What Makes A Good Manager and Leader?

The cost of a bad manager amounts to billions of dollars each year. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to measure and improve the employee experience by focusing on the collective organizational experience. However, DecisionWise research shows that organizations should refocus their efforts and double down on their managers.

Our research shows that an engaged manager is 213% more likely to have an engaged team and industry research shows that managers account for at least 70% of the variance of employee engagement scores. The data is crystal clear. Organizations should focus on creating effective managers to improve the employee experience and drive employee engagement. So, what makes a good manager, and most importantly, what creates a successful manager that drives a positive employee experience?

7 Behaviors of a Good Manager

Gallup has suggested that organizations miss on hiring the right manager over 80% of the time . While Gallup suggests getting the hiring right, I believe organizations can orient leaders to the competencies and behaviors that will make them successful in their individual and collective responsibilities. Here are 7 behaviors that a great manager can employ to help drive a more positive employee experience.

  1. Create a Culture of Belonging
  2. Actively Promote the Mission and Vision of the Company
  3. Coach for Enablement
  4. Focus on Employee Growth
  5. Provide Appropriate Levels of Employee Autonomy
  6. Be Driven by Results
  7. Manage Through VUCA
leader increases eNPS by showing his team he cares

1. Create a Culture of Belonging

Over the past several years, the question “I feel like I belong here” has dominated as the primary driver of employee engagement in most organizations. Deloitte found that leading organizations are creating a stronger link between belonging and organizational performance by strengthening workers’ connection with their teams and fostering their sense of contributions to meaningful shared goals.

A great leader creates a culture of belonging on their team by focusing on 3 simple behaviors:

  1. Show respect to each team member. Avoid demeaning language about any member of the team in any way. Discuss challenges or deficiencies in private and directly with the impacted team members.
  2. Be inclusive. Discrimination is a real challenge whether it is gender, race, religion, age, or sexual orientation. Create a culture where team members can contribute their full potential, regardless of any societal label or demographic category.
  3. Drive toward a common goal. When teams are united under a common purpose, differences in opinion on matters unrelated become less relevant and differences of perspective can be used to enhance productivity rather than divisiveness. 

2. Actively Promote the Mission and Vision of the Company

In the American West, cattle ranches have been long identified by their livestock brands (a symbol that was seared into the cattle.) Ranch brands were initially created to identify lost or stolen cattle, but quickly became a sense of pride for the ranchers. The phrase “ride for the brand” became a call for ranch hands to work for something larger than themselves.

An effective manager understands the mission and vision of the company and frequently shares that value proposition with their team. They are brand ambassadors and advocates for the organization’s mission. A manager can influence the optimism team members have about the future of the organization and show the impact their work is making toward the collective goal.

3. Coach for Enablement

Employee enablement is the process of empowering employees with the right set of tools, situations, and support to deliver high-quality results. A good manager can not simply do all the work to accomplish the desired outcomes. They must provide guidance, tools, resources, and autonomy so employees can learn, develop, and get the necessary training to provide quality results.

Here are 3 strategies managers can implement to coach for enablement:

  1. Build a culture of listening on your team. Let your employees know they have a place to discuss successes, challenges, and their future.
  2. Provide channels for immediate learning. Employee learning can happen in structured classes, but perhaps the best learning comes “in the moment.” Feedback is a gift and, when given properly, it is a tremendous asset to your team.
  3. Create targeted learning and development initiatives. Each employee will learn differently, so effective management will ensure training is delivered according to the individual’s style of learning.

4. Focus on Employee Growth

Employee growth is defined as being stretched and challenged in a way that results in personal and professional progress. Often, we limit the scope of employee growth to promotion or advancement in an organization. While promotion is part of employee growth, it is only one component of an employee’s growth plan.

Here are 3 ways managers can focus on employee growth

  1. Discuss growth opportunities with team members. Opportunities may include developing a new skill, continuing education, degree advancement, cross functional training, or even growth related to a hobby. Make growth a primary focus of the conversations in manager one-on-one meetings.
  2. Create a development plan. Find out how employees want to grow and become an accountability partner of their development plan.
  3. Provide appropriate opportunities for team members that will push them to learn new skills and hone abilities.

A good leader is intentional about employee growth. When employees feel good about the opportunities in front of them, they are more likely to stay engaged and have a positive employee experience.

5. Provide Appropriate Levels of Employee Autonomy

Autonomy is the power to shape your work and environment that allows you to perform your best. Autonomy is not anarchy, rather it is giving people the freedom to choose how to do their best work without removing accountability and process.

Trust is foundational for autonomy. If you don’t trust your employees, you will end up micromanaging. Appropriate autonomy is established and maintained through clarity and transparency of expectations for desired outcomes. A great manager is transparent about limitations or constraints they have. Engagement, satisfaction, and happiness often depends less on the conditions in which one works and more on whether expectations are aligned and met.

man autonomously working on iPad

6. Driven by Results

In addition to developing team members, organization leadership is held accountable for business results. Results orientation is a behavior every good manager should develop and continually improve. Create a business plan for your team that correlates to the overall organizational business plan. Build structure into your environment with clear expectations and definitions of success. Create accountability for the deliverables and extend rewards for successes.

7. Manage Through VUCA

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States Army began using the term VUCA for training commanding officers. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Every good leader, team, and organization will experience VUCA. The key to manage in a VUCA world is to break it down into its individual parts and to identify volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous situations. Each situation has causes and resolutions, allowing you to deal with one at a time.

Bob Johansen, author of the book Leaders Make the Future provides suggestions on responding to VUCA threats.

  1. Counter volatility with vision
  2. Meet uncertainty with understanding
  3. React to complexity with clarity
  4. Fight ambiguity with agility


A good manager is key to creating a positive employee experience and driving employee engagement in an organization. Organizations will see a greater ROI on their engagement initiatives by orienting managers towards these behaviors. And lastly, to be an effective manager, develop and implement these 7 behaviors and you will be well positioned to create a positive employee experience for your team.

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