We've all had that one manager who just doesn't get it—they don't delegate or communicate well at all. You're left pulling your hair out, trying to figure out what they want, making everyone's job more difficult.

But, when you have a great manager—the clouds in the sky part and the sun shines down on you. The whole team works together seamlessly and thrives.

Okay, maybe it's not that perfect. But, having a good manager really does make a big difference. Seriously. Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across businesses.

So, what makes a great manager? To get the scoop, we talked to two employees from New York Life's Technology organization: Allen S., from Cloud Services and Carol F., from the Office of the Business Information Officer. Below, they share their wisdom on how to be a great manager and lead a strong team.

Communication Is Key

It might sound obvious, but the ability to listen and really understand others, as well as to communicate clearly, are the keys to becoming a successful manager. But, this is sometimes easier said than done when you're managing a team, working on projects, and meeting deadlines.

“It's really important to establish solid relationships because they are crucial in helping you to achieve shared goals," says Carol. “Build those relationships and spend time to understand what's really important to people. And then connect with what is important to them to drive the relationship forward and nurture it."

Allen agrees, "When you're looking at a career [at New York Life] or moving up in any career in the technology field, you really have to work on those soft skills so people understand what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how you're going to help."

So, keep in mind that in order to reach bigger picture goals, your whole team needs to be on board. Take a few minutes out of your day or week or month to sit down and talk to your team about more than just work. It won't be time wasted—forging those bonds will help the whole team problem solve and achieve common goals faster.


Trust and Delegate

No one can tackle everything alone. And that's especially true at work. Great managers know that they can't do everything themselves, so they trust their team enough to delegate—even important tasks.

“I depend heavily on my team as the experts. I know that technology's changing, and the ecosystem's evolving. I can't be an expert and understand every facet of the business, so I depend on my team to communicate and speak with our counterparts and learn every day," Allen says.

For Carol, building and having trust is invaluable. When she started at New York Life, she had no prior training or presentation skills. “I remember very vividly that my manager looked at me, and said, 'It's okay. You will be able to attain those skills and I will help you. I wouldn't have hired you if I didn't think that you could be successful.'"

Showing your employees that you have faith in their abilities provides a great confidence boost—and they won't want to let you down. So, put some trust in your employees (and, in turn, your own management skills), and delegate the workload.

See the Potential in Your Team

Good managers trust their employees. But great managers take it a step further by seeing the potential in their employees and helping them to realize and achieve their goals.

Carol says, “For me, a successful manager is someone who is able to recognize the talents, skills, and abilities within their team. They are capable of understanding and addressing any potential gaps, and help their team to realize their full potential. They help the team see the big picture and understand what their opportunities are within and outside of the organization."

Think of it this way, if you and your employees are a team, then one person's success is everyone's success. So, evaluate the strengths (and weaknesses) of your employees, and keep your eye out for opportunities that will help them shine.

Be Flexible

Gone are the days when everyone worked in the same office. On any given team, people can work remotely from anywhere in the world, or in offices across the country. While this might seem problematic for management, a little flexibility goes a long way, and the tips above still apply.

“The manager of the future needs to be able to seamlessly connect people, who are in diverse roles, with various responsibilities, and are based in different geographic locations. That's never been more important than it is now," explains Carol.

Don't rule out an applicant from out of state, or even out of the country. Keep an open mind about schedules and work locale, and utilize the technology available to make this possible. With video meetings, email, and messaging services, it's easy to stay connected. Just make sure to keep the lines of communication open, whether that means scheduling weekly one on ones or bi-weekly team video meetings.


At the end of the day, no matter where or how your employees work, they'll succeed with a manager who communicates and believes in them. So follow this advice and take your management skills from good to great in no time. Your team will thank you.