employees who might be management material. Look for employees who are comfortable with who they are and have positive views of themselves. But also look for a corresponding interest in learning and growing. Obviously, a manager can’t be someone who hides behind a desk or prefers to be alone, so look for employees who like people, are assertive, “get out in front,” and stay involved with the group. Honesty and the ability to make a decision, the ability to be straightforward, to “tell it like it is,” are also important traits. Employees who are hesitant to share bad news, overcautious about choices, or withhold information others need to know, typically struggle with the role of manager. Employees likely to be good managers avoid cliques. Instead, they reach out, believing that everyone has a role to play and a valuable contribution to make. A manager does not have to be charismatic, but employees who make good managers demonstrate confidence that others see or sense.
Q. What is the most important signal a supervisor will get that a new employee is likely to be a valuable performer in the future of the organization?
A. Although intelligence, skills and abilities all play key roles in an employee’s success, the one most outstanding ability that reinforces all others is effective workplace communication. Effective workplace communication is an ongoing problem in most organizations. There is no end to managing communication and improving upon communication systems. Human relations and productivity depend on effective communication. Consider the information, ideas, thoughts, opinions and plans organizations must transmit daily to drive productivity. And consider the importance or role of communication in conflicts, morale, creativity, feedback and motivation. Without communication, nothing moves. Since many employees, and people in general, struggle with communication roadblocks that range from avoiding communication to denial of the need for it, an employee who can intuitively judge how much information you need, and when and how often you need it, is a real find.
Q. I know that managers are not “born,” they’re made, but isn’t it true that some managers easily attract employees to their way of thinking with magnetic traits that can’t be taught? Can BJC EAP help me be a better leader?
A. The skills of leadership are learned, but some people do possess personalities with more personal charm and “charisma” than others do. Certainly not all great leaders are charismatic, however, and not all charismatic people are good leaders. This makes leadership skills more important. Leadership is intensely studied. There are leadership schools, courses, training, recognized styles of leadership, theories, research and accepted practices that are universally taught. Nearly anyone can learn to apply effective leadership skills. How you speak to employees, the logic used to convey direction and inspiration and the techniques for enlisting contributions from others in pursuit of a goal constitute leadership. Your organization may have resources to support your leadership education goals, but BJC EAP may be useful in helping you troubleshoot personal roadblocks that sometimes interfere with leadership skills, such as a need to learn assertiveness, effective listening, empathic reasoning, self-awareness and more.