5 Attributes to Look for in Potential Managers


Have you ever promoted someone to be a manager, only to find out that they can hardly even manage themselves? This is a common problem across industries, and leads to issues such as disorganization, unmotivated team members, poor workplace communication, and lack of dedication to a common goal. Fortunately, there are ways to tell whether or not an employee has the potential to excel as a manager, and all it takes is careful consideration and a good barometer for high-achievers. Below are 5 key attributes to look for in potential managers.


1. Good Managers are Organized and Focused in Their Work

Managing and organizing go hand-in-hand. From hiring and delegating to scheduling meetings and keeping track of performance goals, managers are constantly organizing in some form. Since business leaders tend to be juggling many priorities at once, the ability to multitask and keep track of progress on multiple different fronts is a trait that is essential in any potential manager candidate. When looking for potential managers, pay close attention to the manner in which employees complete tasks, and whether or not there is a “method to their madness” in terms of workplace priorities. Organizational skills go a long way in the business world, so having managers with them can help your bottom line tremendously. 

One of the most important facets of keeping organized as a leader is time management. Lou Holtz, famous Notre Dame football coach coined the phrase “what’s important now?” which helps leaders keep themselves on track in terms of priorities, and worrying less about unimportant aspects of their work. Having managers who can prioritize efficiently, and stay on track in terms of what needs to be done is immensely important.


2. Good Managers Have Strong Interpersonal Abilities

The capacity to relate to others and build meaningful relationships is a skill that any successful manager should have. Leaders who are cold, unapproachable, or off-putting have a hard time getting people on board with their ideas, and can even discourage employees from following their lead. Practicing empathy, understanding, and genuine curiosity about the feelings of those around them is a skillset that keeps employees happy, and ultimately leads to a motivated workplace. After all “Interpersonal skills and communication skills lie at the center of human-based managerial considerations,” and people naturally gravitate towards those with these skills anyway. When considering a team member for a management position, gauge how they interact with you, other employees, as well as other higher-ups in the organization. If they seem difficult to keep a conversation with, they may not be the best choice for promotion.


3. Good Managers are Effective Communicators

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Management is all about communication. If messages aren’t presented clearly and concisely, they often fall flat in the eyes (well ears technically) of the audience. If that audience is your workforce, and the message pertains to your growth and organizational success, then having a good messenger is crucial. From keeping employees engaged, to effectively coaching job skills, good communication goes a long way.  Here are some things to look for when determining whether or not a team member has the communication skills needed to excel as a manager:

  • They have effective nonverbal communication skills
  • They seem to be open and honest with those they interact with
  • They possess good listening skills and listen actively
  • They communicate their ideas in an organized manner with a singular, obvious message

Though effective communication is important, exactly what is communicated is critical as well. When analyzing how a team member communicates, remember to pay close attention to what exactly they are communicating. Are they expressing interest in taking the reins on certain projects, and following through with their commitments? This might be another sign that they are a good fit for a future managerial position.


4. Good Managers Show Initiative and Take Action

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Commitment is contagious. Motivated managers are able to inspire their employees to reach goals, and keep momentum when goings get tough. Employees who practice commitment to their work as opposed to compliance are far more likely to act as a beacon for motivation for those around them, and make far better managers than those who simply “show up.” Some people find this difficult, but there are many ways to demonstrate initiative as a team-member, and doing so helps that employee stand out. When a difficult task is put in front of team members at your organization, analyze who gets discouraged, and who accepts the challenge. If an employee is afraid to take control of situations that are put in front of them, they might not be cut-out for the overload of responsibilities that come with being a manager.


5. Good Managers are Gritty

The difficulties that a manager can face on a daily basis cannot be understated. Overseeing multiple people with different needs and motivations can be extremely stressful, and can take a toll on managers who are unable to overcome adversity. Grit is essentially the ability to take these difficulties with stride, and find solutions to issues as opposed to succumbing to them. Angela Duckworth, a leading researcher on the concept of grit states that, “the first thing managers should understand is that people who are gritty will doggedly pursue things that they really value.” This means that those who truly value their work and have the tenacity to ensure the outcome is successful are more likely to be good managers. Letting issues pile up and not responding effectively to adversity can be a sign that a team member is not fit to lead, and might need more time to develop before they are considered.

Something else that ties into the concept of grit is the ability to take feedback, and improve from it. Someone without grit may get discouraged by failure or feedback and never improve. A great potential manager is someone who is able to take feedback into consideration, and improve themselves through deliberate practice and self-reflection. 



Although there are many ways to spot a good potential manager, there are some things that should be taught in a more structured setting. Skills such as delegation, effective discipline, managing complaints, and job coaching can be learned by essentially anyone if given the right program. Vital Learning offers time-tested, proven management training that will prepare any manager for the difficult situations they might encounter on a daily basis. On-the-job experience and natural abilities are important, but giving managers the skills they need to truly excel in their new role is crucial to achieving business success. 


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