member login contact link

What makes a great manager?

Effective management is crucial to success in any organisation. Gallup’s State of the American Manager discovered that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement, and that “one in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career”.

Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers, with those meeting regularly with their manager generating “higher performance for their team and company”. “Regardless of regional or cultural differences,” says Gallup, “managers around the world significantly influence their direct reports’ engagement and well-being, which in turn affects their organization’s bottom line”.

A few decades ago, management was synonymous with seniority and top-down control. Today, managers are still responsible for delegating work, setting clear expectations, facilitating collaboration and ensuring that employees can work to their full potential.

So, in Belbin terms, what makes an effective manager?

We surveyed over 200 people using the Belbin Observer Assessment. Respondents were asked to tick the characteristics they thought would make for an effective manager in Belbin Team Role terms, as well as those behaviours considered most likely to compromise effective management.

Here are the top 10 Observer words and phrases for most and least effective managers.

Most effective managers

Looking in more detail, good communication appears as the principal asset of the most effective managers. Analysis of the figures shows that good managers are seen as encouraging of others (92% of responses included this), broad in outlook and caring but also challenging. They also have higher than average scores in being creative, innovative and persuasive.

Least effective managers

When asked about less effective managers, the message was loud and clear. People do not appreciate managers who simply direct and bark orders based on their previous knowledge. Nor do they appreciate managers who lack humility and are restricted in outlook. Less effective managers also appeared as inflexible, not interested in others and manipulative.

Three out of four responses stated that being inconsistent was the biggest threat to effective management, and by contrast, 71% noted the importance of a reliable manager.

Inconsistency endangers trust. No one knows where they stand, because agreement one day may be rescinded the next. This in turn can make people sluggish to action, since they don’t know whether the same directive will apply tomorrow. If mixed with a confrontational bent – tantrums and volatile moods, for example – inconsistency can break down the fabric of the relationship between manager and team members. Some may react with frustration and anger, whilst others may nod along, whilst withdrawing and becoming disengaged from their work.

Further analysis

74% valued managers who were willing to adapt, whilst 68% named resistance to change as a hindrance, and 57% claimed inflexibility was a significant problem. Willingness to adapt doesn’t mean changing one’s core, but simply being open to new ideas and willing to try out new ways of doing things, Flexibility allows people and businesses to solve problems and overcome challenges, conferring competitive advantage.

A failure to adapt to changing circumstances doesn’t just limit the manager, but the rest of the team, since the resistant manager becomes the rate-determining step for success.

Other key pairings were confident and relaxed vs. frightened of failure, since maintaining confidence in leadership is key to winning and keeping support. Managers who are broad in outlook fare significantly better than those who are restricted in outlook, focusing on their own area at the expense of the interests and views of others in their team.

When it comes to negative traits for managers, both fearful of conflict and confrontational feature at the top of the list, suggesting the importance of getting the balance right when it comes to addressing problems. Whilst employees don’t want a manager who avoids conflict, neither do they want to be managed by someone who is likely to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation.

The word consultative was also included in the top ten positive managerial traits. A consultative manager is likely to be one who consults others before making decisions and who is available to offer advice and wisdom to others when needed.

According to Bass and Collegues’ Five Styles of leadership, a consultative leader is one who asks others for opinions. While authority to make the final decision ultimately rests with the manager, they are willing to listen to views within the team and allow these views to inform their own.

Recognising others’ views, achievements and expertise, says Forbes, is key to inspiring and keeping good people:

“Recognition is the number one thing employees say their manager could give them to inspire them to produce great work. Global studies prove that when it comes to inspiring people to be their best at work, nothing else comes close—not even higher pay, promotion, autonomy or training.”

Meredith Belbin Partner Belbin

Meredith Belbin's view

“A manager is someone who has an overview of the work that needs to be undertaken and can delegate it to others in an appropriate way. Although it can be argued that management can be about looking after process, a true manager has to oversee others, deploy them in the most useful way and encourage personal development. A general who does not care about his troops will not be able to win their support through difficult times."


Meredith’s tips for managers:

"Be self-aware, take an interest in others, adapt to the specific demands of your situation and make the most of the human resources available."

In conclusion

According to Belbin Team Role theory, any combination of Team Role behaviours can make a great management material. The key is for managers to be aware of their strengths (and associated weaknesses) and to use their own style to best advantage.

The results suggest that a facilitative manager is much preferred to a hard-line, micro-manager. The results suggest that the pursuit of high standards is perfectly possible and indeed desirable, provided these goals are pursued in a way that is acceptable to others.

Although it is an advantage to be a natural communicator, communication alone is not enough. Managers may need to make tough and sometimes unwelcome decisions but being caring is a necessary trait for managers to win acceptance.

Next steps

What does your team need? Drop us a line below to find out how Belbin can help managers and their teams work and collaborate more effectively.

Contact us

Please fill out the form and we'll be in touch.

Discover individual and team strengths using Belbin Team Role reports

Belbin Individual Reports

Before you can analyse your teams, you need to look at each individual's contribution. So, the first thing you will need to do is to generate a Belbin Individual report for each member of the team.

Find out more

Belbin Team Reports

Whether you're forming a new team, introducing new people to an existing team, or trying to resolve issues within a team, a Belbin Team report can help you to manage it.

Discover more

Why Use Belbin?

Belbin Team Roles are used to identify behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. Whether developing people, resolving conflict or fine-tuning high performance...

Read more