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Finding Good Managers

How much does having a good manager impact your ability to accelerate your career?

The answer is a good manager will affect your career in enormous ways.


First, reflect on some of your past managers.

What were some of the impacts a bad manager had on you personally and professionally?

· Did you dread coming into work?

· Did you talk about the Sunday scaries?

· Did you feel a sense of gratification at your job?

· Did you catch yourself complaining about work in social settings?

Now hopefully you have experienced a good manager as well.

· What were some of the differences?

· Where you happier?

· Did you feel a sense of urgency and gratification in your work?

While your direct manager may not have the ability to affect all of the circumstances that will help you find fulfillment in your job, they have a big impact.

What Are Your Goals

Now we do need to make one distinction before we move forward.

If your goal is to maximize income or work at a company where you learn something critical to your future then having a good manager may be less important. See our article on Setting Good Goals.

But all things being equal we can all agree that having a good manager is important.

Then the question becomes what are the attributes of a good manager you can look for when making a decision about a new role?

Can You Trust This Person

For us, the first criteria is trustworthiness. Frankly this is difficult to evaluate in interviews and with limited interactions. There are a lot of sites, like the Harvard Business Review (link), who share their perspective on how to evaluate trust. But the basics are fairly universal.

Is this person credible, reliable, and intimate? All of these attributes come together to help us derive a sense of a manager’s trustworthiness.

If your manager is trustworthy and you are a solid performer you will be able to overcome a lot of problems.

If your gut is telling you that your potential new manager is not trustworthy then R-U-N.


Credibility can take many forms, but here we are focusing on professional credibility. Ask yourself:

· Does the new manager answer questions with boilerplate answers or are they thoughtful and considerate in their responses?

· Are they an expert at what they do?

· Are they respected and/or a thought leader in the industry?

· Can they help you learn and grow based on what they already know?

· Do you think they will be there for you when you have a question?


We all know what a reliable friend looks like. And then there are other friends we know wouldn’t help us unless it would help them. Think about these items:

· Do I think my new manager will fight for me when it comes time for promotions or compensation increases or are they just trying to get by without rocking the boat?

· Are they organized?

· Will they pull their weight and create deliverables or will the act purely as a “manager” taking credit for other’s work?

· Will they be consistent or will I get good then bad versions of the manager?


This attribute of trustworthiness may seem like a millennium talking point, but having a manager who is willing to act like a human instead of just a boss will directly affect your overall satisfaction with your next role.

· Has the new manager shared anything about themselves or are they guarded?

· Are they willing to take interest about who I am as a person?

· Do they seem to have a connection with others on the team or are they just there for the paycheck?

· Do they explain why the team is working on a deliverable or do they simply state the need without context?


The reality is that you are making an educated guess about your new manager’s trustworthiness. You will need a make a judgement call and evaluate what you have learned in your direct conversations with the hiring manager.

However, there are a few tricks you can use to get better informed.

· Use the power of your network. Do you know anyone who has worked with this person in the past? Just remember to be careful. The shared connection may like the hiring manager more than they like you.

· Ask to talk to previous team members and/or current team members. Ask probing questions about how the manager manages; but softly and discretely.

· Ask the hiring manager the same question in slightly different ways in different settings to see if you get consistent answers.

· Be open with yourself if you see red flags or have concerns. Depending on the circumstance you may need to address those concerns directly with the hiring manager before taking the role to set expectations.

· Ask the recruiter if the hiring manager has experienced high turnover in staff or what they think about the hiring manager. You should be able to decern if they are giving you the ole “he’s a great guy” answer versus a genuine assessment. If you get the prior answer that is a red flag for sure!

· Ask to speak to the hiring manager’s boss. Ultimately you will be working for that person as well. If they are unwilling to give you 30 minutes to ask a few questions then you already know where you stand. As an added benefit it never hurts for the bosses boss to know who you are.

Final Thoughts

Understanding if the manager is good or bad is really up to you. You should put in the work up front to understand what you should expect from a new manager.

You need to consider how important having a good manager is relative to the opportunity the new job will give you as you consider your larger strategic goals.

A great opportunity to learn a skill set you need even with a crappy boss may be worth the headache. Or if your goals are to seek joy and happiness having a bad boss will likely not help you along your way as you accelerate your career.

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