Essential management characteristics - do you have them?

A good business manager requires a broad range of skills. As your firm expands and you take on employees, the demands on you increase even further.

Many entrepreneurs do not find themselves to be natural bosses. It is therefore no surprise that a new survey has found the majority of employees do not think their boss has the skills required to manage a workforce.

According to a report from Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, employees identify good communication skills as the most important characteristic of a good manager. Yet only one in five employees surveyed said that their manager possessed that characteristic.

This is very worrying. Business managers cannot hope to steer a successful organisation if they are capable of getting the very best from their workforce, and of working effectively with the people they employ. This requires a sensitive, cooperative approach – and it may well require managers to develop entirely new skill sets, or improve on existing characteristics.

The Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann survey identified three primary characteristics that are vital in a good manager. So what do you need in order to lead effectively – and do you have what it takes?


Employees identified good communication skills as the most important characteristic a manager could possess. This is unsurprising; without good communication, organisations and workforces can become frustrated and stultified, and fail to reach their potential.

Only 21 per cent of those surveyed thought that their boss had good communication skills – a worryingly low proportion. You should be considering ways that you can improve communication within your workforce every day.

Remember that communication isn’t just about explaining decisions or giving directions. It is as much about listening as it is speaking, and your actions should reflect this. Make sure that you provide concrete, visible ways in which your workforce can speak to management. You might consider, for example, setting up regular ‘brown bag’ lunch meetings, in which employees can come along and explain their concerns or outline their ideas if they feel the need.


The ability to motivate staff was identified as the second most important characteristic – yet only 13 per cent of employees surveyed said that their boss possessed this ability.

Motivation is vitally important if you want to get the most from your workforce. You need to identify ways in which you can ensure that your employees feel willing and happy to give their very best if you are to ensure that your business fulfils its potential.

Of course, much of this is down to good hiring practices. But it is also important to remember that staff members are significantly more likely to perform at their best if they feel they have a true stake in the business. There is a range of ways that you might achieve this. Some employers choose to operate a bonus scheme, whereby each year staff members receive cash payments related to the overall performance of the company. But you should remember that financial incentives may not be the only way to motivate. Consider ways that you can encourage employees to feel like stakeholders on a day-to-day basis. Make sure that their voices are listened to, and that their opinions are valued. Treat them as equals rather than subordinates, remembering that it is often your employees who will have the best ideas to take your business forward.


Integrity was identified as the third most important characteristic in the Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann survey.

It is imperative that your employees are confident that you will keep your word, and that they trust your moral compass. This might sound obvious, but it is vital that your employees feel that they are being treated fairly, and that the business for which they work is being run in an ethical manner. This means, amongst other things, that you should ensure your promises to employees are consistently kept, and that you deal with HR matters in a sensitive fashion.

You might also consider developing a code of corporate governance to which you pledge to adhere. As well as helping to ensure that your employees are comfortable with the direction of your business, this can also prove attractive to potential clients and partners.

Ready to set up your cover?

As the UK’s biggest business insurance provider, we specialise in public liability insurance and protect more trades than anybody else. Why not take a look now and build a quick, tailored quote?

Start your quote