Maricopa Community Colleges Blog

15 Things Great Managers Do Differently

A photo of a great manager

What sets great managers apart? To answer this, we've gathered insights from 15 professionals, including Sales Managers, CEOs, and Life Coaches. From encouraging open and effective communication to handling conflict and poor performance, these experts share the unique actions that make a manager truly great.

  • Encourage Open and Effective Communication
  • Involve Themselves Actively in Challenging Times
  • Influence Performance and Recognize Contributions
  • Understand and Leverage Team Capacity
  • Prioritize Emotional Intelligence
  • Take on Challenges with the Team
  • Promote Continuous Learning
  • Trust Employees with Remote Work
  • Enhance Growth through Peer Mentorship
  • Believe in the Team and Communicate Clearly
  • Foster Innovation and Open-Mindedness
  • Plan and Challenge for Greatness
  • Embrace a Collaborative Management Style
  • Inspire Action in Teams
  • Handle Conflict and Poor Performance


Encourage Open and Effective Communication

The main thing I believe great managers do differently is to facilitate an extraordinary avenue of communication. They understand the value of clear, open, and effective communication and foster an environment that encourages it.

During my MBA, I was selected as the manager for our team in completing Harvard's Everest V3 simulation. Up until this point, none of us had worked together and communication was fractured. I realized the issue was that everyone was siloed in their own tasks, not fully understanding the broader picture.

 I changed my approach, providing more context, sharing goals, encouraging input, and most importantly, listening. I explained to everyone that I didn't know how to get us out of this any more than they did but, through our open and vulnerable dialogue, we could excel through this challenge together.

The transformation was profound. Team members started to understand their role in the larger mission, and the newfound transparency fostered trust and success.

John White, MBA, Sales Manager, Golf Instructor, John Carlton White


Involve Themselves Actively in Challenging Times

A situation comes to mind from my early startup days. We were grappling with a critical data extraction issue that was jeopardizing our credibility with a key client. With no immediate solution in sight, tensions ran high. 

As the manager, the simpler path could've been to step back, delegate, and let the team weather the storm. Yet, that's when I chose to dive in headfirst, to battle alongside them, tackling code and crunching numbers. It was grueling, but together we found a way out. 

Through it all, the message was clear—great leaders never bail on their team, they are the pillar, steadfast even amidst a storm.

Daniel Pfeffer, CEO, Scrape Network


Influence Performance and Recognize Contributions

Great managers understand the significant impact they have on employee performance and retention. Here's what I've learned through personal experience:

I've come to realize that as a manager, my role holds immense importance in shaping employee performance and job satisfaction. Employees often choose to stay with a company because of their relationship with their manager, underscoring the vital role managers play.

I've learned to go beyond viewing employees as mere resources. Each team member brings unique skills, talents, and aspirations to the table. By recognizing and appreciating their individual contributions, I foster a sense of belonging, loyalty, and engagement within the team.

Through firsthand experience, I've seen the power of open and supportive communication. By listening, providing feedback, and addressing concerns, I create an environment where employees feel valued.

Rafael Sarim Özdemir, Founder and CEO, Zendog Labs


Understand and Leverage Team Capacity

With more than three decades of professional experience under my belt, one striking observation I've made is that exceptional managers excel at understanding and leveraging the capacity of their teams. 

They don't merely assign tasks; they comprehend the unique strengths, limitations, and growth areas of each team member. They use this knowledge to effectively distribute work and ensure that everyone is engaged and performing at their peak. 

Once I was leading a project in the mid-2000s. We were running behind schedule, and I had a manager who had an incredible knack for understanding our team's capacity. Instead of pushing everyone to work overtime, he reassigned tasks to those with relevant expertise, reducing the workload while improving productivity. Great managers, in my experience, do this consistently.

Derek Bruce, First Aid Training Director, Skills Training Group


Prioritize Emotional Intelligence

In my work as a life coach and psychology expert, I've found that the most effective managers prioritize emotional intelligence. They have the ability to perceive, use, understand, and manage emotions—not just their own, but those of their team as well. This emotional sensitivity enables them to respond mindfully rather than react impulsively.

I once coached a manager who struggled with team motivation. By incorporating mindfulness and emotional intelligence into his leadership style, he began to listen and connect more empathetically with his team, attuned not just to their words but to their non-verbal cues as well. 

This shift allowed the team to feel seen, heard, and understood, leading to a more productive work environment and stronger team cohesion.

Bayu Prihandito, Psychology Expert, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture


Take on Challenges with the Team

One key difference that sets great managers apart is their readiness to “'get their hands dirty.” This principle played a crucial role in my managerial approach at work. In one particular instance, we had a large training session scheduled, and our regular trainer fell sick unexpectedly. Rather than cancel or reschedule, I decided to step in and lead the training session myself. 

Although it had been a while since I directly conducted a session, I wanted to demonstrate that I was not above doing the challenging tasks my team often faced. This act wasn't just about filling a role in a crisis; it was also a way of showing solidarity with my team, emphasizing that no task was beneath me, and no work was too mundane or difficult. 

This approach fostered mutual respect and a sense of shared responsibility within our team, contributing greatly to our work culture.

Haya Subhan, General Manager, First Aid at Work Course


Promote Continuous Learning

In my experience running a digital marketing agency, one key behavior that stands out among the most effective managers is they never stop learning. 

I have a manager on my team, and she's not satisfied with just ticking off the boxes; she goes above and beyond to keep herself updated with new trends, technologies, and strategies in digital marketing. 

For example, she took it upon herself to learn about AI-powered analytics, a topic outside her comfort zone, but pertinent to our industry. By doing so, she not only enhanced her own skills but also elevated our whole team's performance. A thirst for knowledge truly sets apart the great managers from the good.

Joe Troyer, CEO and Growth Advisor, Digital Triggers


Trust Employees with Remote Work

One thing great managers do differently is that they trust their employees to work remotely. It might sound simple, but it's a significant shift in perspective.

At ZenMaid, for instance, we let our team members work remotely and choose their working hours. It's about trust, and it creates a sense of accountability. It lets employees thrive in their chosen environment. The focus shifts from physical hours in the office to the actual output.

Allowing remote work builds trust within the team. And today, with all the advancements in technology, setting up a productive remote workplace is easier than ever. So, if you're a manager, consider this approach. It's about output, not office hours. It's about trust, not control. And ultimately, it's about people, not just the work they do.

Amar Ghose, CEO, ZenMaid


Enhance Growth through Peer Mentorship

As a manager at an organization that employs people with a range of skill sets and wide experience, I find that the best way to let my team develop better internal communication is to have them learn from each other.

For instance, some of the people I work with have excellent technical skills, while others have potential and interest but need some support. So by setting up peer mentorship, I can ensure that skills are being enhanced and that people are growing within the organization. 

On a personal note, sometimes employees need emotional support, and it makes a difference if it comes from someone going through the same motions. Whether it's a professional or personal issue, knowing they're able to work through them with someone who can relate is a great motivator!

Manasvini Krishna, Founder, Boss as a Service


Believe in the Team and Communicate Clearly

In my experience, great managers do one thing differently: they believe in their team.

I've worked with a lot of managers who have had great ideas and plans, but they didn't truly believe in the people who were executing them. They expected everything to go perfectly because they were so sure their idea was brilliant—and when it didn't go perfectly, they blamed us for not doing the work right. Or worse, they blamed themselves for not being able to communicate clearly enough for us to understand how brilliant their idea was. Neither of those is fair or productive.

A great manager will take responsibility for getting their message across clearly and effectively, but also give credit where credit is due when things don't work out as planned. They know that no matter how well you communicate your idea, there are always going to be bumps in the road—and they'll help you navigate them instead of throwing blame around when things go wrong.

Jaanus Põder, Founder and CEO, Envoice


Foster Innovation and Open-Mindedness

The best business cultures value innovation over most else. Stifling ideas means never moving beyond the status quo, so great managers allow room for brainstorming and creative thought at every level of employment.

This requires trust and open-mindedness.

When a company stays forward-thinking, fostering development and growth, I know they're committed to hiring managers who respect a worker's ability to link their own success to that of the broader business. This collective focus on innovation means abandoning a top-down approach and skipping techniques that rely on micromanagement. Still, the pivot is worthwhile, as financial outcomes are bolstered and employee satisfaction rates increase.

Linn Atiyeh, CEO, Bemana


Plan and Challenge for Greatness

The one thing that great leaders do differently is to have plans for themselves and their team members.  They know about having moments that truly matter to grow themselves and others. They carry the water. They set the tone. They have radical candor just like the book suggested by Kim Scott. 

They care deeply yet have the courage and the wherewithal to have meaningful conversations that change lives. They see where the person is and meet them there but they don’t stay there. They respectfully challenge the inward person and call out greatness uncensored. They expose the person to people, places and situations that change them for the better. 

They don’t need to be granted permission to tap into the person and achieve greatness. They are never satisfied with average. They dare greatly to have conversations that change the landscape and the game. Leaders like this possess an innate sense of comfort with themselves and never try to outdo others. They are gifted with people maximizing.

Tanya Turner, MBA, SHRM-CP, PHR, HR Director, SALTO Systems, Inc 


Embrace a Collaborative Management Style

One thing great managers do differently is to embrace and follow through on a collaborative team style of management rather than a rigid autocratic style.

As a team lead for a digital media company providing insurance information to consumers, I've successfully employed a collaborative management style inspired by a former manager.  He had an "open-door" policy in which his team could come to him with suggestions and questions.

He did have one caveat, however: "If you come to me with a problem, bring a possible solution." I quickly discovered the many benefits of this rule: It made for more productive use of his time, it enhanced his employees' problem-solving skills, and it led to improvements within our department and for the company as a whole.

It was a form of mentorship that also led to enhanced employee engagement and even career opportunities.

Michelle Robbins, Licensed Insurance Agent,


Inspire Action in Teams

In my experience, great managers distinguish themselves through "Inspiring Action." Rather than simply directing tasks, they ignite a spark of motivation, making their team feel valued and part of something larger. 

Take, for instance, a manager I once knew at a tech start-up. Instead of just assigning coding tasks, she engaged her team by sharing how their work would revolutionize user experience. She painted a vivid picture, linking each individual's effort to the bigger vision. It wasn't just about writing code anymore, but creating a transformative product. 

This led to a noticeable rise in team spirit, effort, and, ultimately, a groundbreaking user interface. Truly, a manager's ability to inspire can turn an ordinary team into extraordinary achievers.

Alexandru Contes, Co-founder, ReviewGrower


Handle Conflict and Poor Performance

Over my long career, the number one trait I saw that separated great managers from the rest is that they aren’t scared of conflict.

They understand that keeping bad employees around only punishes their good employees. So if employees aren’t doing what’s expected of them, great managers will try to fix this behavior as soon as it pops up. If they cannot improve this behavior, they aren’t afraid to let the employee go.

On the other hand, bad managers will tolerate these employees, and this hurts the entire team.

Scott Lieberman, Owner, Touchdown Money

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