Managing People: Go from Good to Great

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Leadership Development


If I could change one thing that keeps “good” managers of people from being great managers of people, it would be to redefine what being a “good” manager means.

The Good Manager

Many think a good manager of people means being…

  • the problem-solver?
  • the answer-giver?
  • the obstacle –remover?

Though satisfying, this is a trap.

The Trap

Early in my career I was working with Alex, a shop floor employee who desperately wanted to be promoted.  He asked me to help him develop and plan for this.

He and I went over the skills and experiences needed for him to be a good candidate for promotion.  Over time, though, it became apparent he didn’t want to put in the work.  It was just about getting his ticket punched.

I was so frustrated with not being able to get through to Alex about doing the work to earn the promotion.  After all, he did have skills and talent.  It’s not like he wasn’t capable.

One evening I went for a walk to think this over.  I was bending my boyfriend’s ear with my frustration over Alex. Then it occurred to me that Alex was probably not as stressed out over this as I was.

Oops, I had fallen into the “good” manager trap.  That’s the moment I had my great manager epiphany.

Get Smart. Go From Good to Great

Alex was really ticked off at me because of what he had to do to earn a promotion.  Our development discussions morphed into him complaining about what he described as the unfairness of the process.  I quit trying to convince him otherwise.  I just kept reminding him of what was required to advance and how he could accomplish that.

If you are devoting more effort than the employee to their advancement or improvement, stop right there and return the responsibility back to where it belongs.

Holding them accountable doesn’t mean you abandon the under-performer, the problem employee or the ones like Alex, who have aspirations but no intention of putting in the work.  As I did with Alex, get really clear with them about their responsibilities and the consequences of their choices.

The Payoff

When you notice what’s going on and take different action, you will gain time to spend more productively… on your own job, your self, and other employees who are willing to accept your guidance and hold pull their own weight.

What other limiting beliefs get in the way of becoming a great manager of people?

Image: BigStockPhoto Contributor Goosey


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About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers:  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Ralph  |  19 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Great post Mary,

To me the DIY attitude is a limiting factor. A great manager is one that participates in the team and fills a role accountable to his team and not one that takes over when the going gets tough.


Mary C Schaefer  |  22 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Hi Ralph. DIY is another great example of a limiting factor in our attempt to be a “good” manager.

I like how you put it: “A great managers.. is not one that takes over when the going gets tough.”

Thanks for commenting.

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