Leadership

10 requirements of the perfect manager

If you could hire your next boss, what selection criteria would you use? Alan Norton shares a make-believe want ad aimed at finding the ideal manager.

Haven't you wished at least once that you could hire your next boss? You might win the lottery, buy the company, and do just that. But chances are if that happened, you would be out the door in less time than it took to pick the numbers.

One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that I don't have to win the lottery for my daydreams to become reality. In the land of Norxodd, my team and I get to create the ad copy for hiring our next manager, review the list of candidates, interview the final choices, and select the best person for the job. Here are the requirements I have selected for the perfect manager, in "help wanted" format.


1: Be a "people person"

Norxodd is people and we are looking for managers who like people. You should be comfortable with conflict resolution. You should know how people work and know how to motivate your team. If you are better with computers than people and understand Klingon better than English, you are not a good fit for our managerial team. We may, however, have an opening in our Communications Services Center and suggest you send us your resume/CV via email with the words "CSC MAIL ROOM" in the subject line. A good sense of humor is also a must-have attribute.

2: Be visionary

Can you see the future? We need managers who can identify the next product or service that will be in demand and bring it to life. You should be goal oriented and effectively use your resources to "create the unusual." If your definition of "visionary" is the ability to see out a large picture window in a corner office, you would be wise to envision your career with another company.

3: Be a good communicator

You should be able to communicate effectively using all methods, including visual presentations, public speaking, email, teleconferencing, and face-to-face. Good communication is a two-way street. You will be required to routinely update your employees on their and the team's performance. You will communicate any feedback from upper management and customers and provide status information when asked. Employees will provide feedback via a process called "Rate your boss," which will enable managers to improve their performance.

All information at Norxodd is shared equally among all employees. Except for private personnel information, we have no secrets between loyal Norxodd team members. Good communication does not include shouting, cursing, throwing a fit, threatening, or any other form of physical or verbal abuse. In answer to recent questions received at our Communications Services Center, we do not use Pneumatic Tube Transport for internal communication.

4: Be technically proficient

The products we create at Norxodd are technically complicated. You don't' need to be able to code in C#, but you should be able to give technical guidance and decide the best strategies and methods for success. And no, having watched Happy Feet or the March of the Penguins does not qualify you as technically proficient in Linux.

5: Put your employees' needs first

We need managers with a selfless attitude who are willing to fall on their sword (figuratively not literally) to meet the needs of their staff. Climbing the corporate ladder should come second to the needs of those working in the weeds. Our philosophy here at Norxodd is that our managers succeed best by satisfying the needs of their team. For example, you will be required to provide the tools your team needs. Each quarter, you will be given a bonus to distribute as you wish. "Selflessness" means giving those funds to your top performers and not using them for a round of golf with the secretary.

6: Encourage teamwork

Teamwork is important at Norxodd. Not only are you required to encourage the best practices for building teamwork, you are considered a part of the team. We have no doors at Norxodd for you to hide behind. In fact, we have no traditional office space for managers -- you are required to sit and work with your staff. You will be assisted by a secretary who will provide secretarial services to all team members, not just to you. Just for the record, we do have doors on all conference rooms and bathrooms, but using either as a permanent office is considered "unacceptable behavior."

7: Lead by example

The best managers lead by example at Norxodd. All managers are required to dress and act professionally at all times and to be available to give guidance and help when needed. Leading by example means working late and on weekends with your employees, parking with your employees, and using the same washroom as your employees. It's all about doing instead of pontificating -- and doing the right thing. We consider leading your team off a cliff the wrong thing -- misguided lemmings need not apply.

8: Treat your staff like professionals

You should have the confidence in your team's proficiency to decide most issues by themselves with only your guidance, as required. We treat every employee as a professional who doesn't need immediate supervision. You will be looking over your workload and not over your employees' shoulders. And isn't that a comforting thought.

9: Encourage professional growth

All managers are expected to grow their skills and those of their team members. One of our mottos here at Norxodd is "Be more than you are." No, that motto is not displayed outside the company cafeteria. Another of our mottos that encourages professional growth is "Keep moving forward" -- and it is proudly displayed in the cafeteria and on the dashboard of all company vehicles.

10: Do something special

Satisfying all the above criteria is not enough. You are also required to do something special for your employees that:

  • Will be remembered fondly decades from now.
  • Can be shared by the entire group.
  • Won't break the budget.

At Norxodd, we believe that life is too short not to have a little bit of fun along the way. Most of our lives are spent sleeping, followed next by time spent working. We therefore require our managers to create an atmosphere of fun (in the workplace that is, not in bed). A good manager is also in the memory creation business. In the big scheme of things, a manager who doesn't create happy memories is a failure in the game of life.


The bottom line

Looking for the perfect boss can be fun. Of course, I expect you to "ad" to the fun by including your job requirements.

A word of caution: At one company, my team and I had the privilege of interviewing the applicants who wanted to be our next supervisor. I emphasized that I expected our supervisor to be available to help in any way he or she could to meet our team's objectives. Somehow, that requirement was lost after the hire. I attribute this to the swelling of the head and the pressure on the prefrontal cortex that often results from landing a managerial position. I've solved that problem. In the land of Norxodd, my team and I have the power to fire.

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

17 comments
aamarov
aamarov

I would call it "10 commandments of a clown". Looks rather like a reflection of a standard "modern manager", not somebody able to lead a team of technical celebrities towards real breakthroughs.

vaughndumas
vaughndumas

One quality that I've appreciated in my managers (where I've worked for THEM) is that they formed a buffer between ourselves and the rest of the company. They handled all the boring communication stuff leaving us to do the work.

brian.s.graham@gmail.com
brian.s.graham@gmail.com

Some of us may not want to be managers, and are satisfied with being good employees, paid well, with excellent benefits. Is there an article for those of us who report to managers and simply want to be good "steady Eddy" employees? Sometimes being a good employee can lead to someone being a better manager...we make their job easier, and respectfully do our best.

ITsupportCOC
ITsupportCOC

Before "assuming" that the employee is totally in the wrong just because a user didnt get what they wanted when they wanted it, get the other side of the story first. Back up your employee for doing what they were told to do in the first place instead of throwing them under the bus without giving them a chance to defend what they did.

sboverie
sboverie

Great points for communication skills and team building. In the past, I have been dinged for my communication skills at review time; oddly, when I ask for specifics or how to improve I get nothing (leading me to believe that the communication issue was on the other side of the table). I am more interested in hiring a leader, specifically one who can lead his team to a higher level of need and ultimately the top need of self actualization that performs well above those teams who are demoralized with layoffs and budget cut backs. I also am looking for a leader who chooses to use his coercive powers as a last resort. I am looking for the confidant sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith TV series from the 60's) and not the excitable and hyper vigilant deputy Fife. A good leader/manager should use positive actions to encourage growth and not use steel toed boots to keep the underlings in line.

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

In the ideal world the manager would be a technical resource, and excellent leader. In the real world the manager tends to be the best (or not) administrator and probably not a very good leader. Look within the ranks though and you'll probably find a leader or two. When that occurs one has to hope that management does not view the leader(s) as a threat. True leadership, and management, does not need to the best or brightest individual on the team but they do need to know how to get the best from the brightest.

csu-tfoschini2
csu-tfoschini2

Doesn't the power to fire a manager suggest it's more important for the manager to follow the interests of the employees than the interests of the company? This power to the people concept is only as good as the people.with the power.

kelly.jacobson
kelly.jacobson

It takes one horrendous manager experience before you realize what is really important, and what you can learn to live with. You will never find the perfect manager - if and when you do, they will not be your supervisor very long, as they will be snatched up by someone else.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Work for longer than a few years and you will run across all kinds of managers. I have seen my share of managers who misused their power but for the most part, the managers I worked for in my role as a professional IT person had most of these traits. In general, I have noticed that the non-IT managers were better at people problems. I myself now wish that I had taken human psychology in college to better my people skills. That is why "Be a 'people person'" is first on my list. One manager had such an indelible negative impact, not how he treated me but how he treated my friends and co-workers that my subconscious will not let me forget. If you have other attributes of the perfect manager that you would like to see in your current or next manager, please share them with us. As always, I will be participating when I have something of importance to add or to answer your questions.

ITsupportCOC
ITsupportCOC

Now that is a GREAT management skill right there!!!

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Hello Brian. That would make for an interesting article. Not only are there good "steady Eddy" professionals, there are excellent hard working employees that don't want to be "partners" who are involved in the operation of the business - think hourly vs. salary. They often have a bad reputation from those higher on the corporate ladder but I have learned to respect their contributions.

sboverie
sboverie

This depends on the environment. It is generally a good idea to get information about an incident before making a decision, but sometimes this doesn't work. If the customer is in danger of losing face then it is more likely that the employee will be tossed under the bus. I was burned by this as well. I was supervising a few techs. One of the techs was at a customer's location for one call and refused to do another call for the customer. I took the tech's side, I was surprised at his refusal because it was out of character for him. The customer told me their side and I could no longer back the tech, the problem was that this incident cost my company the customer's business. The bad news was I began to find out how sub performing this tech was and how he would relay information to my bosses that made me look bad. I basically agree with standing up for your employees, but, as a manager you will need to balance the needs of your customer against one employee. A bad employee will effect more than their job and they can be hard to get rid of. Knowing your employees works to a point, but there are some who can disguise a problem or pass the blame until something simple turns into a crisis.

lexubw
lexubw

There is a difference between a manager and a leader. You do not want to hire a manager but you want to hire a leader. Who whats to be managed at work, what is what you spouse is for. As stated managers fear leaders since leaders earn the respect of peers versions managers that have to be given respect. I have a person that I worked for who was a true leader, he also did administration work but he lead the group. The only time I saw him manage was with a person that was having issues and he taught that person how to manager himself. The sign of a true leader...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There's seems to be an implicit assumption in your point that the manger's power to fire is always good, that it's always used with the good of the company in mind. Aside from the fact that I'm sure one or two of us could come up with examples that would invalidate the assumption, the fact that its in the best interests of the company for one us (or many) to be fired is unsurprisingly cold comfort.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

But would you want to concede power to non-humans as is suggested in The Day the Earth Stood Still? "This power to the people concept is only as good as the people.with the power." You are absolutely right which is why the U.S constitution was set up with checks and balances. A purely democratic system is imperfect as Alexander Fraser Tytler notes - "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy." The sharing of power is how good partnerships work. For those rare cases when a few people influence the group for selfish reasons, the owner, CEO or other ultimate authority should step in and prevent the firing. Having the power to influnce hiring means little without the power to fire.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Hello Kelly. It must be human nature to only appreciate something wonderful once it is gone. When you do find a good manager, show him or her your appreciation.

ITsupportCOC
ITsupportCOC

I agree with you--both sides should be presented before fully defending the employee...Until both sides are out on the table, as a manager at one time, I would always hold my full "appology" until I got all the facts while covering my employee. (Joe, I understand your frustration...Let me get with Sam and get further details. Will you be available later today? I really do want to take care of your issue and take the steps that may be needed. Maybe Joe didnt understand. We'll fix it.)