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Five Habits of Great Managers 

Managing is truly one of the hardest responsibilities of any executive, regardless of whether the number of employees is one or 1,001. Throughout my career I have witnessed awesome examples of management, while also seeing truly horrible managers.  

For this month’s column, I’ve tried to narrow the top practices and habits to five. See if you practice these. 


  1. You make decisions and aren’t afraid to be wrong.


Few things bother me more than analysis paralysis. We all know managers who are afraid to make a decision until they have absolutely reviewed every possible scenario, and have eliminated any and all risk. 

I don’t mean brain surgery here. I’m talking about the average decision that needs to be made in the day-to-day operation of the organization. The best leaders will get as much data and information as they can, and then make the decision. If it proves to be wrong, you alter or change directions.  

Be an action-oriented leader and make decisions. But be willing to admit if it was a bad decision and change course. This leads to No. 2. 


  1. You own the organization mistakes and NEVER put an employee down.


Mistakes will happen. As a manager, you will make bad decision, your team will make mistakes and mistakes will happen that had nothing to do with you. Own them all. The best managers I’ve witnessed never took credit for the positive things, but always took the blame for the mistakes. Did you notice that Mark Zuckerberg took all the blame when he testified before Congress recently? 

And whatever you do, NEVER put down an employee. There is never a reason to put down an employee or make the employee feel ashamed, embarrassed or unappreciated.  

I know an executive who goes out of his way to find fault in everything. It could be the salad at the managers’ meeting, the angle of the projector at the company meeting or the font or wording on the agenda. He is always asking, WHO? The morale isn’t very good at this organization, and they enjoy the days he is traveling. 


  1. You are never afraid to ask for help or seek advice.


No one expects the manager to know everything. But managers are expected to ask for help or get advice if they don’t know. 

One of my old board members is a true guru when it comes to sales. He has had a sales career for more than 40 years and could sell anything. It was just in his genetic make-up. He was asked to join a board several years ago, by the board chairman, because of sales issues and concerns. More than a year after joining the board I asked him how it was going. To my surprise he told me the CEO had yet to even reach out to him or ask him for help. What a waste of a talented resource. 

Great managers will always ask for help, seek advice and get second opinions. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a habit of great leaders. And remember, you don’t have to take every bit of advice or input you get. In the end, it is still your decision. 


  1. You listen way more than you talk.


If your manager is constantly bragging about “his” or “her” accomplishments, you have a problem. This is a sign of someone who is insecure. Truly awesome leaders don’t talk about themselves. They will always downplay any inquiry and turn the attention back on the team. 

The best leaders I’ve witnessed are humble, rarely discuss what they have accomplished and go out of their way to listen to others. Even better is the manager who throws out probing questions in order to get the team to think and dig deeper. 

Try this as a test. At your next managers meeting, if more than 10-15 percent of the comments and information is coming from you, you are talking too much and trying to dominate the meeting. And whatever you do, don’t criticize, correct or put down someone in the meeting. 


  1. You make your employees feel appreciated and like business partners.


Before you say a single word, or ask for something of an employee, ask yourself if you would treat a business partner that way. Just because you are the manager, team lead or executive director, it doesn’t give you the right to treat an employee like something less than a business partner. 

If every manager treated employees like he or she would treat an equal business partner, you would never have employee turnover.  


And finally, to all the employees out there, if your manager isn’t demonstrating these five simple practices, put this on their desk or tape it to their door. If they fail to change, find a new manager. Every employee deserves to be lead by an awesome manager. FBN 


By Paul T. Thomas 

T Paul Thomas teaches business and nonprofit entrepreneurship at Northern Arizona University, serves as the CEO of the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance (NALA) and is the Chief Entrepreneur at the NACET Accelerator. Prior to joining NAU in 2013, Thomas spent 25 years as a serial CEO and president. He can be reached at 


One Response to Five Habits of Great Managers 

  1. John Henry Green May 11, 2018 at 3:09 PM #

    This is a great article! I agree with every strength you listed. As a manager and now director, you must listen more than you talk, share a common vision, while empowering others to take action, take risks, fix opportunities, and provide solutions. Thanks for sharing!

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