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What Makes A Great Manager?

By Jon Olson


Being a manager is a large responsibility. Not only do they have to answer to their superiors, they also have to answer to those they manage. It has been my experience that managers who understand that simple fact are the most successful. At its core, management is really all about the employees.


How employees are treated has a large bearing on the amount of productivity a manager will get out of the team. So, if a company has a team with a large amount of turnover, lack of unity or chronic complaining, it could very well be the way management is doing its job.


Let’s look at a few management styles that should be avoided.


The Helicopter Manager

Have you ever watched a helicopter hover close to the ground when people are below? What are the people below doing? They’re shielding their faces, half bent over, protecting themselves from all that wind. That helicopter is dominating the scene and nobody likes it. They can’t wait for it to leave. That’s exactly how some managers operate. They hover over the employee watching every move they make. Some might call it driving that employee, but where the employee is being driven is probably right out the door!


A helicopter manager gives the employee no room to make independent decisions. They cannot or will not let an employee work on his or her own. They constantly ask where they have been, what they are doing and what they will do next. They never give the employee the benefit of the doubt. A spirit of mistrust oozes in and is evident in everything they say and do.


To be fair, there could be good reason the manager is watching so closely. Maybe the employee does need a little bit more attention. Would not the better approach be to see what the challenge is and help correct it? If a manager makes it a point to coach the employee, shows direct concern and demonstrates the goal is to make the employee successful, rather than just micromanage, the employee will respond much differently. That’s called being a leader.


The No Show Manager

One of the worst mistakes a manager can make is to not be there for the team when the going gets rough. If you’re going to ask employees to work overtime or on the weekend to satisfy a rush job, you need to be there as well. The manager sets the pace. When you ask the team to go the extra mile, it matters to them who else is going to step up to the plate, especially if it’s you.


You can also set the example on how you handle some of your personal matters. For example, if you are at doctor appointments, personal meetings or are out getting a haircut during the workday, it’s going to have a negative effect. If you do these things outside of work hours, it tells the employees you take work seriously and that rubs off on the them. You have to remember you are under a microscope. What you do will be watched by others. This could really blow up on you if a member of the team wants to cut out to take care of a personal matter. If you make it a habit to take time off during the work day, it will be harder to tell them they can’t do the same thing. Your reputation will be based on what others see you do. If you want your team to walk through a wall for you, be willing to do the same for them.


The Next Person Up Manager

Sometimes a person becomes a manager not because of merit, but simply because they’re the next in line in seniority, availability or because they know whose ear to tickle. I heard of a very large company that would always make the best performing machinists into managers. What a bad idea. This is asking for disaster. Just because someone is very good at making countertops does not mean they are automatically going to be a very good manager. However, you might very well have a manger in the waiting. Some of the qualities they would show are being well respected by co-workers, exuding positivity, displaying willingness to perform any task, avoiding complaining about the company or any of their peers, expressing an interest in training and following company policies.


The team wants a competent leader. Don’t expect complete unity if the manager was handed the title because they were the next person up. It’s a culture far too prevalent in today’s work force.


Whether you want to believe this or not, bad managers are the talk of the team. Workers talk about them while on the floor, on break or even at home. If you want your workplace to be a place of productivity, respect and pride, then take a look at your managers. It all starts with them.


When I first got into management long ago my supervisor told me, “You’re not a manger as much as you’re a servant to the team.” Those words of wisdom stuck with me. Making sure your team has what they need with regards to equipment, education, support and empathy really are the best tools you have. If you follow through, you won’t just be the manager, you’ll be a leader.


About the Author

Jon Olson has more than 30 years’ experience in the surfacing industry in all aspects of fabrication and sales. He has worked as a fabricator, manager and sales rep for a large solid surface and quartz manufacturer. He is also the past recipient of ISFA’s Fabricator of the Year and Innovator Awards and can be reached at [email protected].