• Megan Wood

What are the core skills of truly effective leaders?


Many of my clients are struggling to recruit and maintain staff at the moment. It got me thinking about why staff leave their jobs and what employers can do to keep them. Seeking answers to this vital question led me to one significant factor over which companies can look to make significant improvements if they want to - management.


As many as 31% of employees pointed their finger at management when asked by Seek New Zealand why they chose to leave their job. Sitting only slightly behind workplace culture and restructuring, having a fraught relationship with their manager is more than enough reason to send employees running for the exit.


We all have distinct personalities. A manager might be chatty and gregarious while several members of their team are quiet and introspective. These disparities don’t mean that the manager-employee relationship is destined for failure, but, to make it work, adjustments might need to be made. Adopting some (or all) of the management principles below can foster employee satisfaction, even when personalities might seem to clash.


Open communication lines

Good managers make their staff feel like they genuinely care about them and their lives. Rather than monologuing, a manager who communicates well will instead put the focus on their team and actively listen to the information that is shared, be it personal or professional. Staff can tell if their manager is genuinely interested and a boss whose eyes glaze over as soon as the topic is not about them will alienate good people very quickly. Even more vital is a manager who makes their team feel they can openly discuss workplace issues. The most effective way for a manager to do this is to show they are actively listening (taking notes helps), collaboratively decide on the next steps and follow through. Another big issue in communication that many managers would not even realise is creating problems is withholding information. It can be really damaging for a manager to hint that they know something but their staff are not senior enough to be privy to the details. If something can’t be openly discussed as equals it shouldn’t be mentioned at all.

Give praise regularly

Giving praise doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but psychological research has consistently shown how beneficial it can be. When we receive praise our brains release a handy dose of feel-good chemicals - specifically serotonin and dopamine. This means that managers who use praise well quite literally have happier staff. Effective praise doesn’t need to be fancy, it simply needs to be timely and genuine. A simple “well done” goes a long way.

Provide opportunities for growth

A great manager will always have half an eye open for opportunities within the company for staff to progress. They will be quick to discuss the position with their staff member and be willing to support their application. Not all staff seek promotion, however. For those who don’t see themselves climbing the corporate ladder, there are other ways to offer support, such as professional development courses, training and further study.

Establish a recognition system

I knew a manager who bought a little toy trophy from Look Sharp and used it to recognise an outstanding team member each week at their regular meeting. It was a simple, cost-effective and hassle-free way to give their staff a tangible symbol of their achievement. Team members vied openly for the trophy each week and proudly displayed it on their desks. The traditional email “shout out” is effective in very large companies, but a creative manager should feel to try something different, especially if they consult their team in the process.

Be an advocate

There is nothing worse than a manager who throws their team under the bus when things go wrong. If there is an issue or a mistake has been made a good manager should shield their team from the consequences as much as possible. Employees want to feel like their boss is in their corner. A confident manager should look for solutions, not who is to blame.

Always be flexible

We are all unique, complex creatures and a managerial approach that works well for some staff may alienate others. Empowering managers seek advice from staff on how they like to be directed day-to-day. Some people want to be largely left alone, which makes things easy. Other employees need more structure, they want to see a plan and know how they are contributing to the end goals of the team. Inviting team members to be involved in higher-level planning will give those who crave order a feeling of security in knowing where the team is headed. Ultimately, a great manager will do regular health checks with their team, assessing how they are feeling and giving them permission to critique management approaches and provide ideas for improvement.

If you would like to explore leadership development options to support your people managers to build strong long-lasting teams, get in touch with me today.



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