According to the CIPD, the number one reason people leave organisations isn’t salary or lack of progression, it’s their manager. People don’t leave organisations they leave bad managers.

Reflecting on your own career have you ever left an organisation because of that reason? I know I have. So what are the fundamental differences between being a good vs. bad manager and how can we make sure that we are able to consistently demonstrate the traits of a great manager with our teams.

Am I a bad manager?

One could argue that what we perceive as a bad manager might be subjective, however there are certain negative traits that we need to avoid if we don’t want to be perceived as one ourselves. The top traits we hear on our management development programmes are not listening, being overly critical,  being too hands-on – the dreaded micromanager, or too hands-off – not showing enough support, and not delegating effectively or at all. All these leave direct reports feeling disengaged, frustrated and unheard – leading to a decrease in performance and low morale.

So assuming as managers, nobody goes to work in the morning to intentionally be a bad manager, what causes us to inadvertently fall into those traps? Time is often cited as the main issue, alongside not feeling able to delegate, not knowing how to develop or coach an employee, being reluctant to ask for feedback, failing to define clear goals, misunderstanding employee motivation, hurrying recruitment, and the most significant being stressed and emotionally hijacked, inhibiting our ability to think and act rationally.  Add to these everyday issues such as managing sickness and employee’s personal issues and expectations and management becomes a precarious balancing act.

Unfortunately, many Managers are often not adequately trained for the actual management role prior to being placed in their position and are therefore unprepared in how to deal with the staff that they oversee.  We often become managers because we are good at what we do, not because we are good at managing people. I remember my first transition into management back in 1998, being told by my boss that my new marketing assistant would be starting the next day. It was the first I had heard of it and the only instruction I ever received. I knew nothing about being a manager. Like most of us, a period of trial and much error ensued. If only I had been shown the basic principles of management back then.

Back to Basics

And it is the basics that are critical throughout your career as a manager, such as learning how to motivate and inspire others, how to set and achieve organisational goals, how to provide clear feedback and direction, how to coach and when to delegate. In addition we need to consistently demonstrate the behaviours of a good manager. And it’s our behaviours that make all the difference. In William Glasser’s Choice Theory, he talks about the 7 Deadly & 7 Caring Habits that impact the quality of relationships. So to be a good manager we need to be more intentional about the behaviours we demonstrate – particularly when we are under stress, facing shifting priorities or working with more challenging personalities. We need to identify the deadly habits that we might fall foul of under pressure and replace them with the caring habits.

Glasser’s Choice Theory: Caring vs. Deadly Habits

If we are able to authentically and consistently support, encourage, listen, accept, trust, respect and negotiate differences effectively we are well on our way to being not only a good manager but an inspirational one.

Jules MacMillan has been a Coach & Trainer in the field of People Development since 2003 and is Managing Director of Cascade Learning Ltd. For more information please visit