This evening, I asked my mentors who their favorite managers were and why. I was really surprised by their answers-not because they were unusual but because they weren't about anything technical or specific. It was about how those managers made them feel. Here's the breakdown:
1. Good Managers are Compassionate
For both mentors, this was the strongest value. Their managers were forgiving, supportive, and understanding. When direct reports were having a hard time (either because they failed or because they were going through difficult in their personal hardships), these managers were steadfast. One mentor described his favorite manager as one of those people who makes you feel their warm, encouraging energy just from being in the same room. I found this really interesting because it wasn't about prioritization or structure or direction. It was about managers making their direct reports feel accepted and valued as human beings.
2. Good Managers Empower Direct Reports to Make Decisions and Fail
This was the second most prevalent type of feedback on good managers. Their managers did not micro manage. They trusted direct reports to run independently and when they failed, managers didn't judge or punish them as a result. They asked questions and provided recommendations but always made it clear that in the end, it was not the manager's decision.
3. Good Managers Don't Take Credit
One mentor pointed out the fact that their favorite manager was selfless. He said his boss never took credit for the work of his direct reports and that he was mainly focused on his team's personal and professional growth (maybe even more than his own).
Flashback to 1998...
My favorite manager is still my teacher, Chris Jaglo, from the 6th grade. Every day she'd make the girls in her class recite the phrase "I'm a bold, strong, woman." If we didn't say it loud enough, we'd have to repeat the phrase until the volume was sufficient.
She made us all learn the same material regardless of our level and ensured the success of every student through repetition. Throughout the drills, she'd enthusiastically call out every student's name, ask for the answer, and throw candy at them once they replied correctly.
If students fell behind, she'd keep in them in during recess and have them play board games that gave them further repetition. She was a steady, positive force with high expectations for all of us. We followed her happily, knowing that she'd never let us down or make us feel embarrassed in front of our classmates.
Chris Jaglo, my favorite manager, didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy and she didn't let me fail. She did, however, give me credit for my success and she was selfless, devoting all her time and energy to helping me grow. She had my utmost trust and respect and I worshipped her because she made me feel capable and confident. To this day, I still think of Chris every time I get promoted, receive a raise, lead a meeting, take on a new direct report, or present a design. I guess she was right. I am a bold, strong, woman.