The Impacts and Characteristics of a Great People Manager


          What is the difference between a high performing team that collaborates and augments each other’s expertise and a low performing team that functions as individuals working under the same person? Many would say, to no surprise, the manager. Quite few professions have the ability to directly influence the team’s judgement of self-worth, sense of fairness, and achievement as the managerial profession. A manager is responsible for overseeing and guiding a team’s activities to ensure overall operational excellence. To accomplish such task, they need to be able to understand the impact their actions have on their team’s performance, morale, and success. Certain characteristics of a good manager can facilitate and promote higher performance, but above all else, great people managers are often analytical of oneself and its team in order to understand the drivers and actions that need to be taken to improve an organization’s success.

          Articles on management are full of analogous interpretation of what managers truly do, but we hope to clear the fog around such topic by drawing on analysis provided by various sources and condensing their research. Despite understanding that the role of a manager also encompasses company’s strategic objectives, among other important goals, this article will specifically focus on the people management aspect of the profession.

The Managerial Role

          The role of a manager changes vastly depending on each individual, their team, the company, and even, believe it or not, history and societal norms. As suggested by Forbes, early managers tended to follow a micromanagement style that was focused on authority, correction, and tasks. Such practices, that were initiated in the 1910s, followed a top-down approach that reflected the highly hierarchical structure of organizations.

          Over the years, human relations forces became more prevalent, emphasizing the value of people in working relations. Today, it is known that besides technical ability, there are other factors that may impact productivity such as employee empowerment, career development, teamwork (Macrothink Institute), perception of self worth, and culture (Harvard Business School). A research by Gallup, showcased that individuals younger than 40 years old consider the mission and purpose of their work as one of the most important factors for employee retention. Employee engagement scores are highly correlated to management actions (Gallup), as such, today’s top managers have often developed skills such as coaching, cooperation, and transparency. Further, it is important to remember, that a well-rounded manager, not only weights the impact that their decisions will have on themselves, but also their teams and the organization as a whole.

Beyond the Organization

          A manager can impact every level of an organization from small projects to the overall performance of the enterprise. In a study by The Predictive Index, 94% of employees (out of 5,103) with great managers said that they feel passionate and energetic about their jobs. However, only 59% of employees with bad bosses could identify the same positive feelings towards their employment. In the study, employees were also asked to qualify the practices of their managers as that of a good or a bad manager. The study boldly estimates that an employee’s perception of a manager (whether they are perceived as good or bad manager) roughly affects their engagement level by 14%. As such, managerial practices can impact the overall productivity of companies as organizations with high engagement levels tend to report 22% higher productivity levels (Harvard Business Review).

Further, the research also identified that bad managerial practices could have a negative impact on employee turnover as 77% of employees with bad managers said that to their chances of leaving the organization within the next 12 months were “very likely”. Whereas only 18% of employees with good managers said the same. Employee turnover can have various detrimental impacts on a business from employee morale, decreased productivity, reduced return on investment (ROI), and reduced profitability (Forbes).

However, beyond the clear impact that managerial practices have on the business, managers need to be cognizant of their power to psychologically affect their employees which could influence every aspect of their lives, including how they approach friendship and conduct family affairs. As put by Professor Clayton M. Christensen from Harvard in the article “How Will You Measure Your Life?”:

[…] I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent.

Clayton M. Christensen

For some, being mindful of all these aspects may just be too much, or “above their paygrade”, but that is exactly what makes the difference between managers and great managers. The more someone practice’s good management habits, the easier it becomes to implement it on their daily lives.

Qualities of Great Managers

          To better understand the qualities of great managers, let us start by discussing the traits of bad managers. In the same study by The Predictive Index, respondents identified common traits of 633 managers who were ranked the lowest by the participants. The top 5 most common negative behaviours were:

  • Manager lacked ability to clearly communicate expectations (identified by 58% of respondents as a trait of a bad manager)
  • Manager shows favoritism towards certain member/ members of the team (identified by 57% of responded as trait of a bad manager)
  • Manager does not assist employee with personal and/ or career growth (identified by 55% of respondent as a trait of a bad manager)
  • Manager partakes on gossip about their team (identified by 54% of respondents as a trait of a bad manager)
  • Manager is not receptive to employee feedback (identified by 54% of respondents as a trait of a bad manager)

Other traits that were identified to be common in bad managers were: lack of self-awareness (52%), trust betrayal (51%), lack of listening (50%), and egocentric behaviour such as putting themselves first (48%).

          Conversely, the same study also showcased common traits of 1,533 individuals that were identified as good managers by their employees. The top 5 most common positive traits were:

  • Manager has a strong work ethic (identified by 82% of respondents as a trait of a good manager)
  • Manager is perceived to be honest (identified by 80% of respondents as a trait of a good manager)
  • Manager is perceived to have a sense of humour (identified by 79% of respondents as a trait of a good manager)
  • Manager appears to be confident (identified by 79% of respondents as a trait of a good manager)
  • Manager has a positive attitude (identified by 79% of respondents as a trait of a good manager)

          Other traits that were identified to be common in good managers were: good decision-making ability (78%), employee recognition practices (76%), demonstrated passion, knowledge, and grasp about own job and the business as a whole (75%). Additionally, Peter F. Drucker in his article to the Harvard Business Review titled “Managing Oneself” identified that the following, characteristics among others, were key in order to improve performance excellence: self-awareness, humility, employee empowerment, and listening ability.


          In management, it is important to understand that the aggregation of a one’s actions can have a sizable impact on individuals, teams, and organizational success. Further, the consequences of such actions have the power to shape connections beyond the organizational level. Business acumen and strong work ethic are imperative when one’s ability to greatly impact other people’s life is at stake. As discussed, employee’s perception of their managers greatly impacts their morale, engagement levels and, therefore, productivity which in turn has an affect on return on investment, employee turnover, and profitability. The managerial role continues to evolve over the years. Hence, managers must continue to update their skills and tools to maintain and increase organizational success.


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