William Gooderson’s 8 Characteristics of Good Managers
Finding good managers is one thing, but training them to be the best is another. In the second half of his talk at the Beyond Workforce Success Conference on the Gold Coast last June, William Gooderson outlined eight characteristics that good managers in any industry should have. Hint: age is not one of them!
Gooderson shares that he has met managers who had been in their industry for decades, but had no leadership capabilities to speak of. Managers who are in their position because they’re not needed or wanted elsewhere are the most difficult. Of an erring army commander, Gooderson remarks: “He trundled along for 20 years getting promotions, because organizations allow that to happen.”
The lack of screening and training results in managers who have some experience, but not the kind that enables them to make great decisions. When it comes to decision-making, the key is not years spent in an industry, but the amount of reflection done during those years. Besides being able to reflect on their experience, managers should also be trained to:
1. Know how to delegate properly
Good managers know they cannot do everything by themselves. Being everywhere at once is impossible, and micro-management often leads to failure. “You have to be able to rely on your managers to look after you, to support you, to deliver the mission, and to look after their guys,” Gooderson says. This is why delegating is a skill that should be learned right off the bat.
2. Communicate well on all fronts
A good manager needs to be able to communicate your vision for the business, but should also be able to listen to the team. Being approachable is key to leading well. Approachable managers understand what the team is doing. “If they’re not engaged,” Gooderson asks, “How on earth are they going to work effectively together?”
3. Inspire trust among his or her staff
Employees need to be able to trust that a manager is telling them to do something for the right reasons. Inspiring trust in employees requires leading from the front. Showing them how it’s done is always better than telling them. And at the end of the day, they need to be able to trust that you have their best interests at heart.
4. Remain optimistic in the face of adversity
Bad days will come, and you cannot afford to lose morale. Even one disheartened employee can bring the whole team down. Good managers know how to keep morale up, even when they themselves have doubts. Optimism, like any other leadership skill, can be trained into your management candidates.
5. Have empathy for those they lead
For a manager to be effective, he or she must be able to relate to employees. He or she must understand the challenges they face, and be able to address them in a manner that helps them perform better. A great piece of advice for most situations is to praise in public, but criticize in private.
6. Hold themselves accountable
Good managers always step up to the plate, simply because it’s their job. They don’t do it for any recognition, or treat it as anything out of the ordinary. One way to train your managers for accountability is to give them hypothetical situations in your industry, to see how they would react. The bottom line when it comes to accountability is to own both successes and failures.
7. Have the confidence to do the right thing
Confidence is contagious, according to Gooderson. A manager who shows confidence in the company, in the people, and in the work, will have a greater impact than they can imagine. The best manifestation of this confidence is being able to do the right thing, especially during the most difficult situations.
8. Be inspirational because of who they are
Once again, leading from the front makes a difference because it translates words into action. Any manager can say one thing, but do another. A good manager is able to exemplify the best the company has to offer, and in doing so, inspire others to follow suit.
Gooderson ends his talk with a Richard Branson quote: “Train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” In the end, the most important asset of any business is its people. “Industries spend less money on training its leaders than it does on any other area of development,” Gooderson laments. That fact needs to change, and investing in training managers to have these eight characteristics would be a great start.
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From Battlefields to Boardrooms: Finding Good Managers with William Gooderson
Whether you’re clearing out explosives in Afghanistan or managing the finances of a corporation in Australia, you need good managers. So argues former British Royal Engineers Major turned leadership expert William Gooderson on the Beyond Workforce Success Conference stage on the Gold Coast last June. And he speaks from hard-earned knowledge, having first commanded 30 soldiers in Germany at the age of 24. “It doesn’t matter where you are, or what your business entails, if you do not have good managers, that end mission will fail,” he emphasizes. Given how important good managers are, investing in them is a priority across all businesses. However, laments Gooderson, recruiting and finding decent management is a global problem. The “joys” of trying to find good managers “We live in both the most exciting and the most challenging era for trying to find talent,” says Gooderson. Websites like LinkedIn and SEEK have made it easy to reach out to potential managers. But at the same time, websites like Glassdoor have opened managers to anonymous criticism that may affect not just their reputation, but their company’s as well. There is now more information to navigate, and thus more skill required to recruit correctly. Juggling internal and external hiring makes a difference The advantages of hiring someone internally include retaining the company’s top talent and saving money on hiring. The disadvantages are having a limited choice and creating tension among those who didn’t get picked. Hiring externally gives you far greater choices, but at a higher risk. The person you hire would come at a higher cost, and would need to adapt to the company’s culture. Juggling these pros and cons will make all the difference. Half the battle is having a manager’s profile Any recruitment agency will ask, “What do you want in a manager?” One way to answer that is to figure out who among your current staff you would like to clone. Write down the attributes of that person before you talk to your recruitment agency. This will ensure that you’re on the same page about who you would like to lead your team. Provide the profile of your existing workforce as well, because your new manager should be able to work with all of them. Challenge your prospective manager on controversial things A good way to gauge how someone works is how they would address a difficult situation. Ask them what, among the experiences they’ve had, can inform their decisions. Provide them with a scenario from your specific company, organization, or industry. Listen to their answer, and share with them how the problem was actually resolved. Even your interview can be instrumental in making that manager a better one, whether or not you pick them for the job. Be prepared to make the hard decisions Sometimes, finding good managers means letting go of bad ones. This becomes difficult when the individual has spent decades in the industry and is supporting a family, which Gooderson himself found out the hard way. Confronted with an erring army commander, he had to make a call most leaders do not want to be faced with. “The lessons I learned from sacking that guy have been with me throughout my entire career,” he says. “And I reflect upon them every single time I’m put in that situation.” Experience, and reflecting on experience, is everything Indeed the secret to finding good managers, according to Gooderson, is experience, and the ability to reflect on that experience. The best resource decision-makers have when it comes to making the choice is themselves. “If you don’t leverage your opportunities and experiences, and if your managers aren’t doing that, you are really going to struggle,” he remarks. The playing field is bigger now, and decision makers have unprecedented access to potential managers who can make or break the business. So if you’re still having trouble finding a good manager, take Gooderson’s advice: dig deep into your own background. And when you’ve learned to harness your experiences, and passed the lessons down to another generation of leaders, you can mark your mission complete. Read more: William Gooderson’s 8 Characteristics of Good Managers