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What Great Managers Have In Common


What sets a part a great manager from an average one? With many Millennials and Gen Zers entering into management positions, this is a question that many talent professionals are asking themselves. In this article, we list what sets a part great manager from an average one. We also provide some tips on how to develop high-quality managers.

What do great managers have in common

1) Great managers know how their employees are wired

Great managers ask questions … lots of them. They understand what motivates their employees, what demotivates them, how to best get in contact with them, and how and when they like to receive feedback.

Great managers realize that their employees are all different. Managers need to adjust their style depending on the employee. Remember, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all management approach and it’s a manager’s job to understand what makes their employees tick.

“Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable…. In chess, each piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves.”

2) Great managers give feedback and recognize hard work in real-time

A great manager understands that their employees need feedback and recognition in real-time. Real-time, continuous feedback develops, motivates, and retains employees. Don’t believe us? Check out these stats:

  • 36% of employees felt so strongly about recognition (or lack of it) that it was “the number one reason they’re considering switching jobs. (Source: Achievers)
  • 4 out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little to no feedback (Source: OfficeVibe)
  • 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week as opposed to 18% of low engaged employees (Source: OfficeVibe)
  • 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized, 78% of employees said being recognized motivates them in their jobs, and 72% of employees get praise less than once a week. (Source: OfficeVibe)

3) Great managers hold employees accountable

Great managers know that for an organization to be successful, every employee needs to be pulling their weight. Managers ensure that employees understand their goals and expectations. Only when there are clear expectations can employees be accountable for their behaviors. (See our previous article on what accountable employees do differently for more details).

How to develop great managers

While we have outlined several points that great managers have in common, the next logical questions is: what can we do to create better managers?

1) Train managers to master communication and feedback

3 in 4 employees see effective communication as the number one leadership attribute. This may be increasingly difficult in today’s workforce. For one, the rise in remote and hybrid work means that ad-hoc communication can be more challenging. There is no bumping into someone in the hall, walking into someone’s office, or running into someone at the proverbial water cooler. Secondly, company structures have changed. Gone are the hierarchal ladders – many companies are structured as matrixes where multiple employees are working across different teams. In many cases, direct managers may not even be staffed on projects as their direct reports! This can complicate communication and feedback lines.

We encourage managers to take the following actions to ensure they are mastering communication and feedback:

a) Effective feedback training

Not all feedback is equal. Feedback has to be effective. Having feedback training workshops are important. It teaches managers how to give and receive feedback, but it also makes sure that everyone (managers and direct reports) are on the same page when it comes to giving effective feedback.

b) Regular feedback check-ins

Managers need to set up regular feedback check-ins with their direct reports (in-person or virtually). Direct reports need to be able to give effective feedback and recognize hard work. In these meetings, managers also need to effectively communicate expectations and objectives. We recommend asking that managers ask employees lots of questions. We list a couple of questions below:

  • What is working well? Any roadblocks or challenges?
  • Are you clear on your role and what objectives you should be working on? What aspects aren’t clear?
  • Have you been given enough feedback to perform effectively over this project?
  • What feedback, training, or mentorship has helped you the most? Who gave it to you and how was it helpful?
  • How can I help you succeed on the next project?

c) Peer feedback

In order to get an accurate assessment of an employee’s performance, 360 feedback / peer feedback should be collected. This is particularly important in project-based businesses where employees are working on multiple different teams on multiple different projects. There should be an easy way to collect continuous, 360 feedback so that managers can provide appropriate direction and support to their employee.

2) Train managers on accountability

Great managers hold employees accountable. Part of holding employees accountable is making sure that employees understand their objectives and the expectations. While workshops can be great at promoting accountability, it also necessary for organizations to have a system where objectives, expectations, and feedback can be stored. We recommend a performance management software that can help store and analyze all this data. We’d also like to point out that many performance management solutions also have robust people analytics that can help managers make better training and talent decisions that are based on data, and not gut feelings.


Developing high-quality managers does not happen overnight. However, with proper training and tools, HR professionals can help make all their good managers into great ones.

If you are interested in seeing how Pavestep can help make your managers better, please reach out!

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