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What I Look For in a Potential Manager

August 25th, 2006 · 1 Comment

A while back I blogged about questions you should ask your potential employer that reveal what it’s really like to work at the company. Lately I’ve been thinking about the kinds of qualities I would like in a manager. I’ve broken them down into a few categories:

  • Need to Control
  • Ability to Facilitate
  • Ability to Resolve
  • Ability to Judge
  • Need to Control
    I have a hard time playing well with a manager who has a strong need to control. I try to find one who is comfortable letting other people contribute without his fingers all over their work. This can be tough – no one will readily admit to being a controller in an interview if you ask them if they are a control freak. I try to ask challenging questions, sometimes posing unorthodox situations to them to see how they respond.

    Ability to Facilitate
    Can the manager take a group of smart people with different opinions and goals, sit down with them, and work out a solution to a problem that everyone can support? Can he talk a frustrated co-worker “down from the ledge” in a moment of crisis? This is facilitation. Every manager should be good at it. If they’re not, they should be developing a plan to get good at it.

    Ability to Resolve
    Can a manager solve problems? Can he resolve issues between people? Can he help a project sponsor understand why their project will take six weeks instead of the one week they want it to take? Can he turn chaos into order, and crisis into a plan? This is a manager who knows how to resolve problems.

    Ability to Judge
    I like to think of this as the Solomon skill. Can a manager tell the difference between crap and gold? If someone paints a turd blue and puts it on a plate does he think it is blueberry pie? When co-workers start pointing the finger at each other after a failure, can he figure out what really happened? Can he tell his most productive worker from his least? Judgment is born of experience, intelligence, and observation. Few people have great judgment. More have decent judgment. Most are wrong as often as they are right.

    I’d welcome suggestions for testing a manager’s abilities in these areas without letting them know they’re being tested. Just post them as comments here.


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    Tags: Job Advice

    1 response so far ↓

    • 1 Allen // Sep 4, 2006 at 11:31 pm

      > testing a manager’s abilities in these areas without letting them know they’re being tested

      Not sure that I have a direct way. But the thing I have been taught about creating such tests is from watching women ask questions. Ask a question to which the correct answer is to not answer it at all. For example a yes or no question that the correct answer is to discount the question in the first place.

      But some clues at recognizing the ability to judge well:
      – The ability to disconnect from the surface and see through to the underlying waves.
      – The ability to aggregate small things and recognize an overwhelming trend
      – A good ability to backtrack through the “Cause Chain”
      – Not being distracted by the high amplitude input… like loud makeup, dramatic stories… lies and venier

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