3 Questions Great Managers Always Ask Themselves

You can work for a great company, but if you have a poor manager as your direct supervisor, you won't be happy there.

Same with school, you can be in a poor performing school but have an inspiring teacher that can inspire you to become a better person.

It's the person that is closest to you that affects you the most.

As a business owner, the success of your employees and your business rests on you.  You are the leader, manager and role model.  Your employees look to you for guidance.  You set the tone and culture for your business.  People want to work for people that inspire them, that teach them, that are looking out for them.


Are you attracting and retaining great talent or are you driving them away with your management style?

Great managers are hard to find, most just get in the way of productivity and serve to annoy those under their supervision.  Am I exaggerating?  Maybe, but we've all had managers like that in the past, where their only true purpose was to look over your shoulder and coach you on things they were clueless about.

So what's the difference between a great manager and a mediocre one?  There are lots of things actually, much more than can be covered in a single blog post.  I'm going to share with you what I think separates great managers from mediocre ones.

Whenever a situation arises, the first thing they do is look to themselves.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ― Stephen R. Covey

No knee jerk reaction to find someone to blame.

No excuse making.

No yelling.

They pause and reflect before taking action.

A great manager understands that they have a lot of responsibility and their action or inaction can have an enormous impact on the performance of those working under them.  They understand that ultimately they are responsible for everyone below them.  They know that the only person who buys an excuse is the person giving it.

If you're a business owner, then you sit at the top of the pyramid, nobody above you to blame.  Yes, you're responsible for everything that happens, directly or indirectly.

I think great managers understand the art of thinking before speaking.  When something happens or someone screws up, the first thing they do is look to themselves.

Before they open their mouth, they ask themselves the following questions, in this order:

Was this my fault?

Most of the time, the question asking stops here.  You can usually trace the origin of the problem back to something you did or didn't do properly.  It can be failing to properly communicate your expectations, inadequate training or abdicating responsibility when you were supposed to be delegating it.

A great manager will start the scrutiny process with themselves before looking to external causes.  They'll look at ways they could have prevented the problem in the first place and then take action to minimize the chance of it happening again.

A poor manager will look to place blame as far away from themselves as possible, usually at all costs.  In real world terms it's called throwing someone under the bus.  People hate this and it's the quickest way to lose the respect of the people working for you.

Was there a breakdown in the process?

Many times it's not the employee that's to blame for screwing up, it's the process itself.  Maybe there aren't enough checks and balances in place or gaping holes in the process where people have to make assumptions they shouldn't have to.

A great manager will look to see if there are flaws in the current process that needs to be fixed.  You can often find process breakdowns by speaking to your employees, they'll be more than happy to share them with you.  Breakdowns in the process are great opportunities to diagnose and strengthen them.

A poor manager will leave gaping holes in the process and then yell and scream when things don't go perfectly.  These managers expect you to “read their minds”.

Is this an Employee Concern?

Maybe you need to provide more training or communicate with them more often to set expectations.  Maybe they're in the wrong position and you have them doing something they're not suited for.

Maybe you just hired the wrong person.

You should never feel good about firing someone.  As a manager or business owner, if you ever have to fire someone, it's because you failed.  You failed at one of 3 things:

  • You failed at hiring the right person
  • You failed at training this person
  • You failed at properly managing this person

Yes, the buck stops with you, even when they screw up.

As you can see, all 3 questions really track back to the same thing, you.  Great business owners understand that they are ultimately responsible for everything that happens with their business.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
3 replies
  1. Alan
    Alan says:

    Hey Gary, this is a great article.

    I have always said that my 3 priorities are: 1. Sponsor, 2. Organization, 3. Role – in that order. So many people just look at the job title/role when it’s not the thing that actually has the biggest impact on your career.

    A great sponsor – whether in employment, in business partnerships or in life in general can make a huge difference to your success – and will often continue to be a great contact to have in your network long after you’ve finished working closely with them.

  2. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    You’re right Alan, great managers, teachers, mentors leave a lasting impression on everyone they come in contact with. I think great managers work on developing the person first, not the role, because a better person will become a better employee….and a loyal one. Great to hear from you, hope all is well.

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