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5 essential expectations of a good manager

As a new manager, what the things you should expect of yourself? Start with these foundational five expectations of a good manager, here.

Expectations of a good manager

What are the expectations of a good manager? If you’re new in your leadership role, this may be a question you’re contemplating. After all, you can only be as good as what you expect of yourself, as a leader.

Notice that I said, “what you expect of yourself.” Being a good manager cannot be purely based on what others expect of you – largely because, they won’t know. Only you will know the extent to which you’re doing your part. This isn’t a standard anyone else is holding you to or a rubric that your boss or board members are going to be measuring you against when it comes time for promotion.

This is about having expectations of yourself so you feel pride in your work and in your effort. Despite what the outcomes are of your team – someone leaves, a project fails – you know you will have given things your best shot.

That’s why knowing your expectations are critical. It’s a wind test as you put your sails up. Am I going in the right direction? It’s a litmus test as you put your head on your pillow as you go to bed at night and ask yourself, “Has today been a good day?”

From the 15,000+ people we’ve worked with at Know Your Team and the 1,000+ managers in our online leadership community, I’ve identified the core 5 expectations of a good manager that you should have of yourself…

#1: You put what’s in the best interest of the team, ahead of your own personal interest.

Good leadership is not about being liked. It’s not about being nice. It’s about having to do the hard thing, the right thing, the honest thing, even when it’s least convenient for you personally. After all, you’re the only person whose sole job is to look out for the best interest of the team. No one will know if you didn’t voice feedback to a direct report because you were worried about how it would make you look. Your team is trusting you to do and act in a way that puts everyone else in the best position, not just you in the best position.

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#2: You model the behavior you want to be true in a team.

There’s the leadership platitude “lead from the front” that exists for a reason – because it’s true. Your team is looking to you for cues, patterns, and a standard for acceptable behavior. If you want your team to be honest with you, you’ve got to be honest with them. If you want your team to be forthcoming about their mistakes, you’ll need to be forthcoming about yours. Have this expectation of yourself and the likelihood that you’ll see the behavior you ultimately want to see from your team will increase.

#3: You know you can’t “give” motivation, but you can help a team motivate themselves.

Often times, as a manager, we wonder, “How do I motivate my team?” Unfortunately, this isn’t quite the right question to ask. Motivation is not a thing you can give your team – it’s a thing your team already has. Your team already has inherent gifts, talents, skills, passions, and influence that they can apply to their jobs. The questions are: How can you get out of their way, as a leader? How do you show how their work matters? How do you align their personal visions with the team’s vision? Your role as a leader isn’t to give motivation, but rather to create an environment where your team members can motivate themselves.

#4: Everyone is not like you – and you act accordingly.

Every single team member’s motivations, preferences, and proclivities are different from your own – and it’s up to you as a manager to figure out what they are. It’s an important expectation of a good manager to internalize because, without it, we tend to make decisions as leaders that have unintended negative consequences. For example, we think, “Well I enjoy public recognition, so we’ll publicly thank someone every single week at our all-hands meeting”… not realizing that someone might, in fact, feel bashful for having all the attention placed on them and truly made uncomfortable. Good leaders understand they must individualize their approach, and not just project their own preferences onto others.

#5: You view “success” as your team solving the problem themselves.

Your job isn’t to solve problems – it’s to help your team solve the problems themselves. Solve all the problems in your team and you become the bottleneck. No one can get anything done without coming to you, asking for your approval, or using one of your ideas. If the entire premise of a team is to accomplish something no single individual could have on their own, then when you step in to solve every problem, you, in essence, defeat the purpose of having a team.

Becoming an exceptional leader begins with holding yourself to the right expectations. Begin with these five expectations of a good manager here.

Looking for more detailed guidance on this topic? Make sure to check out our Training Program.
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Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Canopy. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.