6 Key Elements of a Great Manager

What is Management?

If you look up management you will find this common definition ‘the process of dealing with or controlling things or people’. It implies it is something you do to people, but for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Successful management is something you do in collaboration with people. People are a company’s greatest asset and often its biggest expenditure. Therefore, ensuring they are happy and productive is essential for success. With this in mind, I have always seen my role as a manager to ensure the above is true.

Management isn’t always easy and often it involves tough decisions. Great managers have tough conversations. They address the elephant in the room. They deal with poor performance because they want to see the individual, team and business thrive.

The Importance of Building Trusted Relationships

So how do you become great at management? Whether it’s managing your team, stakeholders, or clients, there is one essential ingredient – trusted relationships.

‘Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships’. – Stephen Covey

Think of that manager that you didn’t rate…what was the reason?  Didn’t you trust their judgement or capabilities? Did you feel they treated you differently? Did you not believe what they said or did they seem fake? Whatever the reason it is highly likely it boiled down to a lack of trust.

Peaceful couple balancing and doing acro yoga in studio

Building trusted relationships isn’t easy. It takes several key elements, let’s look at 6 in more detail:

1. Authenticity – Being You

Being your authentic self is vital in building trust. A façade can only last so long and you will come across as disingenuous.  Being perfect isn’t what makes a great manager. Instead, being honest about your core beliefs, values and areas of development shows your humanity. Showing you value development can help to support and create meaningful coaching and/or mentoring sessions. Developing your self-awareness via self-reflection can also help you to remain authentic.

Another way to show authenticity is via being open to and welcoming feedback, this also helps when giving feedback as people feel it is coming from a place of honesty.

Practical tip – have a session where everyone shares on an area of development they are currently working on.  Take the lead and share yours first, you will be surprised who might be able to help you with your development.

2. Integrity – Being Honest

Tough decisions, whether that has been around business or individual performance, or hiring and firing, result in difficult conversations.  But when they are approached with integrity and with genuine intentions they become much easier. For example, letting someone’s underperformance continue might seem like an easy option because you don’t have to have that difficult conversation and rock the boat, but while you do that you undermine the trust of the rest the team.   Overall, this erodes team culture, creates silos and, ultimately, breaks down trust. So yes, we would all love to only be the bringers of good news, but we must face into the difficult bad news too in order to maintain our integrity.

Lady Justice statue in law firm office

Practical tip – When in a position where you have to give bad news ensure you give the team/individual an opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts and feelings.  You won’t be able to change the situation. However, showing empathy and understanding goes a long way to cement your integrity. 

3. Accountability – Being Responsible

Holding yourself and others accountable for their actions and behaviours in another essential role of a manager.  You must establish and agree on clear values and goals with individuals. Targets that motivate them to be accountable and do the right thing.  Holding someone accountable isn’t about authority, fear or micro-management, but instead, is about honesty and consistency.  Letting people know where they stand and allowing for open conversations.

In the same vein if you made a bad decision, missed a deadline, or made a mistake, hold your hands up.  Leading by example will show that you value honesty and accountability.

Practical tip – have regular one to ones with your team members to see where they are on a project or objective. Offer support and guidance, but also push them outside of their comfort zone into an area of growth.

4. Vulnerability – Being Open

Showing vulnerability can often be seen as a sign of weakness. However, it is so important to create authentic connections.  Showing vulnerability often leads to others sharing and showing their vulnerability which, in turn, strengthens the trust in the relationship.  It also shows you are open and more emotionally available for people to share and bond.

What is Management?, Vulnerable, Face-to-face sharing

This is particularly important in the case of your team’s emotional and mental wellbeing.  Your team knowing they can come to you and show their vulnerability, whether that be around bereavement, relationship or mental health issues, without judgement is vital. This will only come when trust is high.

Practical tip – take the opportunity to share your story with the business and show your vulnerability. For example, tell your personal experience of mental health during mental health awareness. Alternatively, share a relevant experience in a team meeting.

5. Curiosity – Taking an Interest

It’s all about listening to understand not just hear, and asking open questions to find out more. Knowing what makes someone tick, knowing why they get out of bed, knowing their life, dreams and aspirations.  Good management requires taking an interest in the person, not just the employee. Make people feel a  sense of value and belonging.  Creating an environment where people are accepted and valued helps to foster curiosity in others.

Practical tip – have informal conversations with your team.  Take note of events or important things happening in their life.  Then ask them about it at a later date i.e. How did your son get on at this football competition?

6. Tenacity – Being Persistent

You have to put in the effort and take the time to grow and develop a trusted relationship, it won’t happen all by itself.  If you don’t put in the dedication you won’t end up with a truly trusted relationship that is built on strong foundations.

What is Management?, Don't quit sign, Persistent

Practical tip – map out the relationships you want to improve and then arrange a getting to know you session with the individual.  Explain why you want to build your relationship. 


We all remember managers who we thought were great, and at the heart of why will be that you had a trusted relationship.  Great management can only be achieved through true connections and these are built on trust. No-one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but showing you are human as well as a manager can make all the difference.

So again, I ask, what is management?  It’s the ability to build and maintain trusted relationships to drive results and outcomes.

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills and our People Management Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more People Management Skills Tips and  HR Management Tips.

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