What Makes a Great Manager?

Ever had a relationship go south? Somebody disappointed someone else and everyone suffered. Maybe it could have all been avoided if you each knew what the heck the other one wanted. It happens in the bedroom, on the playing field and in the office. Guys… we all have to talk!

For an outwardly quiet man, my former boss was a good talker. I knew when he was happy with me and I knew when he wasn’t. But what a seasoned professional he was. He never chastised me for any obvious mistake I made. He knew I would beat myself up enough and chose not to pile on. My manager only discussed my shortcomings when I didn’t recognize them myself. I remember one incident, when I was already a senior banker (obviously we’re never immune from screwing up.) I had been recently named the head of the Latin American Private Equity practice at our firm. One day my boss told me I needed to soften my approach with a particular Latin American client (the one with the wife half his age without many of her original body parts- but I’m not passing judgment). He told my boss my “American style” was too aggressive, that he wasn’t comfortable with women like me. I hadn’t heard that before but, hey, he was the client so I followed my manager’s advice and cranked it back a notch.

And when it came time for my review, my boss and I could talk about the progress I made, not the mistakes. There were no surprises- exactly what I like when I’m reviewed.

Many of you are managed more than manage others at this stage of your careers. But someday you’ll be someone’s boss. Please keep them informed, especially when they need to improve. Too many good professionals are shocked by a bad review, cut from a team, or even laid off, with no prior knowledge of their shortcomings. That’s just bad management.