Do we really need managers? That’s a question Zappos asked when the online shoe and clothing retailer began transforming into a holacracy management system. A holacracy “removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously.”

Turns out, managers are pretty important, and, according to the New York Times, Zappos is in pain without them.

So now that we’ve established that managers are, indeed, a pretty crucial part of running a business, what qualities make a great manager? We consulted Gallup research and found 4 key characteristics.

1. Engaged

This one particular word came up again and again and again in Gallup’s findings. It’s the foundation of what makes a manager great — without engagement, a manager is much less likely to be any of the other things on this list. Additionally, engagement has a cascade effect — employees supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged.

To be engaged seems easy enough, right? Not so. According to Gallup, 51% of managers are not engaged, and 14% are actively disengaged. That’s 75% of all managers that feel unengaged to some degree!

So what’s the secret formula for fostering engagement? Being able to answer yes to the following two questions:

  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

2. Communicator

So maybe as a manager you can answer an affirmative “yes” to the aforementioned two questions. How do you ensure that you’re fostering a feeling of engagement amongst your employees.

Extensive Gallup research indicates that the old adage “communication is key” rings true. Engagement is highest for employees who have some form of daily communication with their managers, whether it be face-to-face, over the phone, or digital. In fact, managers who use a combination of all three tactics were most successful in engaging employees.

This doesn’t mean you have to start having daily one-on-one meetings with every one of your direct reports. Just be available to talk and provide guidance when needed, and return messages in a timely manner.

3. Goal-Oriented

Gallup found that perhaps one of the most basic of employee needs and most vital to performance is clarity of expectations. But that doesn’t just mean a written job description and a yearly performance review. To be a great manager requires frequent, frank discussions about an employee’s responsibilities, progress, and priorities.

Here’s that word again — engaged employees are more likely to feel that their managers help them set priorities and performance goals. Engaged employees are more likely to say that their managers hold them accountable. These are good things and require frequent big-picture, forward-looking discussions.

Plus, here’s a bonus word that describes an awesome manager: rare! One of Gallup’s more depressing stats is that only one in ten people possess all the necessary traits of being a great manager (check out the full list here). But a safe bet in being a great manager is focusing on engagement — ensuring that you’re engaged yourself, and fostering engagement in your employees.

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