Characteristics of Engaging Managers

Characteristics of Engaging Managers


Research by the Institute for Employment Studies in the UK indicates that engaging managers are made, not born – they learn from their own and other people’s mistakes and modify their behaviour accordingly.

The report, The Engaging Manager by Dilys Robinson and Sue Hayday (IES Report 470, November 2009) is based on interviews with 25 ‘engaging managers’ (identified as having high engagement scores of teams in their last employee survey), 22 ‘senior managers’ (people managing the engaging managers), and focus groups with 25 teams managed by the engaging managers (a total of 154 people).

The report concludes that great managers are focused on performance, taking the ‘good bits’ of other managers they have observed and avoiding the ‘bad bits’ of behaviour. They were effective communicators and showed improvement over time, according to senior managers. They were ready to show honesty and openness when breaking bad news and gave frequent individual feedback to staff. The features of engaging and non-engaging managers included the following:

Characteristics of engaging managers

High Performers Communicators Visionary Rocks 
Empathisers Developers Enthusiasts Brave 
ProtectorsNetworkers Mavericks Jugglers 

Characteristics of disengaging and poor managers

Micro Managers Muddlers Blamers 
Egoistical Pessimists  

Other key findings included:

  • Engaging managers, senior managers and teams all had clear views about disengaging behaviours to be avoided
  • Disengaging behaviours included: lack of empathy, poor communication and listening skills, being self-centred, failing to inspire, blaming others, aggression, poor delivery record, lack of approachability, lack of integrity, and micro-managing
  • Engaging managers were seen to be active internal networkers who did not necessarily feel a need to network externally
  • Two-way communication was viewed as an essential feature of engaging management
  • Engaging managers had in-depth knowledge of their organisation, how their role fitted into the bigger picture, and were able to communicate this effectively to their teams.

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