Recently, I was in a lunch discussion with a former work colleague about the qualities of an exceptional manager. I was curious about his thoughts because in my mind, he’s always been an exceptional leader, particularly in managing people.  As we shared our thoughts on the topic, he had a simple reflection. He said that the problem with many managers is that they “don’t know the basics.”

He’s right, and research and labor force surveys agree. Most managers lack the fundamental skills to do their number one job, manage employees.  As a result, most employees feel disengaged from their jobs and frequently quit because of a negative relationship with a manager.

When it comes to the basics, exceptional managers keep their eyes on the following principles. These are principles I frequently saw firsthand in my colleague:

  • Vision– Effective managers guide their work and teams according to a clear organizational vision.
  • Results-oriented– Great managers are focused on achieving concrete, high-impact results.
  • Positive Relationships – Employees thrive with managers who are focused on creating positive relationships, where workers feel valued, trusted and supported in their growth.
  • Collective Intelligence – Effective managers value teamwork or “collective intelligence” as the best approach for achieving great results.
  • Big Picture – The best managers hold and work effectively across the entire organization as they focus on their priorities and results. In other words, they are aware of how their decisions may affect other priorities, departments and managers in the organization.
  • Communications – Related to positive relationships, high-quality managers make it a priority to meet regularly with their team members to stay current on their work and provide problem-solving and other types of support.

In addition to the above attributes, my work colleague had other great skills. For example, he was amazing at project management, strategic planning and handling finances. Still, it was mostly his daily practice of basic management tools that made him exceptional.